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Wool-ful: Senior Exhibition 2024

Intentionality and purpose have been driving forces in Mary Frances Hoffman’s life that continue at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD). Combine them with a passion for knitting and sensory needs and you have Wool-ful, Hoffman’s senior exhibition project in Product Design.

“Wool-ful is an adaptive knitwear exploration made for the sensory-oriented,” explains Hoffman. “Drawn from the word willful, meaning intentional or deliberate, Wool-ful takes a peek at what intentionally constructing our garments could look like – from the color to the material to the fit to even the emotional connection we hold with our clothes. [e.g.,] the connection you hold with your grandfather’s sweater is just as important as the physical construction of the garment.”

Before touring MIAD during their senior year of high school, Hoffman had no idea what Product Design was. “I originally was going to go into Fine Arts but seeing a world where purpose/intention could be melded with the beautiful, it was like a no-brainer for me. Creating a harmony between function and form has always been an interest of mine – and Product Design was a perfect match!”

Hoffman also had found that in high school, knitting and crocheting “helped a ton with stress relief as well as retaining information in lectures. There’s super cool research on knitting being a bilateral therapeutic exercise that greatly benefits stress and anxiety levels,” they say.

At MIAD, Hoffman says, “I quickly found myself in the textiles lab eager to learn more about fiber arts. I have [Fashion and Apparel Design Professor] Sarah Eichhorn to thank for blooming my practice – she taught me the knitting machine my sophomore year and I have been obsessed since. I’m constantly learning new techniques and tricks with it, which I don’t think will stop anytime soon!”

Having had an internship at Weyco Group and having worked on several projects through MIAD’s Lubar Innovation Center, Hoffman is eager to begin their post-graduation career this summer. “I’m lucky to have built a relationship with a knitwear designer in Chicago, AddyKnits, in which I will be producing her knit dresses over the summer. With that too, we will be working on designs together for future projects and releases. It’s all still in the works, but I’m beyond excited…. She’s most known for her knit flower dresses, specifically the Cornflower one made for Sabrina Carpenter – these are the ones I’ll be making for her!

As for Wool-ful, Hoffman’s hope is that “by providing durable and reliable forms of stimulation embedded in the sweater, we can work toward eliminating shame behind sensory needs and create a more accessible world of fashion. And ultimately, through wool, all is provided for, including a more sustainable approach to making our clothes.”

The MIAD 2024 Senior Exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. through May 11 at the college.

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