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Story

Let’s have a yarn…

Otto and Spike is as much about a place as a product. We have been knitting in Brunswick (an inner suburb of Melbourne) for the last 40 years. Melbourne is a great place to knit because you never know when that scarf or beanie will come in handy! Wearing warm woollies is part of life for the Melbourne dweller and they love rugging up in winter to go see the footy.

Back when we first started knitting, good ol’ Brunnie was the centre of Melbourne’s textile industry. Nowadays things have changed hardly anyone knits in Australia. Companies chasing cheaper prices moved their production overseas. Gone are the days when we made custom cardigans for the Sharpie Gangs in 1970’s Melbourne. The Sharpie’s and most of Melbourne’s textile producers maybe in the past, but we are still here, designing and producing fine knitted goods.

At Otto and Spike we admire well made, well-designed stuff, that you’ll love to wear on your head, around your neck and out on the town. Using beautiful pure lambs wool. What we make consumes very little. This is because most of the yarn and wool we use is surplus from an industry that has gradually disappeared from our country. Seems pretty crazy since Australia produces some of the finest wool in the world.

As well as taking great care with our choices of yarn, each of our machines has a special role in the making and creating of our knitted pieces. We have an amazing collection of knitting machinery, enough to document the last century of knitted history.

Otto and Spike a product of a place.

Proud to be producing knitted accessories in East Brunswick 3057.

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Process

Anthony and Les Mananov discuss knitting machines.

Anthony: Dad we’ve accumulated and maintained a lot of machines here over the last 40 years.
Les: Yes, that’s true. Machines are central to what we do ours span 1890 to the 1990. In this way it’s possible for us to find ways to knit almost anything. That’s how we can make everything we need in this factory.
Anthony: How does each design start out?
Les: Usually the design of the knit or the knit structure is created on the Blaupunkt knitting computer.
Anthony: Would many companies still use a computer like this?
Les: Very few, this one is over 20 years old and needs magnetic cassette tapes to transfer the design from computer to machine, they look a lot like regular cassettes but they are specific to the computer and very rare now – the last place we could find them was Mexico. So we look after them and re-use the many times over.
Anthony: What if the design is going onto one of the Universal MC 728 sinker machines or the Colosio ‘lucky’ tubular machine?
Les: Those machines use 3.5 floppy discs, which by today’s standards are pretty old fashioned. At least they can hold a lot more knitting information than cassettes.
Anthony: There are other machines that don’t require computer programming what are these for?
Les: Knitting a beanie or scarf requires a number of parts to be complete. Knitting for the Otto and Spike collection we used strapping machines, pom-pom machines, cording machines, and tubular machines.
Anthony: Where are these used?
Les: The strapping machines where used on E J Fudd, and Clean. Clean has a small strap with the monogram embroidered on it, and the Fudd has a loop of strapping around its vintage button.
A 1940’s Lamb cording machine is used to make the merino wool and acetate belt detail on Flapper that’s completed with a diamante buckle.
Little Fellas has a hand wound pom-pom from our 1970’s vintage Emil Nexael machine.
Universal’s fringe is knitted on a 1940’s Universal 5gg machine that I adapted from making sweater to fringing.
Every Otto and Spike garment is packed in knitted bag made on a rare 1930 Spensa Purl tubular machine originally used to make to baby pants and is closed with cord knitted on a Scomar machine that was originally used to make neck trim for Lacoste polo shirts.
Anthony: Why did you keep all these machines and not upgrade them to new technology?
Les: The machines we have allow us greater flexibility. As the knitting business in Australia has wound down over the last 20 years lots of machinery was sold off. I bought some and waited to find a use for them.
I don’t believe in throwing things away, I’d rather adapt them or use the parts to make something else.
I’ve made many friends over the years who’ve helped me to get them running.
That’s why we have such a diverse collection of machines in here and what makes it possible to create a collection like Otto and Spike.
Otto and Spike accessories demonstrate the result of years of adapting, reusing, salvaging, saving and recycling.
It’s the little things that make our stuff special.