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Jenna DeCandio Returns to Knitting Lab With a Passion to Help

Jenna DeCandio standing at knitting machine in lab

By Destry Adams

Wilson College of Textiles alumna Jenna DeCandio is back at her alma mater as a knitting lab manager for the Zeis Textiles Extension.

DeCandio graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s in fashion and textile design, concentrating in textile design. After graduation, she worked as a knitting programmer at SHIMA SEIKI, a knitting technology company, before returning to the Wilson College.

DeCandio began working at NC State in August of 2021 as a knitting lab manager with a passion for helping people.

Her responsibilities include scheduling and managing undergraduate and graduate students that work in the lab. Additionally, she assists students, staff and industry professionals with their projects.

Students usually submit their design files for a project to DeCandio and her team, who make sure it can run properly on the machines. For faculty members and some graduate students, the knitting lab team would help create or find the best way to produce one of their designs. 

Industry partners have products made in the lab for research and development purposes. DeCandio would also refer them to other manufacturing plants for large-scale production.

A project that DeCandio is helping with involves making socks that will be sold at NC State.

“We’re working on collaborating with the bookstore potentially, and we have a sock that we’re going to produce that hopefully will be sold there,” DeCandio says. “I think that it’s a really good opportunity for exposure for the college.”

DeCandio is also responsible for fixing the machines in the lab to ensure students and staff can complete their assignments. While there are some machines that she is very familiar with, there are others that she has never seen before.  

“There’s a bunch of circular machines that we have here, and there’s some other SHIMA SEIKI machines that have specific purposes that I have not used before,” DeCandio says. “Learning about those is really fun and interesting.” 

Discovering a Passion for Knitting

DeCandio knew in high school that she wanted to study textiles in college, albeit unsure of what specific area to focus. After enrolling in the Summer Textile Exploration Program, she immediately fell in love with the college and figured out what she specifically wanted to study.

“I learned that I was actually more interested in the fabric itself,” DeCandio says. 

Once she was accepted to the college, DeCandio says that she found her passion for knitting, which surprised her. 

“I remember one of the first tours, I walked in the knitting lab and was like ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ to see knitting completely revolutionized in these super super high tech computerized programmable machines,”  DeCandio says. “I took classes focused on knitting and worked extra hard in the knitting studios in my junior and senior year.” 

DeCandio says she studied abroad at the Hong Kong PolyTechnic University to learn more about knitting technology. There, she took a fabric coloration course, which mainly focused on different dyeing and finishing processes. 

She also enrolled in two different computerized knitting courses. During her time in Hong Kong, DeCandio says she was introduced to STOLL’s knitting machines, which required her to understand a new type of programming language. Despite being unfamiliar with this type of machine, she really enjoyed learning more about knitting technologies.

“It was probably the first time that I actually ran a machine by myself, and I loved it,” DeCandio says. “So that course was inspiring to me and confirmed that I wanted to work for SHIMA SEIKI.”

Bringing Industry Leading Knowledge Back to Raleigh

After DeCandio graduated from NC State, she went to work at SHIMA SEIKI. There, she produced samples of clothing for high-end customers. Once the designs were approved, they were then sent for production.

“It was intense, but I loved it,” DeCandio says. “There was a very steep learning curve for that job. They invested a lot of time and money into me, which I appreciated. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I didn’t have that opportunity.” 

What attracted DeCandio to work for SHIMA SEIKI was WHOLEGARMENT, a process the company uses to create clothing. 

“It’s cutting edge; no other company besides SHIMA SEIKI specifically creates those types of garments,” DeCandio says. 

Whereas most clothing is cut from fabric and sewn piece-by-piece, WHOLEGARMENT produces the whole article of clothing. This process reduces the amount of material used and waste produced.

Although DeCandio has a lot of knowledge about knitting technology, she is eager to learn more while working as a knitting lab manager.

“I don’t like to be idle; I’m never not learning,” DeCandio says.