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Student turns anxiety into football scarf designs

A student in London has come up with an innovative way of communicating with her autistic brother using football scarf pattern designs.

Erin Button, a design student at Goldsmiths, University of London, has been working with her brother Joe to capture his responses to life events and then knitting those responses into the pattern of football scarves.

Erin calls the technique ‘Pattern Language’, which she says allows her to translate the data from observing her brother’s behaviour into textile designs. She hopes the technique can help her understand Joe’s responses to anxiety, which he can only communicate through his head tics.

Each scarf represents one scenario in Joe’s daily life, from eating breakfast and playing the PlayStation to watching TV and doing his college work. The data from each observation is then ‘translated’ using an automatic knitting machine, generating colourful striped wool scarves, with every blue line of stitch representing one of Joe’s anxious tics. The heavier the Pattern Language within the scarf, the more anxious Joe was feeling in that specific environment.

Erin, aged 21, from Herefordshire, said:

Our signature behaviours often go unnoticed, for example this could be shaking your knee or tucking hair behind your ear. My project collects these behaviours as data and then embodies that data in the creation of objects – in this case, football scarves, but other materials could be made.

Through my role as the translator, I was reliving Joe’s temporary experiences through making and thus strengthening my understanding of his struggles with his autism, but also strengthening and embodying our relationship as brother and sister.

The collection of scarves was centre stage at Goldsmiths’ design exhibition earlier this month, which celebrated the work of design students at the university.

To find out more about the designs, visit or follow @oh__itsbeensolong on Instagram.