Groundbreaking Seamless Unisuit Goes to Rio with Olympic Rowers

Until 2016 rowing unisuits were cut and sew, and the seamless unisuit did not exist. Rowing requires a high range of motion and seams can cut and bind a rower in the race of his or her life. When the stakes are high, every fraction of a second counts, and seams can cause distraction and discomfort.

Mark Sutherland from the Philadelphia University understood the need and sought out the Seamless Knitting Solutions Lab to develop a seamless unisuit for college rowers.  Mr. Sutherland showed me a cut and sew unisuit, and I immediately knew seamless knitting technology would make the unisuit more comfortable and better fitting. I also noticed that the cut and sew version unisuit had many more sewing operations, so cutting down the number of steps in the production process was going to save manufacturers money.

I started with making the bottom pant part a double layer and the top part a single layer. I also made the bottom pant part nylon and the top part polyester. This difference allowed us to make the unisuit in two colors, one for the top and one for the bottom, and allowed us to sublimate the top layer with school logos because of the polyester. Through collaboration with the client, SKS developed a ventilation layer on the inside layer of the pant. Based upon my knowledge of eTextiles and antimicrobial fabrics, SKS was able to work with the prototype to add a waterproof sealant to the suit in the wet processing.

As I had suspected, the seamless technology drastically reduced the number of sewing operations required to produce the unisuit. The cut and sew version had approximately 30 sewing operations, whereas the seamless version had only 9 operations, making it less expensive to manufacture.

The seamless unisuit was tested by Boathouse Sports in Philadelphia, and the rowers absolutely loved it. The SKS Lab produced a graded size run with a man’s and woman’s version in five sizes.

Mr. Sutherland and Boathouse Sports contacted the U.S. Olympic rowing team and asked if they would be interested in trying the seamless unisuit for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. The Olympic team said yes, and weeks later, Mr. Sutherland was in San Diego at the US Olympic rowing practice with samples from Seamless Knitting Solutions. The US Olympic rowers and coaches loved it, and requested over 400 various suits in different sizes to be shipped to Rio for the Olympics. A project that was started for college rowing teams went to the Rio Olympics. I couldn’t believe it!

Now that the Olympics are over, the focus is back on college rowing, and seamless unisuits are being manufactured in California for Boathouse Sports.  Introducing seamless technology to traditionally made products is a real thrill, and the fact that we transformed a whole product line, one that even made it to the Olympics in such a short time, is an accomplishment for the US textile industry, and the SKS Lab in particular. I cannot elaborate on the details, but the 2nd generation seamless unisuit is in development.