Don’t expect to just walk away with a scarf from Ryerson’s Knitwear Design course at The Chang School of Continuing Education.

“The students learn to analyze a range of market sectors, enabling them to relate and implement their learning of knitwear design work to suit the current fashion industry needs and demand appropriately,” says instructor Asha Ruparelia. “They learn the professional techniques to present their designs to an audience and eventually develop an avant-garde design portfolio.”

Having taught the course for the past nine years and worked in the industry for more than 30, Ruparelia caters each class to the background of her students. The class is open to learners of all levels but is capped at 20 students due to its hands-on nature.

That’s not to say all the work is done with hands. “Today’s world is so advanced and so electronic-based that a lot of times real samples are not even made,” says Ruparelia. “It’s all virtual. There’s virtual fitting and virtual designing.” So instead, students create a storyboard of their designs, incorporating what they’ve learned.

And that’s a lot. The course goes from hand-knitting and stitch construction to the incorporation of million-dollar machines. “A designer in the olden days would have to have the concept, put it together and graph it, taking at least 10 days from concept to a garment. In today’s world, you can get it in six minutes with a machine. So in the short duration of one course, students are exposed to the evolution of the knitting industry.”

It’s an evolution that Ryerson is always trying to keep up with. “We’re always trying to introduce new courses as technology and interest changes,” says Colleen Schindler-Lynch, co-ordinator of the certificate in fashion co-ordination and styling at The Chang School of Continuing Education.

Knitwear design fits those criteria. “We are a school that balances both business and practical applications, so given that ... knitwear is a huge proportion of fashion, it would be a logical (part of the curriculum).”

And it’s an industry that’s only growing. “Knitwear is timeless in fashion and it’s emerging as a growth area in the new world order,” says Ruparelia. “Traditionally, countries with cold climates like England, Ireland, Scotland, et cetera showcased the extent of knitwear fashion expertise, whereas today, due to the flourishing global trade, new and uncommon countries like Turkey, Brazil, Bangladesh, et cetera have taken to knitwear fashion manufacture and retail.”

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