We envision a future where orthopaedic casts are crafted from all natural materials and slowly knitted over broken bones. Where a medical caregiver offers us a comfy chair and brings us a hot cuppa with some gingernut biscuits, before running wool into the machine and hand-cranking it to life.

Inspired by early 20th century home knitting machines, we imagine a BoneKnitter crafted from sustainable native rimu wood and naturally stained. Three rows of different sized needles, knit three different weights of merino wool and native plant materials into three separate layers – one on top of the other.

Each cast is made from single origin NZ merino wool, and as we comfortably wait for each layer of the cast to be knitted, we are invited to learn about the people, places and animals that produced it.

We see individual casts crafted from the range of natural merino wool colours, both plainly styled and patterned after the topographic contours of the land where the sheep were raised, or the genetic sequence of the sheep that produced the wool.
Each cast comes with data histories for each animal, and we are given personal collections of photos and stories to take home.


The base layer of the cast uses ultra-fine 15 micron merino wool; the middle layer uses medium 21 micron merino wool; and the top layer of the cast uses fine 19 micron merino wool.


The gauze-like first layer is knitted with merino wool infused with medicinal manuka honey and kawakawa extract. The wool’s natural lanolin helps keep the skin from becoming dry and itchy, and manuka and kawakawa plants have long been used in Rongoa Māori to heal wounds and ease aches.

The second, middle layer of the cast takes full advantage of merino wool’s natural ability to stay warm when it is cold, and cool when it is hot. The thick and chunky spin of the yarn also provides padding to protect the bones while they heal, along with a soft and attractive cuff over the edges of the hard cast.

The third, and top, layer uses merino wool spun with NZ flax or harakeke fibres, infused with native bio-resins that set as hard as fibreglass. In Māori songs, harakeke often evokes human relationships and bonds, and its presence in the cast symbolically ties producers to the people who live with – and heal through – their products.


Wool enters the BoneKnitter through holes in the top of the barrel, where it catches the first needle. The machine’s knitting speed is controlled by the hand-crank, and a carved wooden platform is provided to rest the broken limb during the knitting process.

Looking to the future of medical products, we see timeless traditions of people caring for animals, the land, and each other.


“Mixing modern and old fashioned technologies because there is value in both [is a good idea].” – Industry Respondent, NZ

“I think the idea is fabulous. I like the idea of using natural products, especially in a way that I would never have thought of, but make logical sense.” – Farm Respondent, NZ

“The BoneKnitter is beautifully crafted and I like that it is a low tech device. [It’s a good] idea that it takes time, allowing the wearer and operator time to talk and share stories, something so often missing in the medical world where patients are seen as units of time and where medical professionals do not have the time to listen.” – University Respondent, UK

“I am reminded of how, during treatment for cancer, I was advised against what turned out to be many smart choices — like eating from my own garden — and simply due to germophobia. It’s sickening to think that necessary precautions against needless exposure to harmful pathogens can slide so easily into the kind of hysteria that reigns in current medical practice, and, I fear, is the main barrier to R&D of this kind of product.” – University Respondent, US

“I remember having a plaster cast when I broke my arm when I was a kid and this seems like it would have been far more comfortable … I like the natural materials and the slow process of making the cast.” – University Respondent, AU


Galloway, A., 2016, “More-Than-Human Lab: Creative Ethnography After Human Exceptionalism”, in The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography, pp. 470-477, L. Hjorth et al. (eds), New York: Routledge.

“In our other fictional scenarios, viewers responded to the technologies within the prescribed boundaries. The BoneKnitter instead conjured memories and evoked imagined futures beyond our vision. In other words, it moved people. Looking back now, I see the BoneKnitter as the first instance of a promise I still strive to uphold: to ground my research in the everyday lives of people, animals, plants and lands, and to imagine radical and caring possibilities for who and what we can become.”

Galloway, A., 2014, “Do People Dream of Electric Sheep?” Royal Geographical Society (RGS/IBG) Annual International Conference, 26-29 August, 2014, London, UK.

Galloway, A., 2014, “Why Count Sheep, and Other Tricky Questions About Speculative Design Ethnography.” Mobilities and Design Workshop, 29-30 April, 2014, Lancaster University, Centre for Mobilities Research, Lancaster, UK.

Galloway, A., 2013, “Towards A Multispecies Internet.” Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, 9-12 October, 2013, San Diego, US.