Abstract The future of the textile industry in the developed nations is under threat from emerging countries with low-cost labour rates. The introduction of fully automated garment assembly systems based on a mechatronic approach has had limited success; the reasons for this are discussed and an alternative approach developed. The research into a knitted fabric capture system, together with its control system, is detailed. A new approach to fully automated garment assembly is described. A test rig and prototype knitted blank takedown and capture system are depicted together with its testing. The subsequent development of an assembly cell and the extension of the results from this to a full assembly system are postulated. The conclusions include the benefits and limitations of the proposed system.