Fabricademy Week 9: E-Textiles and Wearables 2

Fabricademy Week 9: E-Textiles and Wearables 2

This weeks assignment was to continue developing our initial eTextiles projects started in Week 5

We were given two lectures by tutor Becky Stewart, who is a professor at Queen Mary University of London, an expert on electronics and integrating them into projects.

Assignment 1:

Create an interactive object; if you are already experienced with coding, focus on fully integrating a micro-contoller into a textile circuit. If you are new to coding, choose an example and get it working using your own sensors and actuators.

Class Outline

  1. Introduction to micro controllers and single-board computers
  2. Sensor circuits for micro controllers (voltage dividers and pull up/down resistors)
  3. Actuator circuits for microcontrollers
  4. Hard-soft connections to a micro controller
  5. Code reading Arduino examples (how to figure out what to copy and paste)

More slides available on speaker deck.


To prepare for the for the class, we had to begin by installing  the Arduino software (IDE) on my computer then we had to upload the Blink sketch (using this tutorial for guidance and install the IDE), whether an Uno, Lilypad or some other Arduino board.

From the previous class of testing the sensors, I had already installed the Arduino.

Research led me to look at these links before starting: Interactex.de . Paola Guimerans . Zippy Kit by Elena Corchero .

My idea & development

As I had previously experimented with incorporating conductive threads into craft-made textiles such has hand knitting, crochet and pompom making, I decided a simple winter hat would create a nice interactive project, not to mention a warm one perfect for these winter months! I could potentially  incorporate these  swatches/ soft sensors into it. Wearable Electronics Hat Research

Swatches gallery

On hand to help us with our ideas, was electronics guru Victor, who we were able to discuss our project ideas with.

We had a mini assignment which was to look at the input and outputs of a product we interact with.

I started to imagine the properties and what features would the winter hat have.

SpeakersSpeakers are one of the most common output devices used with computer systems. Some speakers are designed to work specifically with computers, while others can be hooked up to any type of sound system. … The speakers receive audio input from a device such as a computer or an audio receiver.Feb 27, 2010

Inputs: switch (turn on/off), receive audio input from the mp3 player/ipod/computer sound-card.

Outputs: buzzer (feedback that the speaker is on/working), sound on the speakers (in the form of sound waves).

The mini assignment and talking with Victor helped to see how feasible the idea would be to actually make and also which steps to look at first. We were able to simplify these down so that when one things worked, we could build on top of it.

We spoke about our soft sensors:

  • Fixed threshold and the range of the resistance
  • Using the peak as the trigger for the on/off switch.
  • What is the supply power and the supply control
  • Integrating our sensors and the possibility

LED’s or Speakers?

I had begun to work with LED’s when creating my pressure sensor, but I also crocheted some circular speakers, so I decided to it would be great to include speakers into the winter hat. (Maybe later on there would be LED’s!)

Here are a few of my sketches of ideas over the last week or so.

Some options are

  • To have the sensor in the brim > this would mean a knitted rib sensor with conductive thread and connected to the
  • another option is to follow the Ravelry 1898 seaman’s hat > this would allow me to have the nice curved shape that fits over the ears and put the electronics in the ‘pocket’ section
    • On top of this, the sensor could be in an added pompom which is the soft sensor and the on off switch in the top of the hat
  • Alternatively I could look at the traditional Andina hats which have a long “tail” in the end of the hat, traditionally used to store money sometimes, but in this case it could house a stretch sensor to control the
  • Or the sensors could be in the base

I also have to consider the wearability and washability of the hat. Would it be better to create a removable band section of the hat which comes in and out before the hat is washed. This is explored in the 3rd sketch.

Sketches gallery

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Arduino or Lilypad?

I chose a Lilypad mp3 as this was the best option to achieve music running through speakers or headphones in a short amount of time.

To test it, there is a sketch that comes with it called a Trigger sketch. This is the equivalent of the Blink sketch which Becky has spoken about. I downloaded it here.

I also followed a few tutorials for the Lilypad mp3 player. Useful links for the Lilypad mp3

I would need the following things to make the Lilypad run: FTDO cable (the cable with the many colourful wires), a mini SD card, a pair of headphones or two speakers, a lithium battery, (optional:  a rotary encoder )


As we saw in our lectures with Becky and on further research, many wearable projects use metal snaps or poppers to connect and disconnect sections of their circuits.

After sourcing the correct sized metal snaps, I managed to solder them onto each port, which means I can now connect the sections of the Lilypad and test some of the sketch codes out.

Does it work? Yes!

With the help of many people ( our tutor Anastasia, Fabricademy assistant tutor Mohammed & tech guy Guillermo)

After much trouble shooting, we had a eureka moment when we finally got it working. We played 3 tracks with the Trigger sketch and over 5 people have tested it!

For now I have been using iphone headphones, but in the future I could create the speakers and integrate these into the hat. I would need to do washing tests for wearability, though the Lilypad mp3 is actually washable.


Hat Sampling

As i knew there was a short time, I decided to create the hat in fabric first. I had some stretch velvet which had nice aesthetic and texture, but would also help with incorporating the technology of which I hadn’t got certain sizes or shapes detailed out yet.  I looked at these links and on Pinterest and these links for ideas on how to sew a hat. Fleece hat . Beanie Hat .

I also couldn’t help myself but as I was preparing some knitted items for a craft market, I made 3 hats using waste fabric and a scarf that went wrong. I used the zigzag stitch on my sewing machine to combine the different types of fabric, see how  cute they are? and this is another version of how the audio hats could work too!

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Next steps

Integrating the sensor (s)

Preparing a pressure or stretch sensor > I chose my pompom squeeze sensor and I will need the multimeter to retest the sensor, but I might also have to make a few different versions of the pompom to test.

Alternatively I could use my pressure sensor for the project, maybe in the side or “ears of the fab-cat-hat.


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