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 of 3.3 Volts
  • (optional:  a rotary encoder )

Study of the Lilypad MP3

I was really interested in the layout of the Lilypad MP3, so I decided to do a drawing (tracing over the image of one as a bitmap on Rhino3D). I also thought this might be useful later on, 1) to be able to separate the components of a the Lilypad board and 2) to be able to reuse my drawings in any future projects.

I also wanted to look at possible ways to select tracks and the idea of using a secondary section which is possible sitting outside the hat, allowing the wearer to select the tracks, rather thank directly touching the Lilypad MP3.

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Speaker & Crochet Speaker testing

  • I continued on with the idea of created crocheted speakers from the first Week of Etextiles
  • I also attached it to a base fabric which I later found produced a stronger sound as it is more similar to the embroidered speakers by Kobakant
  • I tested regular speaker also with the Lilypad MP3
  • … and I even used a crochet copper wire chains the connector, instead of a wire.

I believe with these tests, a fully knitted hat could be created with little to no seams a the conductive thread or wire could be fully integrated.



  • The songs are stored on the SD card and on your computer you have to label and save them as 1, 2, 3 and so on, allowing the the Lilypad to automatically read the SD card.
  • The wire I used is a coated copper wire. You have to sand off the coating in sections or bit by bit, in order to test the resistance over a length.



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, or to be able to attach them to clothing and so on.

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? & make a sound? 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!


Here is the code for the Trigger Sketch should you want to test it for yourself.


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 .


Sampling of Cute Cat Hats

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!

Here you can see my friends’ child modelling one of the pink hats.

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I think sensors for this design would be nice in the ears; one to turn the sound on&off , the other to control the volume possibly. A squeezable pressure sensor would work for both and be easy for children around age 4+ to understand how to use.


Here is the code for a Pressure Sensor that I would initially use.



Unfortunately I dont have any images of anyone wearing the the hat with in working condition, as the finishing of the assignments overlapped with the start of the final project, which is when sadly the Lilypad overheated and stopped functioning at the start of 2018.


The final hat design of the velvet edition has the battery placed in a slot which sits at the back of the hat, whilst the earphones were tucked through a fabric channel and popped through where the earflaps would sit over the ears. Of course I’d like to make a working sample in a stretch fabric such as velvet and integrate my own speakers in the future, which could be embroidered coil speakers.

Also at this stages the sensors could not be integrated as the Arduino program continuously crashed and so it was impossible to program the board with variable in which the sensor needed to be an on-off switch.


Moving forward

I have created an Instructable for a handknitted 3-in1 hat here

  • I would like to continue this project into the future, to integrate my ideas of the pompom bobble sensor when I can afford to get another LilypadMP3 board.
  • It would also be good in the future to have a Rotatry encoder as the switch, to that pompom bobble sensor could control the volume or even another feature.
  • I might also have to make a few different versions of the pompom to test, using different conductive yarns or even fabric strips.
  • Alternatively I could develop my pressure sensor concept (made from the vintage conductive trim from the 1st E-textiles unit), then maybe place a version in the side or ears of the cute cat hat.

Then if these things worked, I could integrate it into my final project or future projects.

Along with the knitted hat Instructable, here are some developments of the hat design I have made since our hand in.

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