Wearable Electronics, eTextiles, Oh My!
April 19, 2012
Recently, I attended a workshop where the presenter taught us how to sew a circuit. I am a big fan of textile arts, and this was a combination of two of my favorite things: technology and sewing! I was overjoyed when my little LED lit up with the press of a finger (I may have squeaked slightly lol). My joy was such that I have begun researching the possibilities for wearable technology.
There are some amazing etextile projects out there! You can use conductive thread in your sewing machine and create complicated light patterns throughout your design. You can wire a hoodie to turn off any TV in the area - TV B Gone! There is electro luminescent (EL) fabric (sadly very out of my price range) that generates its own light. Chung Hay created a dress that responds to sound. One of my favorites? You can create a color changing feather fascinator to wear in your hair! How cool is that?!
This is real science too. Several universities have etextile labs:
Some sites to look into if this sounds up your alley:
Adafruit: This site has a multitude of resources (including for purchase) like tutorials on programming your circuit boards, using multimeters - that's a tool for checking resistance and conductivity - videos, and a forum for questions. This is a tech heavy site, and probably not for beginners who aren't sure what they are doing. I love their LED belt kit!
Aniomagic: This is a great resource for mini programmable LEDs to use in a variety of projects. You can program your lights using their website! They provide tutorials for how to program your lights, and how to set up your circuits for beginners.
Arduino: The LilyPad line of products includes a microcontroller board designed to sewn to other components to create etextiles. They also offer LEDs, and other more advanced components for creating complex functions. The NETduino (and other clever takes off the brand name) are programmable circuit bread boards for the more advanced user. Here's a cool tutorial to make a beating heart headband!
Lynne Bruning: This is a personal site for one of the big names in etextiles. She works with Maker Faires and has great tutorial videos. Some of these are especially for beginners, and I would recommend them. I love her "My Stabby Valentine" project. Read a little more about her here.
Make: This is the online component to Make Magazine, and one of the backbones of the new "Maker" trend. They feature tutorials, videos, resources and more for people interested in all kinds of DIY projects. Here's a great tutorial on creating a patterned LED tank top!
SparkFun: This site offers Aniomagic, LilyPad and fabrickit brand products for purchase, as well as some general materials (conductive thread, conductive fabric, conductive ribbon, and conductive paint!) to craft your perfect wearable electronics.
Sternlab: This is a personal site for Becky Stern, another forerunner in the etextiles and wearable electronics game. She works with CRAFT and MAKE, as well as Adafruit, and has great tutorials. I especially like her LED shoe clips!
South Independence Branch