Recently I gave a talk at the Smart Textiles event at Eyebeam, as part of the Computational Fashion series. This post contains my presentation, both in slides and (approximate) words. When video from the event is online, we’ll post it up too! I had bronchitis at the time anyway, so this post probably tells the story a little more clearly:
At Adafruit, make tutorials, kits, and open-source devices that allow curious tinkerers to create the gadgets of their dreams while learning the concepts and techniques behind how all our favorite gadgets actually work.
I focus on creating wearable electronics projects that beginners can make at home.
We source and test all kinds of conductive textiles and bring what we think are the best to our customers through our online store. We like to think of ourselves as an educational tutorial company with a gift shop at the end.
I started my first project with conductive thread in 2008, and here it is. I ordered a spool of silver plated nylon from a guy who repairs fencing equipment in Canada and got stitching to make this light-reactive, sound emitting embroidery. After about a year, the silver plating tarnished, building up oxidation where once there was electrical conductivity. The circuit stopped working, and there was nothing I could do to repair it.
As an artist wanting to make archival-quality work that stands the test of time, this was a heatbreaking experience.
But it drove me to work hard to put together a great ecosystem of hardware and conductive textiles to allow imaginative fashion designers and at-home crafters to make really robust, functional garments & accessories that 06 sense the world around them and light up the dance floor.
And it reinforced the importance of documentation to me– some of my earlier works only still exist as pictures and videos. So every week I make a new tutorial– and here’s a guide I made about the stainless steel thread we carry at Adafruit.
We show what each of the three kinds look like close up,
what their electrical properties are,
how to create circuits with it,
how to prevent it from coming unraveled,
and special things to watch out for if you’re a beginner,
like making sure your sensors aren’t too far away from your microcontroller
You can put it in the bobbin-side of a sewing machine,
but it doesn’t always mean you can avoid using more traditional electronics tools when the projects get bigger and more complicated– in this case alligator clips come in handy.
In fact what’s so interesting to me about wearables is that you can combine any number of traditional crafts like embroidery and sewing with electronics skills like soldering to make modular snap circuits.
Another thing conductive thread is good for is making innovative switches– in this case when the zipper pull travels past and connects these two pads of conductive thread, the electrical signal triggers the device to power down nearby television sets.
We also do some projects with conductive fabric. Here I’m using a capacitive touch-sensing circuit to change the color of the LED when I come in contact with the fabric.
We used the same principle to make a plush game controller with conductive fabric buttons, connected to a Flora board, which is our arduino compatible wearables board with built-in USB support.
This one plugs into the computer so you can play your favorite online NES emulators.
It’s our goal to provide fun do-it-yourself projects that allow enthusiastic novices to make radically custom wearable electronics and really bring their imaginations to life.
Every Wednesday is Wearable Wednesday here at Adafruit! We’re bringing you the blinkiest, most fashionable, innovative, and useful wearables from around the web and in our own original projects featuring our wearable Arduino-compatible platform, FLORA. Be sure to post up your wearables projects in the forums or send us a link and you might be featured here on Wearable Wednesday!