Woven Rocket Ship with Lights #WearableWednesday


I received a great post through my Crafting Electricity group on Facebook that talked about digital weaving, so needless to say I was curious. Apparently Tien Chiu made a big splash recently at a weaving conference in Rochester with her rocket ship inspired art. Weavers love to collaborate, and this piece certainly proves the point.

Tien was excited by Norway’s TC-2 jacquard loom, and made it a point to get to their booth early to work on her image idea. She had found an image of a Soyuz-Fregat rocket launch carrying SkySat-2, which is already a great subject for any geek. So, she created a file and got to work.

I wanted to use four wefts – blue, white, orange, and brown – in addition to the gray warp. So I indexed to 22 colors, various mixes of weft and warp colors, without dithering the image. Then I developed the rest of the file and wove it up.


She felt this version was a bit cartoon-like, so she recreated the file with the same number of colors, but added dithering. In the end, it was a more realistic look. This is where the weaving story gets exciting, according to Tien.

Laurie Carlson Steger, an amazing textile artist who works with fiber optic cable and light, had seen me weaving the rocket launch the previous day, and had come with seventy-five strands of fiber optic cable. Would I be interested in weaving them into my rocket launch photo? HELL YEAH!!! So I quickly revised the Photoshop file to include a strand of fiber optic cable every eight picks, and started weaving away. It turned into a five hour marathon session at the TC-2 – one hour in the morning, a break for lunchand then four straight hours of weaving without a break in the afternoon. Yes, my feet hurt (the TC-2 was set up as a standing loom), but it was such fun to see the image developing that I couldn’t stop!

With the two ideas merged, the rocket ship suddenly came to life, both in truer colors, and with the addition of light.


Laurie knows a lot about working with fiber optics and how to control the light in a weave. Using an Exacto knife, she created nicks in the fibers, allowing the light to shine in the most prominent areas of Tien’s design. The finished piece glimmers to suggest the light of lift-off, and it reminds us of the modern world we live in. This theme of space and mysterious light are very much a part of Laurie’s work, and it seems like these two weavers were meant to be in this place and time. Consider it another blessing of collaboration, as shown by Laurie’s photo.


We’ve seen other artists weave table runners and bracelets with beads and LEDs, so start sketching up your ideas. Or, if you are just drawing a blank, give our Friendship Bracelet a try. With some simple braiding and LEDs, you can light up the sea next time you’re shore bound.

Flora breadboard is 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!

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