City Threads–An Interactive Sculpture #WearableWednesday


How do you engage people and represent a city? With City Threads–a soft circuit sculpture! Codasign collaborated with artist Heather Forknell and families in Leicester, UK to create this installation at Phoenix, a nonprofit art hub. I tracked down Emilie Giles, team member at Codasign, about this interesting mix of art, education and people. She was happy to share her thoughts and photos.

Phoenix wanted us to run a workshop that would include children in the building of a piece of art, whilst also allowing them to reflect on what it means to grow up in the city of Leicester. We were already familiar with the work of Heather Forknell, a local artist, and loved the idea of combining her work with something that the children could contribute to. Due to Leicester’s textile heritage we felt that a textile based sculpture would lend itself well to this and combined with eTextiles would allow us to add the Bare Conductive Touch Boards to have capacitive sensing as our form of interaction, triggering sound files recorded by the children involved.


The installation was created using lengths of fabric and wool gloves. Switches were created by stitching icons with conductive thread on felt patches, which were fastened to the large pieces of fabric and then joined to the Bare Conductive Touch Boards with more conductive thread. Children had fun in a previous workshop recording sounds appropriate for Leicester, and the files were stored on the MP3 function of the boards. Check out a sample of their sounds. I was impressed by the project’s multi-generational appeal and cohesive design, and Emilie agreed.

Any participatory based project is hard work; you have to ensure that the framework is there in order for things to be added to the artwork. Making sure that all the circuits were sewn to the Touch Boards correctly, not touching each other so they wouldn’t short, was probably the biggest challenge, as you need to add the technology but don’t want to compromise the appearance of the artwork in any way. Everything worked out perfectly though! 🙂


For teachers working on STEAM (Science, Teach, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) curriculum, this is a great example of bringing a bunch of goals together. There is the element of learning electricity and circuits, understanding design/project thinking, examining the culture of a city, discovering symbolism with icons, sewing, investigating audio, and learning to work in collaboration. Enjoyment can be found on many levels.

When making their small interactive E-textile patches with conductive thread, they especially enjoyed drawing their ideas and then stitching them. The children in the first workshop loved making their sound recordings (they worked in small groups so they had a lot of fun). Overall, you could see that everyone: children, young people and adults all received instant gratification from touching the patches to trigger the sounds – they found this almost magical!

These ideas can also be incorporated into wearables, like a skirt with pocket switches to trigger nature sounds, or a baseball hat with a brim trigger that plays your favorite team’s song. If you feel drawn to audio projects, you might want to check out our Laugh Track Jacket–you’ll have everyone texting LMAO at the next party. Let your clothing do the talking, it’s awesome!

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!

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

No Comments

No comments yet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.