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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


Edited By Leah Buechley, Kylie Peppler, Michael Eisenberg and Yasmin Kafai

Textile Messages focuses on the emerging field of electronic textiles, or e-textiles – computers that can be soft, colorful, approachable, and beautiful. E-textiles are articles of clothing, home furnishings, or architectures that include embedded computational and electronic elements. This book introduces a collection of tools that enable novices – including educators, hobbyists, and youth designers – to create and learn with e-textiles. It then examines how these tools are reshaping technology education – and DIY practices – across the K-16 spectrum, presenting examples of the ways educators, researchers, designers, and young people are employing them to build new technology, new curricula, and new creative communities.
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4 Handcrafting Textile Sensors



The last few chapters described construction kits that consist of traditional electronic components—miniature computers, sensors, and output devices—that have been repackaged so that they’re easily attachable to fabric. In this chapter we take a slightly different approach, introducing what we term a “kit of no parts” for e-textiles—a set of techniques that enable others to construct e-textiles from raw materials like thread and fabric. Instead of repackaging traditional electronics into sewable kits, we construct soft textile-based components “from scratch.” More specifically, this chapter introduces a collection of materials, tools, and processes that can be used to construct sensors. We describe a collection of novel textile-based sensors that can be easily constructed from readily available and inexpensive materials using well-known crafting techniques. Figure 28 shows a collection of these sensors.

This work is an example of both a new technological development, in the form of a collection of new sensors, and a new style of working. Using the techniques and tools we have developed, people can craft their own technologies. This chapter is intended to both serve as: 1) a practical guide for practitioners who are interested in building textile sensors and 2) a contextualized discussion of the benefits and limitations of approaching electronics design and education in this fashion.

Each of the devices we describe in this chapter is unique, but it is important to acknowledge that we are not the first people to build soft sensors. Technical research into textile-based...

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