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Textile Messages

Dispatches From the World of E-Textiles and Education


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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11 LilyPad in the Wild: Technology DIY, E-Textiles, and Gender



The last decade has seen a resurgence in vibrant Do-It-Yourself (DIY) communities in a range of disciplines including textiles and electronics. Groups of hobbyists, artisans, educators, and youth of all ages are building artifacts and congregating in both physical and virtual spaces to share projects, designs, and techniques (Kuznetsov and Paulos 2010; Levine and Heimerl 2008; Frauenfelder 2010). In the textile realm, a handful of websites stand out as emblems of these crafts’ re-popularization. Ravelry, a site that enables people to share knitting patterns and projects, is visited by over 700,000 unique individuals each month.1 Burda Style, a similar site that allows people to share and remix sewing patterns is accessed by around 350,000. In a slightly different vein, DIY fashion sites are enabling novices to act as models, magazine editors, and stylists. For example,, a site where users share photos of themselves dressed in their favorite outfits, draws over 800,000 visitors a month. Women make up the majority of participants in each of these communities; Quantcast estimates that 73% of Ravelry’s visitors, 77% of Burda Style’s and 68% of’s are women.

Technology DIY communities meanwhile are flourishing in different spaces and attracting different participants. Electronics makers congregate in forums hosted by electronics retailers like Adafruit and SparkFun and tool-makers like Arduino. Traffic estimates for these sites are not available, however Adafruit’s forum has over 41,000 ← 147 | 148 → members, SparkFun’s over 25,000 and Arduino’s over 68,000. Electronics builders...

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