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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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13 E-Textile Technologies in Design, Research and Pedagogy



Electronic textiles, in the form of illuminating costumes and transformable garments, have infiltrated the mainstream through various high-profile products and media personalities. They have emerged from decades of research that were rooted in military, medical, and sports performance arenas to engage the collective imaginations of a new generation of students, artists, and designers. The term “smart textile” is gaining recognition in popular media and refers to a wide range of textiles or wearable materials with new, unexpected, or complex appearance and behavior. This allows the materials to respond, to adapt, and to change according to various physical interactions and to the environment. These characteristics of new materials present new opportunities and possibilities for design, research, and pedagogy.

Within a design research environment, innovation often involves the development of new materials and the use of emerging technologies. Material and technological innovation, in turn, entails the investigation of new forms and processes, so as to test the boundaries of visual expression and interaction design. The creative process itself adapts, changes, and evolves in response to the experimental fibers and electronic components of wearable artifacts. The material qualities of those new components affect the process in complex ways, necessitating an iterative approach that can breach the boundaries between the research lab, the classroom, and the design studio.

I founded the XS Labs design research studio shortly after I joined Concordia University in 2002 to focus on innovation in electronic textiles and reactive garments. My interest in this...

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