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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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15 Adventures in Electronic Textiles



For 15 years I have been enticed by electronic textiles. As an artist, they appealed to my interest in feminism, my love of material making, and my transgressive passion for the decorative arts. When I first began my work in electronic textiles in 1997, I believed electronic textiles were a new kind of artistic medium, one which blended the substance of materials with the mutability of software. In this polar combination of the physical and the digital, I saw the potential for new technology and new artistic forms. I also hoped that the sculptural immediacy of electronic textiles could be used to redirect computing technology, the most powerful medium of our time, toward personal creativity.

My first works in electronic textiles included The Firefly Dress and Necklace (Figure 81) and The Musical Jacket (Figure 83), which were created for the MIT Media Lab’s Wearable Fashion Show in 1997. After graduating from the Media Lab in 2002, I started a small design-technology company, International Fashion Machines (IFM). My goal at IFM was to explore the medium of electronic textiles as art, design, and technology, and to find out what it meant to get electronic textiles out into the world. At IFM I created electronic textile artworks and design products. I wrote patents, conducted research for DARPA and private industry, and developed wearable products for fashion companies. I also pursued almost every business model possible. I talked to representatives from the medical industry, Hasbro, Maharam Fabrics, the fashion...

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