Sunday, January 31, 2010

Imogen Heap's Twitter dress Tweets from the Grammy's

Los Angeles, February 01, 2010

Singer-songwriter Imogen Heap hands down won, although unofficially, the 52nd Grammy Awards' wearing a "Twitter Dress," a piece of clothing which instead of showing sexy skin, had images transmitted by fans who utilized the hashtag #twitdress.

One of the early social media hat tips in evidence comes from artist Imogen Heap, who accepted an award for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical wearing a specially crafted “Twitter Dress.”

Around Heap's neck: a kind of sculptural cuff with blinking light. And her purse was a small television.

The necklace had a live Twitter feed with a wireless router. And a television with videos her fans were sending to her account. She brought her followers down the red carpet.

The Twitdress idea is nothing if not a creative way to incorporate social media into the Grammys experience and — literally — bring the fans with an artist onto the stage.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Oobject, a design blog for all things technology, regularly posts about the unusual & interesting gadgets out there (but often still under the radar of popular media). These, in turn, are ranked by user votes.

Check out this page ranking the 22 Best Interactive Clothing items--complete with video demos.

The complexity & interactivity of these products serves as a real contrast to the limited nature of fashion design kits currently being touted by major U.S. retailers:

No kits for air-conditioned clothing yet. - QB

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Blast from the Past… IU Computational Textile Workshop 10/24/09

Several months ago Leah Buechley, director of the High-Low Tech Group at the MIT Media Lab, and techie dream team (Emily Lovell and Hannah Perner-Wilson) visited the Indiana University campus in Bloomington to give an hour long presentation to a packed house in the Fine Arts Auditorium. The well received presentation was followed by an over-capacity, five-hour-long circuit and LilyPad workshop. This event has kicked off immense interest in the CT/DIY movement. Following are a few of the highlights from the day-long event.

Part 1: Leading off the hour long presentation was a video of an electronic pop-up book, Leah lit the path to the new emerging possibilities of technology. The book was built with a kit which allowed the designer/builder to create their own electronic vision of an interactive object, that empowerment is the focus of the MIT High-Low Tech Group. But to reach that point, Leah pointed out that technology, including creative technology, must be democratized. Traditionally that might happen through lowering the hurdle, that is making it easier to write computer programs or to work with electronics, however this approach excludes many things at the heart of democratization. (Leah projects a photo of a quilting circle that could have included my late Grandmother) Ahhh…we all get it…the exclusion factor!

But not only is it the exclusion of participants but also the exclusion of materials (when was the last time you saw a Lego Mindstorm kit made with textiles?) So Leah’s groups approach to technology democratization is to change up the material assumptions and where it belongs and what it looks like. Leah went on to explain “we think that if you change the materials, then you change the material context and very naturally change the culture context and thereby shift the culture around technology.” A video of Leah’s bike turn signal jacket played center stage, proof of the previous point, but to drive it further she explained about the series of workshops she implemented. Including the history of the LilyPad (hand made to manufactured) and discussed some of her favorite projects made with the LilyPad.

Next Hannah discussed a pre MIT LilyPad project called the Puppeteer Project with the use of pressure and bend sensors in performance clothing, while emphasizing how changing materials can also change what the technology looks like. Then Emily talked about the new tool kit developed for conductive paint and a magnetic surface, which opens the door for even more paper, based products like Hannah’s electronic paper keyboard.

In conclusion, there seems to be a cultural definition of technology (this can be suggested by the lack of females in fields of engineering and computer programming) and there is room to grow. There is a need to expand our cultural assumptions on what technology looks like and who participates. This is where the LilyPad comes into play, but first we need a lesson on circuitry (see Part 2).

E-Textiles: Moving Beyond the Screen

Join us in the lobby for a fun, hands-on workshop, run by Kylie Peppler at the Indiana Celebration of Women in Computing (WIC), Friday Feb 5th. Everyone will create their own e-textile by merging sewing, crafts, and electronics to create a wearable circuit.

Participants are asked to bring their own artifact to be enriched with wearable circuits to the workshop. A shirt, jacket, hat, or any other fabricated object that can be sewn is suitable and will make your experience more meaningful. All other materials will be provided.

Artifacts like colorful interactive dresses and programmable paper sketchbooks confound our assumptions about the look and feel of technology. When we put technology in unusual material and cultural contexts like these, it becomes appealing to new and diverse groups of people. In this workshop, we examine aspects of computation and design that dovetail with hands-on crafts, physical construction and design, and material play. As today's notions of "electronic media" are expanding beyond the screen, we need to consider how engagement with digital media can encompass electronic textiles, "smart" or controllable materials, fabricated artifacts, and computationally-enriched physical objects.

See entire article at:

Monday, January 25, 2010

To Charge your iPod, Plug in Your Jeans

For those trying to figure out where to sew the battery...this is amazing news!

A breakthrough in wearable computing lets researchers change ordinary cotton and polyester into electronic textiles that can double as rechargeable batteries. That means powering an iPod or cell phone could become as easy as plugging it into your tee shirt or jeans and charging the clothing overnight.

“Energy textiles will change the development of wearable electronics,” Liangbing Hu, one of the researchers from Stanford University involved in the project told “There are not that many solutions available for energy storage for wearable devices. Electronic textiles tries to solve that problem.”

Wearable electronics is an attempt to create a new category of devices that are flexible and lightweight such as wearable displays, embedded health monitors and textiles with electronics melded in. In case of textiles, though, most attempts, so far, to integrate electronics involve patching sensors and resistors on to existing fabric.

The latest attempt tries to bring the electronics to the molecular level. The researchers coated cellulose and polyester fibers with ‘ink’ made from single-walled carbon nanotubes. The nanotubes are electrically conductive carbon fibers barely 1/50,000 the width of a human hair.

The process of dyeing with this special ink is similar to that used for dyeing fibers and fabrics in the textile industry, they say. Details of the method were published in a paper in the ACS’ Nano Letters journal.

The coating makes the fibers highly conductive by turning them into porous conductors. The treated textiles can then be used as electrodes and standard textiles used as separators to creates fully stretchable supercapacitors. Ordinary capacitors are used to store energy. Supercapacitors can offer turbocharge that principle such that the capacitor can be charged and discharged virtually an unlimited number of times.

“If you have a high surface area, you can store a high amount of charges,” says Hu. “Since we coat carbon nanotubes on textile fibers, it increases the surface and allows for charge and discharge cycles up to one million times,” says Hu.

The electronic textiles produced by this method retain the flexibility and stretchability of regular cotton and polyester. They also kept their electronic properties despite simulated repeated laundering, say the researchers.

The next step is to combine it with inks of other materials that could help turn the fabric into wearable solar cells and batteries.

The researchers are also looking to use graphene, a form of carbon derived from graphite oxide, instead of carbon nanotubes. “Graphene can be much cheaper than nanotubes,” says Hu, “so alternative materials like that could significantly reduce the cost of energy textiles.”

Read More

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Specialty Fabrics Review reports on NSF Grant

Specialty Fabrics Review
January 2010
Creating computational textiles

It’s called a LilyPad Arduino, and designer Leah Buechley and a team of educators and scientists plan to show more than 400 students how to combine it with traditional fabric arts to create computational textiles—computers embedded into fabrics. Buechley, director of the “High-Low Tech Group” at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, developed the LilyPad Arduino microcontroller board, which has electronic parts that can be sewn onto clothing to project light, produce sound or perform other technical operations.

The National Science Foundation provided a three-year grant to bring scientists and art educators from Indiana University, MIT and the University of Pennsylvania together to blend learning and creativity. The grant team will bring aspects of physics, engineering, computer programming, art, clothing design and fabrication skills into after-school educational settings. LilyPad Arduinos have been used to program built-in turn signals on a biking jacket, a sewing machine that can be used as a printer and an exhibit simulating the experience of being inside a human body.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Where Fiber Art Meets Hot Fudge Sundae

Until recently, the contemporary art world politely ignored the encroachment into artists’ studios of techniques more commonly associated with traditional practical and domestic arts. “Knitted, Knotted, Netted” at the Hunterdon Art Museum confronts this trend head on, presenting work by a dozen artists made using the methods of the title.

Each of these techniques is quite ancient, according to the exhibition catalog, probably dating to Paleolithic times, when humans first began to fashion clothing and hunting instruments from plant fibers and animal materials. Each is characterized by looping of a thread or cord, in contrast to, say, weaving or braiding, in which the elements may interlace but not necessarily loop.

Contemporary artists have pushed these old techniques in fascinating directions, as is evidenced by the beauty, variety and inventiveness of the works in this show, organized by Hildreth York, one of the museum’s curators. In addition to using natural materials, artists now work with all sorts of industrial and synthetic substances, enabling the creation of far more dynamic looped structures.


“Knitted, Knotted, Netted,” Hunterdon Art Museum, 7 Lower Center Street, Clinton, through Jan. 24; (908) 735-8415 or

Textile Exhibit at Philadelphia Museum

Art: Delicate, seductive Bengali embroidery

Kantha textiles, with functional and ritualistic uses, are woven into a culture.

Kanthas are among the most beautifully elaborate and seductive textiles one could hope to see in any museum, but it's exceedingly rare to find them on display in an institution in the United States.

This is because kanthas (slide over the h), besides being structurally delicate and susceptible to damage from prolonged exposure to light, represent highly specialized, non-Western cultural and aesthetic values.

They are intricate embroideries that vary in size from tea towel to bedcover, made in Bengal, a region now split between eastern India and Bangladesh.

Traditionally created by women from worn or cast-off domestic fabrics, they are in that sense like the quilts sewed by generations of American women. The multilayered kanthas are even commonly described as quilts, even though they're not filled with batting.

Read more ...

"Kantha: The Embroidered Quilts of Bengal" continues in the Perelman building of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Fairmount and Pennsylvania Avenues, through July 25. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission: $7 general, $6 for visitors 65 and older, $5 for students with ID and visitors 13 through 18. Information: 215-763-8100, 215-684-7500 or

Destination DIY Podcasts

Dearest Listeners,

I hope 2010 is treating you well thus far. Thank you so much for helping to launching Destination DIY towards some exciting new things in the year ahead. In just a few months, you'll be hearing new hour-long shows on topics such as DIY economy, Doing It Ourselves (creative projects that require collective action) and more! Destination DIY is coming into this year with a lot of good work to do.

Of course, good work is always more satisfying when it involves good friends. Thanks for the boost you gave Destination DIY towards funding the production of our next batch of episodes. Our supporters hail from such diverse locations as Portland, Cambridge, Madison, Brooklyn, Paris and Kamakura, Japan. I'm happy to say we're well on our way to enough funds to compensate a sound engineer and contributing producers for the next five episodes. ...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Chomp! Chomp! your LilyPad project power hungry?

If you find your LilyPad project needs more power than the traditional AA battery, Leah recommends the following:

“The important spec for batteries is their mAh rating.  mAh stands for milli Amp hours & tells you how much energy is in each battery.  A typical LilyPad project requires approximately 30 milli Amps (or mA) continuously.  To estimate how long each battery will last for a LilyPad project divide the mAh rating by 30.

The tiny (rechargeable) LiPo that I recommend first (Polymer Lithium Ion Batteries PRT-00731) should run for about 3 hours (since it's rated for 100 mAh)

The more powerful one I recommend for ~30 hours (1100 mAh) Polymer Lithium Ion Batteries PRT-00339


These can both be plugged into this LilyPad battery board (LilyPad LiPower DEV-08786)

To charge these batteries, you can use LiPoly Charger - Single Cell 3.7-7V Input PRT-00726

Additionally “I put a protective coating of hot glue around the points where the wires meet the battery & where the wires meet the plug connector.  With repeated bending & use the wires will break at their connection points without some sort of protection.”

There is also an important note about the placement of the power supply on Leah’s website:
“As you design, plan to keep your power supply and LilyPad main board close to each other. If they are too far apart, you are likely to have problems with your LilyPad resetting or just not working at all.”

For additional battery information see: important note about the power supply  at

Friday, January 8, 2010

Images from the Boston Working Group Meeting

Recently, we received a supplementary award from the MacArthur Foundation for a series of working group meetings on computational textiles. Our first working group meeting was held in Boston in January. It's the first of four meetings. For some quick snapshots from our time in Leah's new lab, check out these images in Flickr:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

short piece in The Atlantic

Hi Everyone

Just came upon this by William Gurstelle in The Atlantic:

A great short piece.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Flexible LED eTextile Ribbon Array

See instructions:

This ribbon lighting was used in the bodice of this hauntingly beautiful dress by Lynne Bruningauthor's website.

LilyPad Interactive Passion Sensing Scarf

The LilyPad Interactive Passion Sensing Scarf works like so:

Scarf number one being worn by someone walking alone will light up with the color Blue for Lonely. When the wearer of scarf number two joins up with number one, the two scarves will sense each other and then light up Red for Love.

Future plans for capacitance touch: which will allow the colors to Pulsate for Passion if one wearer touches the other wearers scarf.

Visiting MIT's Media Lab

Becky Stern: Today I'm visiting the Media Lab's High-Low Tech (HLT) group, headed up by Leah Buechley. I'm hanging out with her and her grad students Hannah Perner-Wilson, David Mellis, and Emily Lovell, as well as e-textile education maven Kate Hartman. More later this week including video, but for now check out mine and Kate's photos! Yesterday we met with all sorts of education and e-textile superstars and had a knitted sensor workshop. Pictured above is Hannah showing Kate how to finish her machine-knitted conductive yarn stretch sensor.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Tools and Project Ideas for E-Textiles with Kids

Diane Glosson writes, "I've been looking at these Alex Knot-A-Quilt kits for kids, see The kits include 48 -9" fringed squares, meaning we could make 24 fringed pillows (with a simple circuit sewn on one side of the pillow from each kit, so it would come close to $1 in fabric per child). This just seemed easy for the little ones that might not have enough sewing experience to stitch an entire pillow."

"I also just came across the GO! fabric cutter, that you can buy dies for: (cutter runs $349) Such as the rag die (for fringed pillows){BDC07F45-5735-4CD2-AF63-E8810DCB684F} Or appliqua shapes{F9FB26AC-5853-4132-AF76-DA5FB660B227} etc."

The Democratization of Ubiquitous Computing

Watch it on Academic Earth

April 25, 2008 lecture by Leah Buechley for the Stanford University Human Computer Interaction Seminar (CS547). Computational textile researchers weave, solder and sew electronics into cloth to build soft, flexible and wearable computers. Computational textiles or "e-textiles" is a young discipline, and developments in the field have so far been relegated almost exclusively to research labs in industry and academia. Lisa Buechley presents advancements that make the designing and building of e- textiles accessible to new audiences, describing developments in engineering, design and applications that are helping to democratize creative ubiquitous computing.

Aniomagic Project Ideas

Check out some neat project ideas ranging from ambient temperature sensing curtains to diffusing your LEDS: