Monday, April 25, 2011

LilyPad design lights up the runway

LilyPad/fiber optic design created for Anna Reutinger’s fashion line - GMA
Dennis Cao, an electrical engineering student at UCLA, mixed the LilyPad with nine Red Green Blue (RGB) LED’s to emit a wide range of colors through fiber optic strands flowing out of a white halter style dress.

He writes "The code is fairly simple and I thought I’d share it (along with the assembly instructions) since the only documentation I’ve found online has been linearly fading LED’s, which doesn’t look as great in my opinion. My code uses pulse width modulation to fade in and out of different colors at a sinusoidal rate- (essentially this means turning on/off the LED at varying amounts, a brighter appearance meant that the LED was HIGH or ON at more times per second, increasing the frequency of the signal. )"

For his code and instructions go to

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Textile Messages Symposium

On Friday, April 22, 2011 we held a "Textile Messages" symposium at the University of Pennsylvania, Skirkanich Hall. Yasmin Kafai, Michael Eisenberg, Kylie Peppler, Leah Buechley, Maggie Orth, and Joanne Berzowka all presented, followed by an exhibit of electronic textiles. We showed a range of e-textiles from novice designs to high end art, discussed issues of gender, learning, and crafts, and contemplated what educational technology could be.
A number of people from education, art, hacktory, computer science, engineering, and information studies joined us to discuss recent developments in technology and education.

Kate Hartman, Diane Glosson, Kristin Searle, Corrie Tice, and Deborah Fields were also there displaying, discussing, and wearing e-textiles.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Adventures in E-Textiles.
In honor of our "Textile Messages" symposium tomorrow, I made a special, fading, Poppy Necklace. The lights on each flower are sewn in parallel and connected to the Lilypad Simple Board. Using ModKit Alpha (beta doesn't have variables yet), I programmed them to fade with the analogwrite command and adding 5 points to the brightness scale (from 0-255).

I used layers of felt to keep the circuits insulated from each other - a handy trick that also added some solidity to the otherwise thin felt. In a nod to Leah Buechley's writing about moving from the invisible to the visible in engineering, I'm showing a picture of the back. As you may guess, a lot is insulated between the layers, but you can see the final circuit completed by connecting the smallest flower to the pins on the Lilypad that power it.
More pictures can be found on the Lilypond site and on my personal blog.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

The Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef is a woolly celebration of the intersection of higher geometry and feminine handicraft, and a testimony to the disappearing wonders of the marine world.

Created and curated by Christine Wertheim and Margaret Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring.

"Crochet Coral and Anemone Garden" with sea slug by Marianne Midelburg.
Photos © The IFF by Alyssa Gorelick.

One of the acknowledged wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef stretches along the coast of Queensland, Australia, in a riotous profusion of color and form unparalleled on our planet. But global warming and pollutants so threaten this fragile monster that scientists now believe the reef will be devastated in coming years. As a homage to the Great One, Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute For Figuring instigated a project to crochet a woolen reef.

...The inspiration for making crochet reef forms begins with the technique of "hyperbolic crochet" discovered in 1997 by Cornell University mathematician Dr. Daina Taimina. The Wertheim sisters adopted Dr Taimina's techniques and elaborated upon them to develop a whole taxonomy of reef-life forms. Loopy "kelps", fringed "anemones", crenelated "sea slugs", and curlicued "corals" have all been modeled with these methods. The basic process for making these forms is a simple pattern or algorithm, which on its own produces a mathematically pure shape, but by varying or mutating this algorithm, endless variations and permutations of shape and form can be produced. The Crochet Reef project thus becomes an on-going evolutionary experiment in which the worldwide community of Reefers brings into being an ever-evolving crochet "tree of life." ...

Large scale anemone with brain coral head by Margaret Wertheim.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Career Woven from Life in NYT

ON my first visit to the American artistSheila Hicks’s home and studio here, I brought my 7-year-old son, at Ms. Hicks’s suggestion. “Tell him you’re going on a treasure hunt,” she had instructed me. In fact, the Cour de Rohan, where Ms. Hicks has lived since 1970 — a tranquil, picturesque cobblestone courtyard tucked away behind the multiplexes of the Place de l’Odéon — was only the first of many remarkable finds that day. Read more at

Textiles & Felt Workshop at the Penn Museum

WIRED 19.4 How to make stuff