Monday, June 24, 2013

E-textiles at the Library

The Creativity Labs have been busy with e-textiles again this month! On June 6, members of the lab conducted an e-bracelet workshop with several girls at the Monroe County Public Library. This program was part of MCPL’s Maker Days, which will occur throughout the summer.

The girls at our E-Fashion Design program created an e-textile bracelet out of felt, conductive thread, a 3V coin cell battery, and a single LilyPad LED. We had the girls diagram on paper the circuit they would put on their bracelet before they began sewing, and we found that this greatly facilitated the process, giving them more time to decorate their bracelets. Which they did to tremendous effect! Take a look at these beautiful designs:

Dr. Kylie Peppler facilitated the workshop, with help from her advisees Sophia, Verily, and Kate (who graciously photographed the event). Thanks to Sarah Bowman from MCPL, without whom the event could not have happened.

The next week, from June 11-12, Diane, Sophia, and Verily facilitated a 2-day e-textile workshop for Teen Program Coordinators from throughout the Chicago Public Library system. Organized by Yolande Wilburn, the program took place in the Harold Washington Library Center in downtown Chicago. This library is opening a Makerspace soon, and its branches are hoping to provide maker programs as well. The purpose of this workshop was to train the Coordinators so they can offer e-textile programs in their own branch libraries.

 On the first day, the program participants learned how to use multimeters to test for conductivity, and learned about series and parallel circuits by lighting up LEDs with alligator clips—we discovered that the max number of SuperBright LEDs that a single 3V battery can light in parallel is 14! They then sewed their first soft circuit on a quilt square with a single homemade sewable LED, which is simply a regular LED whose legs have been curled into two flat circles, and finally they sewed an e-cuff with 3 LEDs in parallel.

The next day, they learned how to make DIY battery holder and switches. Conductive tape came in very handy for this purpose. DIY e-textile components help to cut costs, since oftentimes e-textile parts are prohibitively expensive. The participants then used these homemade parts to make a project with the LilyTiny, which is a small sewable microcontroller with 4 pre-programmed pins that make LEDs flash according to various patterns: twinkle, heartbeat, fade, or blink. The workshop participants sewed a LilyTiny and LEDs onto textiles they had brought in, whether they were t-shirts, jackets, shirts for their children, bags, or even a fabric disco ball! The session ended with an introduction to programming the LilyPad Protosnap Development Board with Modkit.

We wish MCPL and Chicago Public Libraries all the best with their upcoming e-textile and other making programs!