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I’ve mentioned in passing a few times that I’ve been playing with some e-textile stuff. I spent most of this weekend goofing around with it, and thought I’d share some of it on the blog!

Alien Flora #1 – Morsafada (roughly walrus fairy. Because it looks like a walrus face. Or a fairy.)

I thought I should start by explaining what e-textiles is… it’s basically adding electronics (mostly lights and sound) to textile projects. In my case, that means a mini-quilt.

Adding some electronics. All those wires makes this look intimidating but really it’s just hooked up to an LED that can change colors and a light sensor.

Why would you want a light up/sound making mini quilt? Um. I don’t really have a great response to this other than, “because! blinky!” Although I suppose you could make a soft pillow that plays a lullaby maybe? Or a baby blanket that lights up? If you delve a little bit into programming you can add things like “touch here and this lights up.” But really for me it’s, “because! blinky!”

I have a long-standing fascination with fiber optics. I got these from a friend but you can get this stuff fairly cheap now a days.

I’ve wanted to play with e-textiles for a while but was always seriously intimidated. (People do some crazy cool stuff with it!) But I finally broke down and got a few things and started playing and to be honest, it’s not nearly as complex as you might think. Getting lights on something is as easy as buying the lights, the battery holder (which takes coin batteries), and using special conductive embroidery-like thread and sewing it all down. Bonus: the thread comes pre-wound on a bobbin so you can use it in your machine if you wanted to go that route.

The original QDAD from 6-3.

This particular project started with QDAD (man, it always starts with QDAD) where I made a design I didn’t particularly like and said “the only way I kind of like this is if i think about it as the start of an alien flora mini-quilt series.” That night the idea of an alien flora mini-quilt series lodged itself firmly in my brain and I now have something like 15 alien flora designs. But I also realized it was the perfect outlet for e-textile work because they’re alien. And sci-fi has taught me that alien stuff has blinky lights. Always.

This isn’t a bomb, I swear. It’s a piece of felt with some electronics sewn into it, the small circle on the left is a light sensor I bought, and the big circle on the right is the thing that supplies the power and what I programmed. It’s a “Lilypad Arduino Simple”.

So I started playing around with the first alien flora design and after this weekend I have all the electronics completed. I need to finish sewing everything down to the piece of felt (all those wires/alligator clips will disappear and be replaced by sewn lines with conductive thread (which works like wire, but is sewable)) but I’m back to needing to do some more traditional sewing. The fiber optics will hang out the base of the flower like flower stamen, and the rest of the electronics will be hidden on the back of the mini-quilt.

The fiber optics cycle slowly through the colors unless someone gets close to the design, then they glow white. I made this 15 second clip of it in action. (I might need a better video capturing method than my phone at this point.)

I was thinking of writing up a simple tutorial on getting started with e-textiles. Would anyone be interested?

Linking up to Lee @ Freshly Pieced and her WIP Wednesday link party!


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