Week 1: weaving, spinning, design

 

Last semester for my final project I got a small taste of wearable technology. The tech part came second, but I had an idea to make interactive gloves and a cape that reacts when a user puts it on. I had no idea that would lead me down the road to wearables. Since then I have become slightly more aware of the wearables around me and their ingrained presence in our everyday lives. In all honesty, before ITP I didn’t even know what “hardware” meant and had no idea that something like an Apple watch would be something I would identify as a wearable. Same goes for soft circuitry; I remember being utterly confused as to why we had sewing machines. I didn’t understand how sewing had anything to do with technology.

Why of all this is relevant is because I found the same theme in the reading, “Losing the Thread” by  Virginia Postrel. I found this essay very interesting on multiple levels–the most obvious is the connection between textiles and technology and the misconception that all wearables are clunky, hard gadgets that we wear. Rather than being the fabric we wear. This reminds me of an article I read after CES 2016 about a sports bra that was presented. The OmBra by Omsignal is a sports bra that not only functions in the traditional wearable sense, as an activity tracker of many sorts, but also a very comfortable bra that accommodates the many varying issues women face while exercising. When the Co-Founder and CEO of Omsignal, Stephanie Marceau was asked about the future of wearables, she responded that soon the hardware will disappear, as smart textiles emerge. Both of these articles have helped to change my perspective in wearables, that’s less about making clothes light up and more about how to make everyday clothes have a greater purpose in making our lives more meaningful. I am very interested to explore this during the semester.

Weaving a circuit:

To weave a circuit, I ended up just sewing a circuit. I used 2 LEDs, two small pieces of conductive fabric, a 3 Volt battery, felt, and two types of conductive thread. I have very little experience sewing a circuit, but I do know that the longer the conductive thread, the more resistive it is, which I learned the hard way. I wanted to do something with a soft button.

Supplies: glue, sticks, conductive thread, conductive fabric, 3V coin cell battery, and felt

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The first thing I did was draw out the circuit.

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The first thing I did was roll the legs of the LEDs in order to sew the thread into them. I tested the sides a few times with the coin cell battery to ensure I knew which was positive and ground. Then I cut small slits in the pink felt (I found in the soft lab), then I pushed the LEDs through. Once I had that I tested the conductive thread with the battery. Everything was good. Then I began to to sew. Once I sewed them in, it seemed everything was fine. My next step was to make a soft switch. My plan was to use a small piece of a hard foam I found in the soft lab. I cut a rectangle in side of it and then attached conductive fabric to each side. To adhere it, I just used electric tape. Since I didn’t have a coin cell battery holder, I cut out two very small pieces of conductive fabric to attached to each side of the battery. I used duct tape to attach them. After testing this, I decided to make a small enclosure for the battery with the same pink felt. Of course, after sewing this, and testing it again with my circuit it didn’t work. I spoke with Teresa about it, and she played with it, and concluded that the thread was so thin that it was too resistive for the circuit. She suggested going over each power and ground line with another round of conductive thread, which is shown below. Although this allowed me to close the circuit, I still wasn’t able to execute my original plan of having a soft switch. However, I learned a lot from sewing this circuit and excited to continue practicing.

 

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Mood/Inspiration board:

This semester I really want to explore smart textiles and create something that is useful for everyday life. In conjunction with my Muscle class with Nancy Nowacek, I want to create something that inspires, requires, and celebrates movement. In my mood board, I chose pictures of “everyday” women, as I would like to focus on making something for women. I chose a lot of soft, but bold colors.

I want it to feel like something that feels natural, and not intrusive. My goal would be to create something that looks like something a woman already wears or uses, but function in a way that makes people feel good and get more enjoyment out of mundane tasks.

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Inspiration board

Track a garment:

I chose this vest as my favorite garment. It’s actually a new addition to my wardrobe, but I love its versatility, texture, and it’s balance of hard and soft. The outside of the vest is made to look like distressed leather. The texture looks rough, sort of like a worn leather motorcycle jacket. However, the touch is smooth. It’s a nice contrast to the fur on the inside of the jacket. The fur also has a lot texture and feels soft, and pillow-like.

In order to make this, I think that the outside of the jacket was cut first. The vest does not close although, in fact, not only is there only one button near the bottom of the fur lining, it is also cut so the bottom is open, which gives a very casual look. I think once the shape of the vest was made, the fur lining was cut to fit the faux leather. It seems that another centimeter was left, so that the fur is visible in the pockets, arm holes, and inside lining.

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My phone, the love story

It’s difficult to answer the question of what my relationship with my phone is, as I am slightly embarrassed about my clinging dependency. Last Thursday I unexpectedly had to fly out to Chicago for a family emergency. My flight was at 7:12am, meaning I should arrive at the airport, at 6:15-6:30. I woke up a bit later than I had wanted and frantically tried to get my things together. I don’t usually use Uber to get to the airport, but I felt desperate. So, I actually downloaded the Uber app and requested a ride. With my battery at 5%, it was basically all it could handle before it shut off. And of course, my phone charger was nowhere to be seen, as we were experiencing a drought of phone charger between the 4 people staying at my apartment over the break. I thought about it hard for about 45 seconds, whether or not to reschedule my flight. I can’t fly to Chicago without a phone, I thought. How will I let my family know I’m leaving? How will anyone know that I landed? How will I entertain myself? How will I know that the Uber is not ripping me off and taking the long way to JFK?

I spent $75 to reschedule my flight. This secret stays here, on my ITP blog.

Why is this anecdote relevant to the relationship with my phone? I think it shows that I put everything else second when it comes to my phone, apparently even finances as a broke graduate student.

The sad part is that it’s not my phone that I’m attached to, well it is in the way that you like to have things that are yours. But if someone were to give me a brand new phone tomorrow, without any of my contacts, calendar events, apps, I wouldn’t even mind. In fact, I frequently add and delete the same apps, i.e. the Uber app–I already had an Uber account before the flying fiasco; I just often delete it, and re-install it when I desperately need it. The truth is, I have too many pictures. They’re like the cancer of my emails. I act like if I delete them I will actually feel a void in my life, despite rarely looking back at them.

I am not even one to have interesting and useful apps on my phone. I would bet that 90% of my phone usage is flipping back and forth from Facebook to the incredible amount of emails I have accumulated. This is very contradictory to some of the goals I have in educational technology, in exploring ways to integrate mobile devices during in-class instruction. If we are going to use them, can we find ways to help improve our lives. There are people that do use their phones in useful ways, but how can we make that true for the majority of people?

In this course, I’d like to explore how we can translate the idea of our phones being always on and connected to how we can we become always on and connected through our phones. Instead of using our phone as a blanket to hide behind hide direct, physical interaction, how can we take the advice of a phone and be present and aware in ourselves?