E is for electronics. Textiles are fabrics. E-textiles are fabrics or clothing items that have electronic components sewn into them. Okay, but why? Why sewing? Why “wearable” electronics?
In short, it’s just a thing that people are doing. Like electronically powered scooters (known popularly as “hoverboards”), e-textiles (or wearable electronics) are in fashion. They’re a trend, a novelty, and a statement one chooses to make. Wearable electronics say, “I wear stuff that sparkles or beeps. And you could, too.”
The above photo shows a mask that I made out of felt, glue, elastic, LED’s on little boards, conductive thread, and a coin cell battery tucked into a battery holder and hidden by some extra felt. It isn’t going to win any awards for creativity or precision, but it does the trick.
To make it, I followed a pattern and used electronic components that were specially designed for the purpose. Now that I know how they work, I am free to make my own patterns and design my own circuits. I could go downscale and use garden variety LED’s or I could go upscale and add a programmable micro-controller that can make the LED’s blink, fade, or twinkle.
The picture shows the micro-controller in the center, four LEDs surrounded it, and a battery holder with a slide switch down below. The micro-controller uses an open source programming environment called Arduino. The components were designed at MIT’s Media Lab by Leah Bucheley and are called “LilyPad.” The micro-controller is midway between a simple, straightforward circuit as above and a more complex component referred to as a “board.”
Here you see the LilyPad “Simple” board surrounded by some inputs and some and outputs. Along with the same LEDs as were shown above, there are a slide switch and button switch as well as a buzzer, a vibration motor, an RGB (red, green, blue) LED, a light sensor, and a temperature sensor.
Does this little ‘splain of e-textiles give you a sense of what they’re about?
It doesn’t go into the computer coding part of it, or the different ways to use them. Maybe next time.
If you want to know more, stay tuned.