The Maker Show: Episode 9 - An Introduction to Wearables

Do you have dreams of blinging out your gear but have no idea where to start? This episode of the Maker Show will explore the wide world of wearables - from MicroControllers made for wearables to conductive thread, and even a little bad sewing skills thrown down in between. Get started with your first soft interactive electronics project by learning some of the basics first.

[00:00] Intro

[01:24] Materials for a Wearable Project- Microcontrollers, conductive thread and inputs/outputs

[02:12] Conductive Thread

[02:17] What is Conductive Thread?

[03:40] Choosing what Conductive Thread to use for Your Project

[04:42] The 5 Things about Conductive Thread to Know

[06:30] Conductive Materials

Materials shown in this section:

  1. Conductive Fabric
  2. 3Ply Stainless Steel Conductive Thread

[07:00] How to use your Mulitmeter for test for Continuity

Materials shown in this section:

  1. 3Ply Stainless Steel Conductive Thread
  2. Multimeter
  3. Conductive Fabric

[09:15] Microcontrollers for Wearables

[10:50] Microcontrollers: The LilypadArduino

Shown is the LilyPad Arduino created by Leah Buechley

[12:39] Microcontrollers: The Flora by Adafruit

Shown is the Flora by Adafruit

[15:17] Microcontrollers: The Gemma by Adafruit

Shown is the Gemma by Adafruit

[17:00] Microcontrollers: The Photon Wearable Shield from Sparkfun

[17:25] The Fun Stuff: Inputs and Outputs

Materials shown in this section are the following:

  1. LED Sequins
  2. Flora NeoPixels
  3. NeoPixel Ring
  4. Flora Accelerometer
  5. Silicon Wire

[24:22] Putting it in Practice and Sewing a Project

Tips in this section:

  1. Keep your fabric taut with an embroidery hoop
  2. Design your circuit, even use tailor chalk to plan it out
  3. Use beeswax or some type of wax to keep your ends from fraying
  4. When sewing to a pad on a microcontroller, make sure you do 2-3 loops to ensure a solid connection and coverage on the pad.
  5. Keep your stiches uniform and the gaps uniform, and ideally small.
  6. When knotting off your thread, use nail polish to "set it" and help the thread tails from fraying
  7. Cut your tails close to the knot to avoid them touching other circuits

Materials used in this section are the following:

  1. Embroidery Hoop
  2. 3Ply Stainless Steel Conductive Thread
  3. This awesome cat shirt
  4. Flora Version 2
  5. Flora RGB Smart NeoPixel
  6. Clear Nail Polish

[25:26] Using Nail Polish to stop Threads from Fraying

[26:00] Some Questionable Sewing

Judge me freely here, as you watch my outstanding sewing skills.

[26:48] Lighting up the awesome Cat shirt

This is the moment of truth - will the circuits sewed into the shirt work?

In this section, I programmed the Flora Microcontroller with a modified version of the strand test from the NeoPixel Library examples. I set the number of pixels to 1 and then changed the pin to match the one I sewed to. You can install and use the NeoPixel Library from the GitHub repository. You might have to add the Flora to your list of boards to the Arduino IDE, there are some instructions to follow here: Adding Third Party Boards to the Arduino IDE. For more on how to program an Arduino, you can check out the 2nd episode of the Maker show!

Additional Resources

What is Continuity

Adding Third Party Boards to the Arduino IDE

Sparkfun: Sewing with Conductive Thread

Adafruit: Overview of Conductive Thread

Sparkfun: ETextile Basics

Kobakant DIY

Instructables: Make your own conductive thread

Adafruit: Wearables Learn Section

As always, please do share anything that you might make! Feel free to leave questions or comments below, and thanks for watching!