eTextile Spring Break Tackles Signal Blocking, Audio Generation, and Radio Transmissions

Finding a killer application for e-textiles is the realm of the hacker and within that realm, anything goes. Whether it’s protecting your digital privacy with signal shielding, generating audio with a wearable BeagleBone or 555 timer, or making your favorite garment into an antenna, the eTextile Spring Break is testing out ways to combine electronics and fabric.

You may be asking yourself “What are e-textiles good for?”. Well, that’s an excellent question and likely the most common one facing the industry today. I’m afraid I won’t be able to give a definitive answer. As an e-textile practitioner, I too am constantly posing this question to myself. There’s an inherently personal nature to fabric worn on the body and to our electronic devices that makes this answer elusive. Instead of trying to fabricate some narrow definition, what I offer is a look at topics of interest, material experimentation, and technical exploration through the lens of a week-long event held recently in New York called eTextile Spring Break.

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Making Mittens For A Smartphone

For those of us in the slightly inhospitable parts of the northern hemisphere, it’s freaking cold outside. Spring can’t come sooner, and smartphones won’t work if you’re wearing normal gloves. Smartphones will work if you sew a few bits of conductive thread into your gloves, but if you prefer mittens, you’re out of luck. That’s alright, because [Becky] at Adafruit has great guide for knitting your own smart phone mittens.

Intellectually, the concept of weaving fabric is fairly simple – it’s just interlaced threads that form a flexible sheet. Sewing, too, is fairly straightforward. Knitting, on the other hand, is weird. It’s a single string tied to itself that forms a 3D shell. If you’ve ever picked up a pair of knitting needles, you’ll soon realize whoever invented knitting is perhaps the greatest forgotten genius in all of human history. Lucky, then, that [Becky] has a lot of links that go through how to knit, and how to turn yarn into a pair of mittens with this pattern.

To make these mittens work with a smartphone, [Becky] is using a stainless conductive yarn stitched into the thumb and fingertips of the mitten. It works, and now you can use your touchscreen device no matter how cold it is.

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