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Title: Tube Yarn Story Circuit


Credits: Emilie Giles (with concept and design developed with Prof. Janet van der Linden and Prof. Marian Petre

Year of Invention: 2017

This swatch is based on participatory design workshops which I have been running with members of the BucksVision, a charity which provides services and events for blind and visually impaired people in Buckinghamshire, UK. The workshops form part of my PhD research around working with visually impaired people using e-textiles in a tactile way, and exploring how memories and stories can be reflected through soft, interactive fabric art pieces.

The wires are made from conductive thread insulated within tube yarn. This allows for the maker to create a circuit without having to worry about short-circuiting it, making it a more tactile approach, which does not rely on sight.

The swatch is adapted from a small e-textile fabric shield, created for my workshops, which also uses the tube yarn wires and holds a sound board. The Summer Camp version of the swatch contains a soft circuit button, much like the ones created by participants in the workshops. Their buttons contain a top fabric which has been chosen to reflect a story of memory, through its tactile quality. An LED output has been used for the Summer Camp swatch for simplicity, but the workshop ones contain small sound boards similar to the ones found in greetings card.


Swatches/ Summercamp Projects:
The idea of using fabric connectors:
Fabric Connector
, 2016 – by Barbro Scholz

Introducing me to tube yarn:
Grow/ PopSwatch, 2016 – by Svenja Keune

Discovering the easyness of building circuits with poppers:
Educational Toolkit group swatches and rapid prototyping for wearables

Working with e-textiles and crafting in an accessible way, linked to touch and association:
Sensory Swatch, 2015 – by Emilie Giles

Papers which have inspired this work:
Giles, E. and van der Linden, J. (2015) ‘Imagining future technologies: eTextile weaving workshops with blind and visually-impaired people’. Proceedings of 10th SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition, Glasgow, UK, 22-25 June, New York, NY, ACM, pp. 3-12.

Metatla, O., Bryan-Kinns, N., Stockman, T. and Martin, F. (2015) ‘Designing with and for people living with visual impairments: audio-tactile mock-ups, audio diaries and participatory prototyping’, CoDesign, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 35-48.

Rogers, Y., Paay, J., Brereton, M., Vaisutis, K., Marsden, G., Vetere, F., (2014) ‘Never Too Old: Engaging Retired People Inventing the Future with MaKey MaKey’. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Toronto, ON, 26 April – 1 May, New York, NY, ACM, pp. 3913- 3922.

Projects which have inspired this work:
An Internet of Soft Things, Dr. Sarah Kettley et al.

LAUGH Project: Design for Dementia, Prof. Cathy Treadaway et al.

The introduction of the press-stud machine to Summercamp in 2015!

Materials used: The Wool and Gang tube yarn (Mixtape Yarn), press-studs, cotton fabric square, Kitronik conductive thread, LED, Shieldex conductive fabric, foam and mixed fabrics.

Techniques: Sewing, popping and threading

Dimensions (in cm): 6 x 9cm and 6 x 6cm with fabric connectors attached too.

Link(s): http://enhancingaudiodescription.com/events/how-can-we-combine-touch-and-sound-as-well-as-visual-qualities-in-interaction/


Early prototype of kit being used, with soft circuit button representing a fish in a lake being pressed.

Images from prototyping and workshops with participants:

IMG_9497 IMG_9482

IMG_4479 IMG_4504

IMG_7168 IMG_9502

IMG_9530 IMG_9688

IMG_5964 IMG_5939

IMG_0036 IMG_0048

IMG_1434 IMG_1357_e

I would like other people to use this approach with hands-on making making when working with participants who might find e-textiles a bit tricky due to whatever reason (impairments, small kids, older people with mobility issues etc.) and let me know how they found it! And to build on the research would be nice :)


Step by Step Instructions:

The final swatch looks like this:


It has three components to it:

  • An e-textile soft circuit button
  • An LED sewn circuit
  • Yarn wires containing conductive thread

Materials which you will need:

  • Surface mount LEDs
  • Little bits of wire to attach to the LEDs
  • Solder
  • Any plain fabric
  • Conductive fabric
  • Thin packing foam
  • Conductive thread
  • Normal embroidery thread
  • Sewing thread
  • Tube yarn
  • Poppers (press-studs)
  • Interesting textured fabric

Tools which you will need:

  • Sewing needles
  • Weaving needle
  • Solder iron
  • Solder sucker for errors with soldering
  • Popper pliers
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Wire strippers
  • Wire cutters
  • Tweezers

Preparing your surface mount LED:

As this swatch uses a surface mount LED, you will need to attach little hoops to it so that it can be sewn into a circuit

  1. Get your LEDs ready in a little bowl! This means you won’t lose them:


2. Cut and strip little lines of wire in preparation for making the hoops:

IMG_0612 IMG_0605


3. Using pliers bend them into little hoops:


4. Add a teeny bit of solder to the mouth of the hoop in preparation for attaching it to the LED pads:


5. Also add a little bit of solder to the LED pads:


6. An iron should be in this picture too but I don’t have enough hands! Using your tweezers, hold the hoop against the pad on the LED. With your solder iron, heat up the solder which you placed on both the LED pad and the hoop and they should then fuse together.


7. So it will then look like this:


8. Add your second hoop:


9. And you’re done! Here is my pile for my swatches:



Making the Soft Circuit Button:

    1. Cut out a little square of fabric and iron it flat:


2. Now turn over the edges and iron in preparation for hemming:


3. Sew up the hems:


4. Cut out two tiny squares of conductive fabric to make the insides of your button:


5. Place one piece on top of your newly hemmed fabric square:


6. Add a little tail of conductive thread to it:


7. Neaten it to a little sewn line and also tack down the fabric with some normal thread:


8. Add a little piece of foam on top of it, with little holes cut out of it. The foam should be bigger than the conductive fabric square:


9. You can tack this in place with some normal thread, making sure you don’t sew through the conductive fabric underneath:


10. Now add on top of this, the second little square of conductive fabric, also sewing a little tail from it onto the fabric. Make sure this tail only touches the foam and the bottom fabric, NOT the conductive layer at the bottom otherwise it will short circuit:


11. You can also tack this down without going through the button layer to hold it in play:


12. Cut a little square out of your chosen textured fabric, making sure it is bigger than all the layers so far. This will sit on top of them all:


13. Gently sew it down using the sewing machine making sure that you are not sewing the entire thing together – this should just be around the edges of this top fabric layer:


14. Get ready some poppers to add to the little conductive thread lines. They should be the male connectors:


15. Attach them to the conductive thread lines:

IMG_0014   IMG_0019   IMG_0033

16. Lastly, use a bit of masking tape to clean up your button – if the fabric is at at fluffy it might leave excess:

IMG_0037   IMG_0041

Done! :)

Making the LED Circuit

  1. Like your soft circuit button circuit, you will need to cut out some fabric, but this time into a rectangle. Begin by ironing it and hemming it as you did with the squares for the button fabric.

2. Next, start to sew your circuit onto it. You can begin with a positive connector which the positive side of your battery will connect onto, sewing up to the positive hoop of your LED:


3. Next, sew the negative hoop of your LED into your fabric, taking the circuit to the other end of it and sewing in a little line which your poppers will connect onto:


4. On the other side of your fabric, sew a negative connection and sew down to the end of the fabric, again sewing a little line for a popper to connect onto:


5. Again, you will use male poppers:


6. Attached this onto your little lines:

IMG_1038   IMG_1039

7. And now you have a sewn LED circuit!:


Done! ^_^

Making the tube yarn wires

  1. Cut two lengths of the tube yarn and two lengths of conductive thread. The conductive thread should be longer than the yarn:


2.  Tie the conductive thread not too tightly onto the weaving needle.


3. Now push this through the hole in the centre of the tube yarn. You have now created an insulator for your conductive thread! :)


4. Wrap the ends of the conductive thread around the end of the tube yarn:


5. Get two sets of poppers which look like this – note you need the female connectors. They will go on the end of your tube yarn:


6. You can now add the poppers to the ends of the tube yarn wires:


7. Repeat the wrapping to the second side of your yarn and add more poppers:


8. Repeat with your second length of yarn and conductive thread. You should now have two wires!:


Done! :)

Once all the elements are completed, you can attach your circuit together and test it:


You have a tube yarn swatch, yay!

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