About: Specializing in sewing, soldering and snacking. More stuff I do... I teach an interactive fashion and textile class called Wearable and Soft Interactions at California College of the Arts. www.wearablesoft...

This is a class for someone who would like to learn how to build electronics that live on and interact with the body. There are many disciplines of wearable computing and technology; this class focuses on creating circuits using conductive thread and fabric, programming a microcontroller with Arduino and techniques specific to soft circuits.

Building wearable electronics is fun and you can build lots of creative and innovative projects once you nail down the basics and get some hands-on experience. Whether you have a project in mind, or just want to explore the possibilities, this class is for you. In this lesson, I will go over the format of the class, what you will be building, and a short (very short) history of wearable electronics.

Step 1: A Bit About Format

This class teaches you the basics and focuses on getting you to think creatively about wearable electronic applications. I go step-by-step with you through all the exercises as you sew and build circuits. Throughout lessons, you will also have opportunities to explore and discover on your own. You will be introduced to sewing, electronics, the combination of the two and the Arduino software. Through the majority of this class, you will be learning several concepts and techniques through building projects and by making tools that will help you through your wearable electronic adventures.

When the microcontroller and the Arduino software is introduced, you will upload code see what it does then I will explain how it works and suggest ways to alter it so you can see how it works.

Step 2: Class Projects

The LED Pin or Patch project is a project that gets you familiar with electricity and introduces you to conductive thread.


+ how to work with conductive thread
+ intro to electronics (voltage, resistance, current, parallel and series)
+ the running stitch

The Snap Switch and Modular LilyPad projects speak to techniques and tools that you will want to use time and again if you continue to build wearable projects.


+ what a switch is and how to make one
+ how to make different connections when building wearable electronics
+ the basting stitch

The Hi-5 Collector is a project that makes social interaction game-like by introducing a goal to achieve by collecting high-fives. Itteaches you how to design a switch for a specific physical action, make a simple pattern and introduces you to the digital input and how to insulate a soft circuit.


+ introduction to Arduino software
+ how to upload and manipulate Arduino sketches
+ digital input and output
+ how to transfer a circuit from alligator clips to fabric
+ the uneven running stitch
+ how to insulate soft circuits

The Slouch Alert is a project that teaches you how to read a body's movements using a handmade flex sensor and alerts you when you are slouching. With the same circuit, I will also go over briefly how to trigger audio files by turning the LilyPad USB into a keyboard and using it with Soundplant, a sound triggering software.


+ analog input and output
+ how to make a flex sensor
+ building a circuit out of conductive fabric
+ making the LilyPad USB into a keyboard

LED patch or pin

Snap switch/ground breakout pad

Modular LilyPad

Hi-5 collector

Handmade flex sensor

Slouch Alert

Step 3: What Are Wearable Electronics?

Wearable technology has been around for quite some time. Although purely mechanical, one of the first game-changers was the pocket watch. As we got better at harnessing electricity, inventions like batteries, radios, and the transistor came to be.

The first wearable computer is documented to be a device created by Edward O. Thorpe and Claude Shannon. It was built to cheat at the betting game roulette by predicting where the ball would land on a roulette wheel. The whole setup consisted of a timing device in a shoe, a computer strapped across the chest and an ear piece that delivered a tone in the ear of the wearer.

Wearable electronics can mean a lot of different things. It can include electronic wrist watches you find in the market today and stickers that go on the skin to monitor health designed for the future. The type of wearable electronics we will be exploring in this class are soft circuits. Soft circuits are the practice of building electronic circuits from soft and flexible conductive materials. These materials include thread, yarns, fabric, wools and even soft rubbers like silicone. In this class, you will get to work with conductive thread and fabric and a resistive plastic called Velostat.

Coming from a fashion and textile background, this is what got me into wearable electronics. I find working with conductive thread and fabric promotes a certain level of hand work, craftsmanship, and troubleshooting that you don't get from using wire or circuit boards.

Step 4: A Bit About Me

Hi, I'm Lara Grant! I enjoy all things fiber and love to sew, snack and build circuits. My background is in fashion and teaching wearable electronics. I've worked as a seamstress, pattern drafter, costume maker and have designed soft sensors, displays, LED-encrusted products and alternative musical interfaces. I currently teach a class at California College of the Arts called Wearable and Soft Interactions where I get to geek out with people about wearable electronics all day. I'll be sharing with you some methods that come from personal experience and what I've observed through teaching. This field offers opportunities for new discoveries in material exploration and methods. If you would like to share your own experiments and skills, please do in the discussion below or anywhere throughout the class. I look forward to hearing from you!



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