Making-of: Involving the Machines

This project received a Swedish-American-Exchange Fund Grant and will be realized in September 2012.

Semi-automated collaborations between man and machine. Because so much of our work as KOBAKANT has focused on handcraft techniques involving readily available hand tools, this series of E-Textiles designs will be made explicitly involving mechanized equipment and semi-automated processes without discounting the skill of human involvement.

Involving Machines in the Process of Handcrafting Textiles Sensors

The objective of this project is to explore the combination of semi-automated machinery and handcraft processes for the production of electronic textiles. Whereas industry often looks to automate processes and eliminate human involvement, we are interested in developing production processes that rely heavily on human intervention and skill, while taking advantage of automation. We believe that such hybrid creative processes will allow us to produce more unique and diverse results. During our collaboration in Sweden we will meet with faculty and students from the Smart Textiles lab at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås. We will have access to the school’s extensive textile production facilities, which include a variety of semi-automated flatbed and circular knitting machines and weaving looms. While many of the processes on these machines are automated, they rely heavily on human control. This project presents us with the opportunity to access equipment and to learn from experts.


>> Smart Textiles
>> How To Get What You Want
>> Hannah’s Flickr set
>> Mika’s Flickr set
>> Hannah’s YouTube playlist
>> Mika’s STL documentation
>> Handweaving patterns

People Involved

Linda Worbin, Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson.

Special Thanks to Hanna Lindholm (Hand Loom) and Fredrik Wennersten (Industrial Jacquard Loom), the weaving lab technicians at the Swedish School of Textiles!

Day 1

Despite all the different textile machinery at the Textile University in Boras, We have decided to focus our attention on weaving machines. Mika and Hannah are both new to working with weaving, and Linda is a skilled weaver who also has some experience with running conductive materials through the loom. Through brainstorming and discussion we decided that instead of focusing on replicating our previous hand-made sensor designs using semi-automated machinery, we would start at a more fundamental and aesthetic level. We want to try and design “beautiful” woven textiles that have interesting electrical properties such as conductivity, resistance and capacitance. This design-challenge will involve finding ways to isolate different conductive areas as well as make good connections between them.

Hand Weaving Loom

Experiments on hand and semi-automated weaving looms.

Yarn depot – so many different types, plys (numbers of twisted threads) and colours. To weave the yarn one first has to wind it onto spindle that fits in a shuttle that can pass in between the warp threads on the loom.

First trial with regular a basic weave (weft yarn weaves in between warp yarn, one up, one down) and differnt yarns (conductive, resistive, nylon, wool and cotton):

List of things to try

Traces and Connections
>> Aesthetic conductive and resistive fabrics.
>> Seperate different areas of conductivity. On different sides of fabric, across warp and weft.
>> Connect different areas of conductive across sides, warp and weft.
>> …

Passive Components:
>> Investigate creating resistive areas with stable and repeatable resistance values.
>> Isolate two conductors with a dielectric to create a capacitor.
>> …

>> Stroke sensor
>> X-Y grid of conductors
>> Pressure sensor
>> Stretch sensor
>> Capacitive sensing
>> …

Day 2

Computerized and Fully Automated Jacquard Loom

While this loom is fully automated, we are looking at possibilities to manually intervene with the process either in the creation of them pattern or materials feeding into the machine, or with the resulting fabric post machine process and designing the properties of the fabric to create opportunists for such interventions.

Front and back of jacquard loom before we started weaving our patterns:

Thread selection. We wove with cotton first before we go on to use up large amounts of conductive yarn.

Sketches for a repetitive (4 x along weave) pattern using 4 colours (two of them intended to be conductive/resistive).

Translating sketches into vectorized graphics.

Final pattern is then exported as JPG and imported into weaving machine software.

Using weaving machine software with help of technician to select what weaving patterns we want to use in which coloured areas.


Front and back of my pattern

Mika’s 3-colour pattern

Linda’s pattern

Full sheet

Day 3

More trials on the hand-loom. Picture of hand-loom setup.

Video of winding spindal for use in handloom:

Video of handloom:

Self-contained conductive patch achieved through hand-weaving conductive thread selectively in the upper layer and using red thread in the bottom layer.

Two conductive strips with a single wool weft separating them.

Resistive satin strip is only exposed on top layer, fully isolated on reverse side.

Creating a pocket that can then be filled with a piezo-resistive (pressure sensitive) material.

End of day 3!

Day 4

Whole day of working on the hand-loom.
When a warp thread breaks it can be fixed and temporarily held back in place with needle.

Adding additional/extra warp threads to the setup is also not that hard. I added four conductive threads to the warp, each one a different conductive thread. Stick-like weights keep the additional warp threads tense.

Gray stripes, and checkers. The darker one is a conductor, the lighter one isn’t.

Satin conductor, isolated bellow. Conductive hair/fur.

Day 5

Meeting with Linda in the morning and taking a closer look at the jacquard weaves from day 2. We examined the fabric, pulling apart the warp and weft to discover what threads were touching (interesting in terms of two conductive threads being next to each other, but electrically separated), how pockets were constructed and how the fabric got thinner or thicker based on how many threads were floating and how many threads were in use.

Linda adds another point to our list of things to try:
>> Design a textile pattern that can be modified by the user. cut floats to separate areas of conductivity, or increase resistance, or pull out single conductors.



Day 6

Back to the Jacquard Loom

Working together with Linda on the Jacquard loom. The process of going from hand-loom to using the computer involves understanding and even making your own bindings. Mika translates her computer loom designs to the industrial jacquard loom and makes adjustments based on her pattern, yarn weights and joining points of different bindings across the weft and warp.

Testing some bindings on the computerized loom before trying them on the jacquard.

Day 7 & 8

Designing patterns and playing with the software.

Day 9

Density tests of the button fabric on the jacquard loom.

Stretching the pattern to adjust for lost density of double weave structure.

Day 10

Taking our fabric off the machine

On the morning of the last day we finally got to take the fabric we had been weaving on the industrial jacquard loom off the loom and take a closer look at the fronts and backs of the different patterns we had woven over the course of two-weeks.

Presentation of Outcome

At 3:30pm on the last day of this two-week research project we organized a small informal FIKA (Swedish Tea break with sweets) presentation at The Swedish School of Textiles. We shared the outcome with design students, researchers and technicians at the school.


For documentation of the final outcome of this research project please visit the following links:
Involving the Machines Collection >>
Weaving conductive fabric >>