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    Content by Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson
    E-Textile Tailor Shop by KOBAKANT
    The following institutions have funded our research and supported our work:

    Since 2020, Hannah is guest professor of the Spiel&&Objekt Master's program at the University of Performing Arts Ernst Busch in Berlin

    From 2013-2015 Mika was a guest professor at the eLab at Kunsthochschule Berlin-Weissensee

    From July - December 2013 Hannah was a researcher at the UdK's Design Research Lab

    From 2010-2012 Mika was a guest researcher in the Smart Textiles Design Lab at The Swedish School of Textiles

    From 2009 - 2011 Hannah was a graduate student in the MIT Media Lab's High-Low Tech research group led by Leah Buechley

    In 2009 Hannah and Mika were both research fellows at the Distance Lab

    Between 2003 - 2009 Hannah and Mika were both students at Interface Cultures
    We support the Open Source Hardware movement. All our own designs published on this website are released under the Free Cultural Works definition

    Sensing with Textiles

    April 29-30th 2016, 2-day workshop as a part of Soft Interactive Technology Course at Kunsthochschule Weissensee’s E-Lab in Berlin, Germany

    This workshop is only open to students of the university.

    This 2-day introductory workshop introduces textile students to the materials, tools and techniques to create textile sensors and how to read them with Arduino microcontroller platform. An introductory exercise to familiarize oneself with the materials and sensors, and how they work together with microcontrollers and actuators. Each students will proceed to design their own sensors and connect with the actuators they have created in previous workshop.


    Introduction to the topic
    Explore the materials
    Introduction to textile sensors
    Make your own sensor

    Introduction to Arduino
    Reading your sensor with Arduino
    Brief introduction to Arduino programming
    Controlling your textile actuators with your textile sensors

    Basic components of an electronics project

    You can imagine how electronics projects could work by comparing how we function. The above example shows a person picking up an apple from an apple tree. He (?I am not sure of this person’ gender…) have already tasted an apple from a same tree, and this was good (tasted sweet). now this person sees a red apple on a tree. He thinks that this apple is probably ripe and decides to pick it.

    sensor >> mouth (sweet) eye (red) skin (touch)
    actuator >> arm/hand (pick an apple)
    microcontroller/ program >> deciding if he should pick the apple or not depending on the information he has gathered.

    In the case of electronics objects, it works similar. For example, in the case of water boiler, when the switch is pressed, it turns on the heating coil. When the water boils, it stops.

    sensor >> switch (user interface/ pressed) thermostat (temperature)
    actuator >> heating coil (heat up the water)
    microcontroller/ program >> when the switch is pressed and if the water is not already boiling, turn on the heating coil. When thermostat indicates that it is boiling, turn off the coil.

    Here is a good online resource to check what types of projects are made in the field of wearable technology and e-Textiles

    Analog Sensor vs Digital Sensor

    When you want to control a volume of a stereo, you need an input that gives range of value like volume knob. When you want to turn on/off the stereo, you need an input device that gives two state, like switches. Let’s say that we call the range of value as analog value and input devices/ sensors that gives the range of value as Analog Sensors, while the two state value will be called as digital value and input devices/ sensors that gives two state value as Digital Sensors.
    Even though the sensor gives range of input, you can always use it as two state switch as well by programming threashold. Or you can get a range of input from two state sensors, for example counting how many times a button is pushed.
    So, there never be one kind of sensor is better than the other. You just need to find out what kind of input information you need, or how to interpret the information your sensor gives.

    Looking Inside of a Sensor

    Inside of a Toggle Switch

    Inside of a Push Button

    Inside of a Potentiometer

    A small intro to electricity

    (the below explanation comes from “Getting Started in Electronics” by Forrest M. Mims III)

    Ohm’s Law




    How to use Multimeters


    Explore the Material

    We will collect samples and make a page for your swatch book.

    Please check:
    How much resistance?
    What are the characteristics? (physical/ electrical)
    Does it change its conductivity? if so how, what is the changing range?

    Textile Sensor

    You can make sensors out of these conductive textile materials. Some are good for making restive sensors that gives range of values, some are good for making contact sensors that gives two states.

    sample sensors
    Explore the sample sensors with multimeters. What are the changes it makes? What is the range?

    Tilt Switch

    Push Button


    Stretch Sensor

    Knit Stretch Sensor


    Pressure Sensor for heavy weight


    Bend Sensor


    Felt Squeeze Sensor

    Pick one Digital, one Analog sensors and make a copy for yourself. If you like, you can modify the design.

    Reading Sensor with Arduino

    Download Aruino IDE from here >> https://www.arduino.cc/en/Main/Software

    Digital Pin/ Analog Pin

    Arduino’s Analog Input pins reads voltage between 0V – 5V (if running with 3.3v 0-3.3V). Digital Input pins reads voltage 0v or 5V.
    Now, as we tested with the multimeters, many of our sensors changes its resistance and not voltage. We need to use our sensors to manipulate voltage that goes into the input pins so Arduino can read what is happening with our sensors.

    Voltage Divider: Resistive Sensors
    You can divide the voltage by using 2 resisters.
    If you have 2 exactly same resistors, the voltage gets half in the middle, like the first diagram.
    As the ratio between two resisters changes, the voltage you get in the middle (between the resisters) changes accordingly.

    As the analog input pins are reading the voltage input changes, we need to change the voltage that goes into the analog pins by changing the resistance connected to the analog input pin.

    When you finish connecting your sensor as above, you can upload example Arduino sketch AnalogReadSerial from (File/Examples/Basics/AnalogReadSerial)

    Here is an experiment with two resister with a multumeter.
    The first experiment shows two same size resister (10kohm) dividing the provided voltage (5V) in half. The multimeter is set as V– for reading direct current voltage. The probes are connected to 0V (GND) of the power supply and the middle point where two resisters meet. You can see 2.44 in the multilmeter’s display. (almost 2.5V.. maybe the resister had some range) It divides the 5V in 50/50 ratio.

    In the second experiment, I changed one of the resister to 47kohm. So now the ratio of two resisters are 10/47. So, I should read 5V x 10/(10+47) = 0.877 V in theory. As you can see in multimeter, it is 0.85V it measures. Not bad!

    Now, if you change one of the resister to our resistive textile sensor, it works the same. The felt sensor I tested here has about 8kohm – 100kohm resistance range. You can see how the voltage that gets divided in the middle changes as I manipulate the felt. Now, if you connect the point where multimeter is reading to the Arduino Analog input, we can read how much voltage comes in.

    Pull Down resister: Contact Switches

    When you finish connecting your contact switch as above, you can upload example Arduino sketch DigitalReadSerial from (File/Examples/Basics/DigitalReadSerial)

    If you like to see the sensor input value in more graphical way, you can also try Graph example sketch.
    This is located (File/Examples/Communication/Graph). You will need Processing for this example.

    Controlling Actuator

    Now that we have the “sensing” part from the first analysis, we can also create the “brain” or decision making part and activate the “actuator”. Let’s add few lines to the AnalogReadSerial or DigitalReadSerial code and control the actuators we created in the first workshop.
    example code here

    As these textile actuators needs more current and voltage than what Arduino’s digital pins can supply (5V, 40mA max), we use transistor as switch to actuate them. For the example here, I have used TIP122, NPN Darlington Transistors.

    TIP122 pinout

    Embroidered Speaker
    We play simple tone from Arduino according to the sensor value using tone() function. As the embroidered speaker needs a lot of current, we do not connect the Arduino digital output pin directly, but to use transistor to amplify the signal. For the workshop, we use TIP122.


    Electromagnetic Flapping Wing
    We can also control Flapping Wing with sensors. The example uses contact switch (textile push button) but you can also use analog sensor and make threshold for the sensor. As the electromagnetic coil needs more ampere than the Arduino digital pin provides, we use Transistor switch to let the power go through.

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