Building with E-Textiles, Part 1

You know, I never thought I’d say this, but I am really excited to learn better sewing technique. And believe, me, coming from a mechanic/machinist/engineer that means a lot. Over the last few days, I’ve been working with the always-lovely Dr Sophia B Liu ( to design and fabricate a pair of gloves embedded with lights and accelerometers. We are building an interactive sculpture of sorts, where light is coupled with movement and gravity to create a visual experience. We are using a beautiful piece of hardware called a LilyPad Arduino, along with some sensors and lights, hoping to build something beautiful. Our first project is to couple the three axes of the accelerometer sensor to the three primary colors to produce motion-sensitive color.

After many hours of design discussion, finding a compromise between usability and ease-of-manufacturing, we began the tedious process of sewing our components into our gloves. As a sidenote, we got some great polyester 60s vintage gloves at a cute shop in St Pete (Speckled Red). If you’re looking for cool vintage stuff, check them out. So, I spent this afternoon sewing the lights onto the gloves. There was a lot of 3D design involved. We were really fortunate with the gloves because they have four seams on each finger. This makes it really easy to keep the various traces of conductive thread from touching each other. We needed four traces per finger, so this is a perfect match for our needs.

After a day’s work, we have our first cluster of lights sewn into our first glove. Since we’re both scientists, we’re testing small combinations of components to make sure our assumptions are on target before we proceed into the next phase. Now that most of the hard work is done and our first light cluster is in place, the next step is to attach the LilyPad, battery, and accelerometer sensor. That will give us our first opportunity to see how the glove behaves, using our best guess first draft firmware.

That’s coming up in Part 2. Stay tuned!

LED Cluster Sewn Into Black Glove