Textile craziness!

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I’ve been working with textiles a lot over the past couple of weeks. I decided to make the sash prototype out of some leftover khaki twill I had leftover from a previous project. It’s easy to sew, strong enough to hold up to the electronics, and it didn’t cost me a thing.

For our midterm crit, I just applied some placeholder felt patches on the sash. We decided that we will probably use a similar technique for our end-of-the-quarter version. We will make patches containing our buttons and then apply them to the sash via conductive Velcro. That way, we can make changes to the technology without having to completely deconstruct the sash.

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The serging went fine, and it was time to try the conductive thread! We hope to use embroidery in our button design, so it’s important that we find materials that can be used with a sewing machine. While I was winding the bobbin and spool, I noticed how rigid the thread was. It was almost the texture of very thin cable. I set up my sewing machine with the thread and began to make some trial stitches–or so I thought. The thread was too rigid for my machine to handle. The needle couldn’t pierce the fabric because the thread wouldn’t bend tightly enough. Frightened by the terrible sound may machine made, I stopped and prepared to tell my teammates the disappointing news.

We have access to the department’s machine, but I’d prefer to use my own because I’m so comfortable with it. Besides, if I have to sew at 3:00 am, it’s a much easier commute! After discovering that the initial conductive thread we got from the lab was too thick, I was able to get some thinner stuff. I wound a bobbin with it and started experimenting.

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The first few tries went okay, but then I encountered a terrible tangle. My machine seized up, so I investigated the problem. I’ve been sewing nearly my whole life, and have never had such a mess in the mechanism. I fear the thread, even thread this thin, might be too much for my 20+ year-old Singer. For now, I’ll search for yet another material. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll need to use a different machine.

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