Hola, SIGGRAPH! or How to do an e-textiles workshop for 50 people

I was invited to give a workshop with my knitted sensors on August 2nd at SIGGRAPH 2017, a huge computer graphics conference in Los Angeles.  It went great-- everyone's knitted sensors were up and running in just over an hour! 

Hands-on workshops require a lot of planning. People progress at different rates and can get impatient waiting for each other or for assistance. Too much waiting and the workshop loses momentum.  

So I like to work with small groups. I move around to offer assistance, and encourage people to help themselves to materials and progress at their own rate.

This wasn't going to work at SIGGRAPH-- the classroom was spread out with no middle aisle. And I'd be wearing a body mic. If I walked in front of the speakers, I'd set off ear-piercing feedback (which I did, twice, oops...). Plus... I wanted to give people sleeves that fit their hands but there was no way to measure hand sizes of participants ahead of time.

So we had to get creative with solutions.


Dylan responds to a post-it note call for help.

There wasn't room for participants to get their own materials, and asking for help would slow the presentation down. So I gave everyone bright yellow post-it notes. If they needed something, they wrote it on the post-it, attached it to top of their computer monitor, and one of our volunteers would sprint over to read the note and help or retrieve materials.  Worked great!


Ziploc full of goodies

Materials were distributed to each workstation in baggies, in advance, thanks to workshop coordinator Brittany Ransom. Plus, we put a pdf of the powerpoint presentation on each computer's desktop (see below). I invited people to use it to progress at their own rate.
 
Sewing diagrams

I tested out the activity with the volunteers ahead of time, and realized that tech people were going to struggle with sewing the wires in place. They needed sewing diagrams! Luckily I had time to add a few. We didn't have to worry too much about the knot because we had Fraycheck-- a fabric glue. And glue makes sewing seem easy!

I also made diagrams on Fritzing for the breadboard connections--super helpful.

Fits like a glove

Instead of sizing participants, everyone randomly received either a 10x30 or 12x40 size-sleeve on it (with the size labelled). I figured this would get the right size into the hands of at least half the attendees. I invited people to swap with their neighbors or flag us down to request another size. (I also brought 10x40 and 12x50 sized sleeves.) I was surprised to find that only a few people requested another size.

The one thing we didn't pass out in advance was the resistors. In order to get the best range from your sensor, it's important to match it with an appropriate fixed resistor. But the resistance of the sleeve depends on how it fits the wearer.  So I had everyone measure their sleeve resistance and write it on a post-it. The volunteers picked up the post-its, and passed out appropriate resistors.

In preparation, I had taped the resistor packs onto a large cardboard backing with the values labelled. During the workshop, it was easy for the volunteers to grab the exact resistor they needed to "fill the order" on each post-it.

 
Materials for Knitted Finger Sleeves
Resistive yarn (80% polyester, 20% stainless steel)
Snaps #199 10 Line (6.9 mm), nickel finish
Striveday silicone coated stranded wire AWG 26
Male crimp pins  these are great for breadboarding
tapestry needle
yarn for sewing wire
Dritz Fraycheck

Also used:
Breadboards
Hookup wire
Arduino uno
piezo discs
resistors
multimeters
scissors

My tools (used to knit the sleeves ahead of time and attach wire with snaps)
Superba Knitting Machine
Snap Press Machine (with punch/die)
Crimp tool (I use Engineer Inc PA-09 crimping pliers )

img: Tesia Kosmalski


Wear-a-Circuit Workshop

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Circuit Patches are wearable circuit boards made from knitted yarn and wire. I'm doing a workshop Sunday using these. Check it out!

I use a knitting machine to make the patches, and add snap buttons with a snap press. Now the circuits can be attached to anything-- no sewing required.

Rapid prototyping for Wearables!

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I made these circuit patches for my upcoming workshop. Participants will receive a 3" x 5.5" knitted proto-boards in black, pink, or teal. Solder LEDs and a battery on it, and you can add lights to your clothes, just in time for Halloween.

Of course, there's lots of things beyond LEDs you could add, and I'm hoping to do workshops for interactive circuits using knitted protoboards soon.

I've made a number of circuits with this method so far, usually in black. For this workshop, we're adding some fun color: circuit-board-teal and... pink! I  couldn't resist adding 10mm gumdrop LEDs to the pink protoboard pictured above.

We'll have some of those jumbo LEDs for the workshop, but also smaller ones in blue, yellow, red, white. I've even got some color-change and flicker LEDs.

If you'd like to participate, please RSVP. Hope to see you Sunday! (Bring a shirt or a hat or a bag so you can add snaps to mount your circuit on it.)

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My new favorite machine: the snap press applies snap buttons without sewing.

Snapshots from Japan

I spent a month in Japan this summer. Here are things I want to remember and places I want to return to.  Read on for contemporary art, textiles, craft, electronics and a makerspace. 

Artist Residencies and Workshops

Since April, I've been in residence at UIC/Mana Contemporary, as a Public Engagement Maker.

They've provided me with a fantastic studio to work in, access to the Makerspace on UIC's campus, plus the great privilege of working with UIC New Media Professor Sabrina Raaf.

On May 2, UIC featured me at their booth at the Northside Mini Maker Faire at Shurz H.S., where I demonstrated the knitting machine and showed my work (pictured above). And I'm currently working on plans for a special free series of the Women's Electronics Workshop at Mana. 

Additionally, my application for eTextile Summer Camp was accepted, and I'll be flying to France in July for this amazing week-long event, held 250km outside of Paris in the Loir Valley. I'm particularly excited about participating in the Swatch Exchange, and look forward to bringing home a large collection of e-textile samples to share.

Mechanical Tide

My friend Marta recently captured this photo of University of Chicago grad students playing with my sculpture, Mechanical Tide, in the lobby of the James Franck Institute. It's been on display there for 7 years now. 

The marbles shift in interesting patterns until they don't. So someone has to reset them from time to time to keep the pattern going. Apparently this group of grad students has taken on the role.

Blog to Academia

New issue of Leonardo Music Journal is out and I'm on page 77, "Engaging the Audience: A Primer for Sound Art in Public Spaces."

The article started out as the inaugural post of this very blog, one year ago.

Craft/Work Show and my first Instructables


My work has been accepted to the Craft/Work show, to open at Beauty & Brawn Gallery in April, 2014.  They're interested in my knitted speakers, a project I hope to document here soon. I'm looking forward to working with the Craft/Work artists, and connecting with a community that embraces textiles.  I work in a department of audio engineers and I make a lot of work at the hackerspace Pumping Station: One. They're both great places with strong "engineering" cultures.  They're also both over 80% male. So when I started experimenting with knitting machines in 2012, seeking ways to knit e-textiles, I thought it'd be a great way to connect to a historically female community. However, when I started giving knitting machine workshops at PS:1, I was a little surprised that most of the people who signed up were guys. (In hindsight, it makes sense, given the membership demographics.)