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project: e-textile entropy

At TEI2012, Joanna Berzowska gave a wonderful keynote talk about Programming Materiality. She talked about a lot of really intriguing ideas, including the premise that 'computation is clean' and 'materials are dirty' and how we e-textile developers are often faced with trying to reconcile these apparently opposed qualities. It really struck a chord with me.

So I started thinking about how we could use the 'dirty' characteristics of fabric and textiles to work together with the 'clean' of computing. Ideally, these characteristics could complement and even improve each other. So instead of trying to force computing into a hostile environment, what can the innate qualities of textiles add to technology?

One of the big frustruations in using conductive yarns and fabrics is that they frequently degrade over time. In the same way that a new pair of jeans will be perceived to improve after wearing and 'breaking in', how might these properties of textiles that are desirable in fashion also be made desirable in e-textiles?

I got my hands on a blend of 82% wool and 18% stainless steel fibers from Bekaert. I want to see how the conductivity of the stainless steel can be affected by the properties of the wool. Wool felts and moves and is extremely maleable when heat, water and movement are applied. What will happen to the e-textile properties of this material when it's treated like an every-day garment? Is it possible to have the changes perceived as an improvement?

test: hand-woven samples

I want to experiment with different kinds of fabric structures, woven, knitted, non-woven, etc, so my wool/steel blend is in fibre form. Yes, that means I have to learn some new skills... Like spinning! Why, thank you, internet, here's a great website with everything you need to know about getting started with drop spinning. My first attempt is a little bit uneven, but I've decided that is within the spirit of the project. :)

Next, of course, I need to make the yarns into a fabric. I used a toy loom, which really saved me a lot of time and was quite meditative.

Here are some pics of my first results - there is much more testing to go.