Enginursday: Bling in the new year!


Another year gone, and if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking hard about what you want from the next one! For me, that means reflecting on the parts of 2013 that meant the most to me, and how I’m going to bring more of that energy into the new year.

In 2013, I spent a lot of time on the road. There were new friends, old friends, and a whole lot of awesome SparkFun customers! You guys are really passionate about what you do, and it was exhilarating to get to share that excitement with you.

I’ve also been lucky to have a lot of opportunities to bring LilyPad and E-textiles to an enormous number of crafters, cosplayers and textile artists who are entirely new to embedded electronics. Shows like Dragon*Con, Starfest, and Costume-Con have been incredibly welcoming to myself and our instructors, and it’s been an inspiration to share something so near to my heart with such enthusiastic and creative people.

I’ve been doing my best with every resource I’ve got, but late 2013 has positively showered me with the tools I need, so this year should be better than ever!

sew electric

Perhaps most importantly, Leah Buechley and Kanjun Qiu have bent the full force of their combined years of effort and experience on the creation of Sew Electric. Sew Electric is the book I’ve been waiting for, a delicate balance of theory and practice that uses both fun and practical projects to teach everything you need to know about E-Textiles. The basics of sewing, circuit design, programming, and materials are all there, beautifully illustrated by Sonja de Boer, and broken down so that the information is clear and easy to understand. Walking a student from their first stitches to a multiple-input microcontroller circuit in a single book is a difficult task at best, and pioneers like Leah and Kanjun make it look easy! A great book is one of the most important tools people new to E-Textiles request, and I’m really excited to finally have the perfect answer, so Sew Electric will be making a lot of trips with me!

Lilypad Design kit

On top of that, after a lot of work, the LilyPad Design Kit is on our shelves, and I couldn’t be prouder of it, so I’ll be packing those up as well! I’ve received a lot of requests for a kit to initiate those who have no experience with electronics, sewing, or both, and this is the answer I can’t wait to share!

Nick and I have also started a new video series, which has given us a great way to concisely highlight and demonstrate E-Textiles materials new and old. When you’re trying to learn a lot quickly, it can be tough to wade through all of the tutorials at once - we thought some hands-on demos would help showcase the parts people need for their projects!

I think these tools are going to make E-Textiles more approachable and easier to learn than they’ve ever been, and that’s why, in 2014, I’m resolving to share my love for E-Textiles and embedded electronics with as many new makers as I can, and I definitely don’t just mean children! I’m also talking about crafters, costumers, designers, artists, propmakers, and others who make things every day, but have never considered themselves makers, and may not even know that such a community exists! This year, I’ll be bringing kits, workshops, gifts, and talks to more events than ever before, and reaching out to bring E-Textiles to as many communities as I can!

In the spirit of sharing the love, I’d like to help you share your love of electronics with someone you care about. I’ve set aside one copy of Sew Electric and one LilyPad Design Kit. Leave a comment below telling us about a crafter, costumer, needleworker, or creative in your life that you can’t wait to introduce to E-Textiles. We’ll choose two of our favorite comments and send each commenter a gift to help inspire their friend!


Comments 11 comments

  • This kit could not have come at better time. Here in my small town, my friends and I have been relegated to minority as the robot overlords have destroyed many factions of the human resistance. Our Faraday cages have only had limited success against the tesla guns that patrol units carry. The problem, as you can imagine, is they are heavy and not very mobile. Sew Electric will no doubt become the go too field guide for creating flexible wearable Faraday garments but also serve as the foundation for the first offensive in months. We will finally be able to infiltrate some of the control stations in occupied districts with the disguises that our rebel units will be able to design with the Tactical Electronic Survival Field Kit aka LilyPad Design Kit. We still have a long way to go but know with the support and training that we get from SparkFun we have fighting chance of overcoming these odds and let humanity prevail. Keep up the good work Solder Solider and stay Creative! Over and Out!

  • You got me to thinking about the idea of making a vest with the (Mensa) club logo to wear at our big convention in July. (I’ve already got so many projects that it likely won’t happen, but might.) I’m sure it would get attention, though I’d expect some comments of it being “flashy”.

    Thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve done much more with a needle than sewing on a button in probably 10 years. I’ve done some interesting projects, including making my own backpacks 40 or so years ago. I was really offended about 20 years ago when I walked through the sewing machine section at a department store and the male clerk asked if I was looking at machines for my mother or for my wife – I just walked off. (I needed something heavier duty than they had anyway.)

    In summary, textiles (e- or otherwise) isn’t JUST for girls (or gay guys)! Knowing how to use a needle and thread is good for guys, too!

  • Thank you for this post full of resources! I actually clicked on the permalink to send this post to two middle school girls trying to learn more about e-textiles as part of their “Maker Mondays” project in my science classroom. I am no expert, so we are all learning together! You can read about their project (and follow their progress?) here: http://goo.gl/0606oL Lila and Cayenn (along with Kyra & Sophia - http://goo.gl/Gcv8q7 - the other group working with LilyPad for their project) are the makers I’d love to share these e-textiles with! (Right now, we have zero LilyPads as a result of one of the “Problems / Stumbling Blocks / Challenges” the girls encountered!)

  • I’m a quilter who teaches other quilters how to put lights into quilts. You can see my work at http://www.muppin.com. Thanks for putting this amazing box together, it will really help! - Cheryl “muppin” S.

  • My Wife is an Up and coming quilter. While she has already put a Lily Twinkle into a Xmas Tree wall hanging, I find it incredibly difficult to refrain from swamping her with the possibilities she could do in her sewing. We have come to the point where I have been made to understand that i am to assist only with debugging her circuits, and direct answers to questions she asks me.

    -her to me: It is MY project, comprende?

    While she doesn’t consider herself to be a maker, members of her quilters guild and myself are getting jealous of the number of projects she is completing. All that and looking after our kids while I am at work.

  • Thank you guys for being so amazing!

    The first time I did anything electronics-y was last May, just after Maker Faire, where I picked up a Getting Started with Arduino Kit. I spent my summer making tv-b-gones, all manner of blinky, loud things, random projects I found online, and a pretty dangerous egg cooker that used big aluminum-housed wirewound resistors as a heating element. I didn’t know what I was doing then, and I still don’t now, but I know that SparkFun is here for me, no matter how crazy I decide to get.

    Lately, I’ve been playing with wearable electronics, and my most recent project has been a Tardis hoodie for my boyfriend. It has five little LilyPad buttons on the left shoulder that are connected to a LilyPad protoboard, which can be snapped out when the hoodie is being washed, that I hooked up to a board that was supposed to be in a talking greeting card (reprogramming a greeting card is apparently actually a thing). It now plays Doctor Who sounds. The snaps on the jacket are wired to the buttons with conductive thread. I used a fabrickit ribbon and snaps to hook up the speaker, which is hidden in a pocket behind the “Police Public Call Box” sign. The pockets are heated with some of your 5x15 cm heating pads, and there is a clicky locking button in the right pocket that turns them on and off. A 6600 mAh 3.7v lipo is powering it. Here we are: https://twitter.com/Joey_Hudy/status/416380142575833088/photo/1 :D

    Anyway, it is the best thing I’ve made in my entire life, and you guys really empowered me. Without easy access to components – especially sewable components – I probably would have just bought a gift from the store and this great thing would never have come to be. Leah, Dia, and everyone who works at SparkFun are all my heroes. Thank you for sharing your ingenuity with me!

    My new project is getting my mom into wearable electronics. She’s been sewing for most of her life, and helps me with designing my wearable projects, but she doesn’t understand any of this electronics stuff yet. I think I’ll get her Sew Electric for her birthday. :)

    As a 15-year-old, I’d like to say that more people my age (and all ages, for that matter) need to get into this whole electronics thing – it’s too fun!

    • What a fantastic looking project! Thank you for sharing your story- it’s inspiring to hear :)

  • I met my current boyfriend because I really wanted to learn to program LEDs that I had sewed into a coat. I had just learned how to clumsily solder and sew, and he knew programming, so I aggressively scheduled hacking sessions so that we could skill share.

    After five evenings of excited conversation and peering over computer screens and blinking lights we made it work! And more than that - we fell in love! It was awesome. It IS awesome. Kinda corny I know, but forging a relationship over electronics hacking was pretty much a pinnacle of romance for both of us.

    But we’ve been wanting to create a number of sewable projects for us and our friends… we even created a google doc to keep track of all of our ideas. I know that this book would give my boyfriend (and myself!) a lot of the background and context we need to actually get those projects done. I’m excited about what you’re doing and I look forward to following you!

  • Wow, this looks really exciting. I am hoping to collaborate this semester with our home economics teacher (I am a technology teacher) to do some Sew Electric Curriculum. I would love to try out this kit and book in our classrooms. My middle schoolers would totally be into it and we hope to show our work at the museum for our annual district art festival.

  • Some of my students are excited about the idea of mobile art. While it will surprise no one that kids like to express themselves through their clothes, the idea of going beyond that and making something cool, inspiring, and personal catches they’re attention like very little else. So while we make robots at school and teach programming, it seems that clothing might actually be the way that creates the most authentic response from them. I only hope that I can get them to share.

  • I love that anything is possible with the right tools! I got to tinker with my first LilyPad this year and made a sparkling tutu. I was astounded at how such complex looking gizmos could make such a simple tutu come alive. I can’t wait to pick up a copy of Sew Electric and get inspired to do more with the little knowledge I already have. Thanks for being awesome, Dia!


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