Everyone in our group had all already researched methods for making e-textiles and soft electronic components in our personal practice for this class. We wanted to show that the type of e-textile included in the course kit is not the only option. You can create e-textiles specifically for your wearable, rather than tailor your project to the constraints of what is commercially available.
Our video teaches you a very basic knitting technique so that you can make a small piece of conductive fabric. It gives you an idea of how e-textiles are made, and demonstrates the versatility of conductive knits. We want to show people with no previous fibre experience the possibilities open to you if you choose to research these techniques further.
Conductive thread (included in kit from Creatron)
Yarn – Michaels, Dollarama, and Walmart all have inexpensive yarn. For this tutorial, you want a medium yarn-it’ll have a number 4 on the wrapper-and a light colour so you can see your conductive thread.
Knitting needles – size 4mm or 5mm (US6 or US8) – available in the same stores as yarn
Note: You can use whatever yarn and needles you find lying around as long as it feels comfortable to you.
We have included some links to further knitting tutorials(videos and pictures) at the end of the post if you decide to pursue these techniques further.
To make the fabric, we will be holding the conductive thread and yarn together. Just put them together and pretend it’s a single piece of yarn! When you follow the tutorial, hold the 2 strands together the whole time.
First, tie a slip knot where the part of the loop that you pull on to tighten/loosen it (the “slip” part) leads back to the ball of yarn. Place the loop on the needle with the short end in the back.
Note: Don’t pull it too tight once it’s on the needle! It should be snug enough to stay on the needle, but not tightly tied like a knot.
Next we will cast on (put stitches on the needle) – our fabric is 10 stitches wide, so we are going to put 10 stitches onto the needle.
Hold the needle with the slip knot in your left hand. Stick the right needle into the front of the loop, so that it is underneath the left needle and pointing forwards.[pic]
With your right hand, take the long part of the yarn that leads back to the ball (this is called your “working yarn”) and wrap it around the right needle as shown.[pic]
With the right needle, pull the wrap towards you, through the middle of the first loop. Now you’ll have a second loop sticking out of it – place this back on the left needle with the working yarn in back, and pull it snug.[pic]
Repeat this 8 more times, and you will have 10 stitches on the left needle.[pic]
**In the video, Joyce uses a “long tail cast on.” The written instructions and pictures show a knit cast on, and you can see a video of it here: https://tutorials.knitpicks.com/knitted-cast-on/ feel free to follow Joyce’s method in the video if you want to**
To make the fabric, we will be using the knit stitch. This is a lot like how you cast on. Stick the right needle through the front of the stitch.
Wrap it with the working yarn; then pull the new loop through the front.
But this time, slip the old loop off the tip of the left needle.
You have just made one stitch!
Repeat this across the rest of the stitches, and that’s how you knit your first row. Knitting goes from right to left, so at the end of the first row, turn your work over so the working yarn is on the right side again.
Then just repeat what you did for the first row.
Our example is 15 rows long, so you would go from right to left 15 times. You can do as many rows as you want, but we found that this size was the smallest piece of fabric you could make that still demonstrates all the applications of conductive knits.
When your piece is as long as you want it, it is time to take it off the needle. Knit 2 stitches as if it is a regular row, so that you have 2 loops on the right needle, and the rest are still on the left needle.
Now, stick the tip of the left needle into the rightmost loop on the right needle. Lift it over the loop to its left and off the tip of the right needle. You will now have 1 loop on the right needle.
Knit 1 more stitch, then lift the previous stitch over it&off the right needle as before. Repeat this across the row until only the last stitch is left on the needle.
Cut the working yarn, take the needle out of the last stitch, and thread the cut end of the yarn through the loop. Pull it tight like a knot, and your knitted conductive fabric is finished!
We used light coloured yarn so you could see the conductive thread:
But with the right colours, you can make the thread almost invisible:
You can also learn different knitting stitches to make really pretty fabric:
Why Even Do This?
We shared this tutorial as a helpful solution for making your wearables softer. By learning to craft your own fabric, you can produce custom e-textiles for your work. Knitted conductive fabrics are also extremely versatile and have many advantages over woven or commercial e-textiles. You should be able to see most of these firsthand with the sample swatch from the tutorial.
Firstly, connectors can be attached to this fabric anywhere, and even attached temporarily as you decide where to place components on your wearable.
Another example: https://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=1618. You can essentially use the actual fabric of your wearable as a breadboard.
The yarn hanging from the end of the fabric can be tied to a pin on your controller.
Because this fabric is stretchy, it is also resistive. The technique taught in our workshop is a good jumping-off point for further experimentation with conductive yarns, different levels of resistance in conductive fibres, and the construction of completely soft sensors. Sources:
Crochet/Knit Pressure Sensors. (2016/12). Retrived from
Knit Stretch Sensors. (2016/03/11). Retrieved from
It is also possible to knit actuators, whether entirely out of wire as seen here: https://www.kobakant.at/DIY/?p=4465, or with the combination of conductive thread/wire we show in the video.
Connectors or wires are very easily hidden in knit fabric, which makes it possible to knit a seamless, nearly invisible actuator like the speakers above.
References (includes further info on knitting):
Kobakant DIY Wearable Tehcnology Documentation. (1999). How To Get What You Want. Retrieved from https://www.kobakant.at/DIY/
Knitted Cast On. (2009/11/30). Retrieved from https://tutorials.knitpicks.com/knitted-cast-on/
Purl Stitch. (2017/02/28). https://www.purlsoho.com/create/purl-stitch/
You will need this if you want to make the “pretty” fabric pictured earlier in the post.