Run Adorably Sock

Workshop #1 Notes

“Run Adorably Sock”

By: Olivia Prior

Strategy + Goal

My prompt for this project was to create a run adorably sock-. I knew that initially I would not be able to fabricate an entire sock. Instead, to start, I wanted to create an interactive attachment that could be placed onto a sock. The attachment would be activated by the press of the user’s heel down onto the ground in order to track the wearer’s running movement. For the adverb side of the experiment, I wanted to create a cute cat face on the outside of the ankle that would light up when the button was pressed. Both together would create a bespoke attachment that lets the sock wearer run adorably.

Figure 1: Initial sketch of my prompt "Run Adorably Sock"
Figure 1: Initial sketch of my prompt “Run Adorably Sock”

From the experiments in class, I chose two different techniques. First, the knitted button and second felting and conductive fibres. The knitted button made the most sense to me as I essentially wanted an open circuit that closed when the heel pressed down. I chose the felting for the sturdiness of the material. If this was a device that was placed on the bottom of the foot, I needed the circuit to be sturdy and bound securely into the attachment material. I chose to execute the “adorably” part of the prompt by using un-felted fibres as the whiskers of the cat to connect the circuit.

Documentation

My original idea was to create a circuit that looped around the entire length of the foot, along the sole to the top of the foot and back past the heel. I initially traced my entire foot onto felt, but as I started to felt my fibres into the material I realized I had not fully thought through the connections. Looping around the entire foot would use a lot of excess material that was not required. Upon this realization, I took apart the felted fibres from the foot and drew some more thorough diagrams of my connections.

Figure 2: Full sole of the foot with the start of the circuit felted through to the tops of the toes.
Figure 2: Full sole of the foot with the start of the circuit felted through to the tops of the toes.

I diagramed my connections to wrap around the heel and ankle of the foot. I then crafted paper sensors to understand how I needed to attach all of my sensors together.

Figure 3: Bottom view of diagram, layer 1
Figure 3: Bottom view of the sock, layer 1 showing the felted circuit
Figure 3.2: Bottom view of the sock, layer 2 showing the first piece of knitted material.
Figure 4: Bottom view of the sock, layer 2 showing the first piece of knitted material.
Figure 5: Bottom view of the sock, layer 3 showing the first piece of knitted material with conductive thread .
Figure 5: Bottom view of the sock, layer 3 showing the first piece of knitted material with conductive thread.

 

Figure 6: Heel/Back view of the sock, showing felted circuit.
Figure 6: Heel/Back view of the sock, showing felted circuit.
Figure 7: Side 1 view of the sock, showing the "adorable" cat with the LED eyes and conductive fibre whiskers
Figure 7: Side 1 view of the sock, showing the “adorable” cat with the LED eyes and conductive fibre whiskers
Figure 8: Side 2 showing the battery attached to the sock.
Figure 8: Side 2 showing the battery attached to the sock.

The only part that I had less certainty about were both of the LED lights for the cat eyes. I chose to experiment and include them in this experimentation for my own personal research.

As I took apart the fibres on my first iteration of the full sole. I noticed that there were lots of stray fibres poking through. I was going to reuse that specific piece of felt but I was unsure if the stray fibres would contaminate my new circuit.

Figure 9: The back side of my initial iteration with lots of small fibres spread throughout the felt.
Figure 9: The back side of my initial iteration with lots of small fibres spread throughout the piece of felt.

I started to tear the fibres into pieces and then felt into the new heel attachment following my circuit diagram. The button would complete the gap in the circuit. The felted perpendicular lines were designed to give more surface area for the button to touch.

Figure: Felted the circuit to only the heel of the attachment.
Figure 10: Felted the circuit to only the heel of the attachment.

I took a break from felting and knitted my button sensors. I was excited that they were able to work just by pressing the pieces together. In my design, I did not need three knitted pieces, but rather two. I was going to use the felted circuit as the connecting part for the button. As I was knitting the conductive thread into the piece, I left gaps at the top and bottom of the knitted square because I wanted to be cautious of shorting my circuit. I was aware that the space on the heel I had allotted for the button was small and I did not want to have any risk of the button connecting to the other side of the heel circuit.

Figure 10: Two knitted pieces for the button; the first without conductive thread and the second with.
Figure 11: Two knitted pieces for the button; the first without conductive thread and the second with.

I tested the button using my testing tool to ensure that my loops were large enough for the knitted in the conductive thread on the first piece. To my surprise and contentment, it worked.

Video 1: Testing my knitted button using my testing tool 

I went back to felting and making the adorable cat with LED eyes. This process was challenging and frustrating. I had felt a piece of material in between the eyes to allow the first LED to end and the second LED to begin. Using the conductive fibres was challenging for this part; I had chosen them as the connections for the LEDs because I thought there would be a thick enough base for the wires of be able to stick into. I had also thought that I would be able to felt over top of the connecting part of the LEDs to secure the connection. In the end, I only was able to make the first LED light up briefly and could not confidently repeat the result.

Figure 11: The connections in the back of my cat were close together making for a messy circuit.
Figure 12: The connections in the back of my cat were close together making for a messy circuit.

I attached the cat face to the circuit and tested it using my testing tool. I was able to get satisfactory results of using the whiskers to “brush” along the felted circuit to pass the current through.

Video 2: Testing the fibres in my cat to see if they complete the circuit

I then sewed my knitted button onto my circuit. This I found challenging as I was not getting the bright consistent results I had with my testing tool. I placed my testing tool on either side of the button and was getting dim results. The electricity was passing through, but my connection was not strong enough. I believe this was due to my design of the large gap. In a future iteration, I would need to sew the knitted piece that contained the conductive thread to the circuit to enforce a stronger connection.

Video 3: Testing the knitted button sewn into the circuit.

The end result: my piece could be clipped to the base of the foot and to the ankle to act as a sock that helps someone run adorably.

Figure 13: Full circuit of the attachment
Figure 13: Full circuit of the attachment

Insights:

This assignment felt very similar to my first encounters with jumper wires and a breadboard. The first time I was following along in Creation and Computation my circuits were not colour coded or organized. As I was going through that assignment, I was thinking about how in the future I would be much more intentional with my stitches and keeping a clean working space. This is reflected in the way I aim to set up my circuits now; I am very intentional with ensuring I can see everything that is happening. I found the best example of frustration caused by straying from this technique when felting the fibres. Initially, I was felting away not really considering how the fibres on the other end would interact. As I started testing, I consistently went back and ensured that my working space was clean. This was a huge hassle and in the future I would use felt to block out certain parts of the felting area to ensure a contamination free zone.

I also re-learned the importance of sketching out my circuit and pursuing the project with intention. I think the connotations of the materials lends itself to a crafting mindset. It is hard to re-wire those instinctual urges such as; I will cut away the felt; or, I can use glue to repair that later. What helped the most was making my components out of paper first and then laying them down to understand my prototype. This allowed me to consider dimensions, connections, and what materials I would need to use.

Through my development, I found myself asking the question: “how would one actually wear this?” rather than “how would one construct this?” My first concern was about construction, but as I was developing the circuit I found myself placing the attachment on my foot and rethinking my design for wearable use. In my next project, I think this will be one of the questions in the forefront of my mind: how do I include the body aspect rather than just focus on the functionality?

Information sources:

I followed the tutorials that were offered in the class: the knitting tutorial and the felting tutorial for constructing my circuits. I looked at the website How to Get What You Want to view some LED light attachments for inspiration but I chose to experiment with connecting to straight into the felted fibres instead.

Next Steps:

  • Include buttonholes and a sock to attach the piece together.
  • Consider using conductive fabric or thread to construct the circuit rather than felting, as felting is messy in narrow spaces.
  • One could knit an entire sock with this circuit in it, rather than making an attachment.
  • Fully attach a battery to the circuit rather than a quick stitch for security.
  • Make a matching pair for the sock.