conductive felt, je t’aime

I’m going to be making the majority of my soft cyborg’s nose out of conductive felt so that it’s one big force sensor. I started to play around with making conductive felt using bronze wool and merino wool. I found a Canadian supplier to order bronze wool from; it’s pricey ($9/3 pads) but it cards way better than steel wool and is much easier on the hands.

Initially I just played around with carding and felting the bronze and merino wools together. I used too much bronze wool and there was no resistance. I was much more meticulous the second time around. An Instructables tutorial on making conductive felt suggested using a 2:5 ratio, bronze wool to fleece. I went with 8g of bronze wool and 20g of merino wool. (The tutorial also said that this conductive fleece could be spun—something I will have to explore further at a later date.)

Materials & Equipment

  1. merino wool
  2. fine bronze wool
  3. scale (I used a digital scale the second time around)
  4. hand carders (i.e. cat brushes–the bronze wool will wreck real carders)
  5. felting needles and tools (optional but they make felting much faster)
  6. a piece of foam (for felting on)

materials & equipment

Conductive Fleece

The bronze wool needed to be teased apart a bit but aside from that, it blended easily with the wool fibres.

Bad Conductive Felt

While my first attempt at making conductive felt was a flop, I did figure out that the felt works better when it is loosely felted. I got a bit of variation in my reading with the thicker section of the felt rectangle. The ball’s reading did not change at all.

electric scale

Good Conductive Felt

Less bronze wool in this batch. I might even try a little less. The flat circle provided consistent variation in its resistance level when touched. The ball was a bit trickier, sometimes there was resistance, sometimes there wasn’t. Also, the ball’s resistance reading changed depending on how densely the fleece was felted. Structurally I need my soft cyborg’s nose to be able to be squeezed repetitively, however if it is too dense I won’t get a resistance reading. So I’ll try less bronze wool next.


I used a simple force sensor circuit to test the resistance of the conductive felt. Here’s the code:

Reads an analog input on pin 0, prints the result to the serial monitor

This example code is in the public domain.

void setup() {

void loop() {
int sensorValue = analogRead(A0);
Serial.println(sensorValue, DEC);

carded conductive fleece

carded conductive fleece (detail)

good conductive felt

soft circuit

12-Hour Bracelet

For my 12-hour challenge, I built a simple circuit bracelet with an LED, 3V Coin cell battery and a 10K resistor. Lately, I’ve been interested in way to incorporate the circuitry of wearable tech into the design instead of always trying to cover up and hide it.

Sailors knot bracelet with LED

The result is a sailors knot braided bracelet that uses the wire (purple) to complete the circuit. The LED is located in the middle of the carrick bend and the battery and resistor is located at the back.

The basic knot. LED is attached to these wires.

Wire endings.

The closed circuit, LED on.

I’m wearing it today for 12 hours!


this is the future.

For the 12 hour circuit challenge, I wanted to make something specifically for me, and who I am. Who am I? I’m a transformer-robot-dinosaur. I’m a transgender humanoid, negotiating my way though life with a clunky malfunctioning body. While in waiting for my new parts and circuits to arrive, I thought I’d give myself a bit of an upgrade, with a identifying tag.

The simple circuit is a coin-cell battery (and holder), and three LEDs (green, blue, and white). The circuit was sewn onto a thick piece of white felt, and the unit was then sewn onto a piece of white leather. The unit/ID sits against the body, in contact with the skin, and is held in place by the chest binder(s) I wear. This is strictly a transgender(male) wearable.

Depending on how you read the LEDs, they can signify different things. Green-Blue-White: Elija Hayden Montgomery; Blue-White-Green: Transformer-Robot-Dinosaur.

under the first binder/layer

through two layers...

still visible through my shirt

This assignment was a very interesting experiment. First of all, it looked super awesome. While “functionally” the circuit was useless, it did seem to embody me with this very techno-cyborg-transformer-robot feeling (yes, I’m a “feeling” robot). Especially since it was next to my skin, and under my binders. I already have a very strong ‘relationship’ to my binders, as they are really more like another skin than an article of clothing. If I were to wear just my binders in public, I would consider myself to be naked in a lot of ways. Placing the electronics between myself and the binders was very much the same as if I had been implanted with the technology. What was also interesting was when it was not visible, like when I went outside with all my layers on. While others could not see it, and even I couldn’t see the lights, I knew it was still really bright under everything. It obviously drew attention from people, and they would either ask, “Why are you glowing?” or “Are you a robot?” Yes. Yes, I am. And then we would talk about what a convincing humanoid I make.

I really enjoyed this mini project, and plan on wearing this piece regularly. It has also helped me with my final project plans, including materials to use. Leather and felt for the win.

Concussion Helmet

Concussions have become an epidemic in minor hockey in Canada and the United States.

“Twenty-five per cent of junior hockey players on two unnamed teams suffered concussions last year, according to an Ontario study looking at brain injuries.

The report comes after independent physicians followed the two junior clubs during the 2009-10 regular season, where they observed 17 players suffer a total of 21 concussions in 52 games.”

The helmets that are on the market now are to prevent subdural and epidural hematomas, blind eyes, and lacerations but not concussions.

One of the major problems occurs when a player takes or receives a big hit and may receive a minor concussion. The player doesn’t loose consciousness but may feel minor symptoms such as dizziness, “seeing stars”, reduced playing ability, and slurred speech. This can become a major problem when the player returns to the ice or continues to play in this state, as the may it they’re lesser form be hit again more violently causing a major concussion. The player’s decision to return to the ice is almost always based social pressures to “continue to play”. Coaches and players who do not have to proper knowledge or training pressure the ill player to continue as if normal unknowingly that the player is ill. The affected individuals in these scenarios who are in an ill state are incapable of making the correct decision.

The goal of this project is to remove the social pressures that are embedded in the sport and promote concussion awareness.

The concussion helmet is designed with sensors that measure the impact that the head has taken. The helmet works the same way the brain rattles inside of the skull when a concussion occurs. As the skull rattles inside of the helmet the sensors send data to a computer inside the helmet. It the force is great enough an actuator (LED) lights up to signify to the player’s social surroundings. When the player returns to the bench they may be looked over by a coach or trainer or medical staff. If a severe play occurs and the red light is activated on the helmet play may stop and the play would leave the ice for medical treatment.

With further research, better technology and a growth in awareness a helmet like this could become part of the standardized safety equipment in hockey. If an idea or product like this were to be standardized it would raise social awareness worldwide.

This prototype I used; a retired Bauer Hockey helmet, 6 LEDs, 1 force sensor (homemade: conductive fabric, velostat), 2 AAA Batteries, 1 Lilypad Arduino, Wire.

Retired Bauer Helmet

Workstation + materials from above.

Circuit Diagram.

The code I used:

Social Body:
Wearable Technology 2 (GDES 3B44)
Michael Vaughan – Winter 2011
Code taken and modified from:
Sensor Project
Wearable Technology 1 (GDES 3B16)
Kate Hartman – Fall 2010
int ledPinA = 7;           // LED is connected to digital pin 7
int ledPinB = 8;           // LED is connected to digital pin 8
int ledPinC = 9;           // LED is connected to digital pin 9
int sensorPin = 0;         // Stretch sensor is connected to analog pin 0
int sensorValue;           // variable to store the value coming from the sensor
/*long previousMillis = 0;        // will store last time LED was updated
// the follow variables is a long because the time, measured in miliseconds,
// will quickly become a bigger number than can be stored in an int.
long interval = 100;           // interval at which to blink (milliseconds)*/
void setup()
pinMode(ledPinA, OUTPUT);   // sets the ledPin to be an output
pinMode(ledPinB, OUTPUT);   // sets the ledPin to be an output
pinMode(ledPinC, OUTPUT);   // sets the ledPin to be an output
Serial.begin(9600);           //initialize the serial port
void loop()   // run over and over again
sensorValue = analogRead(sensorPin);   // read the value from the sensor
Serial.print(”                     Sensor Value: “);
delay(100);   // delay for 1/10 of a second*/
/*unsigned long currentMillis = millis();
if(currentMillis – previousMillis > interval) {
// save the last time you blinked the LED
previousMillis = currentMillis;  */
{if(sensorValue>900){ //You can change the number here to adjust the threshold.
digitalWrite(ledPinC, HIGH); //Turn LED on
if(sensorValue>700){ //You can change the number here to adjust the threshold.
digitalWrite(ledPinB, HIGH); //Turn LED on
if(sensorValue>500){ //You can change the number here to adjust the threshold.
digitalWrite(ledPinA, HIGH); //Turn LED 7 on
delay(5000);   // delay for 10 seconds*/
digitalWrite(ledPinA, LOW); //Turn LED off
digitalWrite(ledPinB, LOW); //Turn LED off
digitalWrite(ledPinC, LOW); //Turn LED off
Interior Final

Exterior Final

EL Wire

Here are a couple of YouTube videos that helped me understand how to work with EL wire. The first one, from ‘Thats Cool Wire’, taught me how to reconnect my EL wire after I had damaged a portion of it with my sewing machine and the second is an interesting bit of info from Jeri Ellsworth on how you can make your own EL wire. Enjoy!

In relation to the Social Body Project.


Dress for Stress: Wearable technology and the social body – Susan ELizabeth Ryan


Solar Bikini

* a Bikini that charges your MP3 using the Sun.

Intimacy Black: Hide and Show

* Showing the relationshiop between intimacy, technologie and the social body.

Time for a little ACDC!

It’s never too late (or too early) to rock! This “headbanging” sensor provides heavy guitar riffs whenever you feel so inclined to rock out. Portable, wireless, lightweight. Now you have no excuse.


  • Lilypad Arduino
  • Lilypad Xbee
  • 2 Xbee Radios
  • Xbee Explorer Breakout Board
  • FTDI Breakout Board
  • 9V battery + holder
  • Flex Sensor
  • 100k pulldown resistor
  • Wires

Heavy Metal Circuit

The flex sensor is a small conductive film strip applied length-wise at the base of the neck.  Each time the head is thrust forward (chin moving downward), the flex sensor changes in resistance.  Once it reaches a certain value, Processing triggers a guitar sample for you to rock out to.

Continue reading Time for a little ACDC!

Blush – Soft Sensor

For my soft sensor project, I constructed a mask which has a soft sensor embedded in the lips.  When the lips are touched or kissed, the cheeks of the mask will blush via red LEDs on the inside of the mask.

Blush works best in lower lighting conditions and is, arguably, the creepiest thing that I have yet made.

Watch the youtube video here!

Soft Sensor – HEAD

The part of the body I chose to do a pressure sensor for is the head. The concept that I came up with was an anti-napping sensor that, when attached to a buzzer, would help to prevent in-class/at-work napping. The sensor is a “Z” shape (Zzzzz….of course!) that can be attached to a headband, bobby pin, or secured to the inside of a hat.


The user places the sensor on the part of their head they are most prone to falling asleep on, such as the side, back, or forehead. When the user drifts off and leans their head against something, the sensor is activated and the user is buzzed awake.

Twins, Shyness, and Family

Living Pod

By Ying Gao with Simon Laroche, Anne-Marie Durand-Laflamme, and Isabelle Giroux

Living Pod is a pair of pneumatic pump controlled interactive nylon coats that represent fraternal twins. While the two garments appear to be identical, Garment B mimics the reactions of Garment A external influences.

If the wearer of Garment A Begins a conversation with a third party, the front of Garment A is transformed by burst of air within the coat.  A few moments later, Garment B replicated Garment A’s reaction, yet the wearer of Garment B and those around the wearer of Garment B may be unaware of what is causing the structural changed in Garment B or why they are occurring.

Barking Mad

By Suzi Webster with Jordan Benwick

Designed to help shy people deal with the stresses of urban overcrowding, the Barking Mad jacket has embedded proximity sensors which detect how close others are to the wearer.  The jacket respons to personal space infringements by playing back through embedded flat speakers, the sounds of dogs barking.  If the stranger is relatively far away, the barking with be that of a small poodle.  However, if the intruder remains and gets closer, the barking will become louder and will eventually sound like a rottweiler.


By Jayne Wallace

Blossom is a custom made and hand worn jewelry piece which is symbolic of the relationship between the owner (Ana) who lives in London and her family in Cyprus.  The flower stays in London with Ana but is remotely connected to a rain sensor which has been planted on Ana’s family land in Cyprus.  Once the sensor registers a predetermined amount of rain, the flower will open and remind Ana of her family and her home.

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