My Hoops at Maker Faire

Here are a couple of detail pictures and videos of the hoop prototypes I brought to Maker Faire. I’ll have a longer post later in the week with all the cool stuff I saw and played with while wandering around the faire grounds. I wasn’t able to shoot great video at the faire because of the noise, so the two I included were shot in my hotel room (hooping indoors is quite a challenge!). I’m hoping to bring these pieces to a hoop jam and have some other hoop dancers try them out soon.



I mostly wore the sound making outfit around during the weekend, as my light up one was hard to see anywhere but inside the darkened Fiesta Hall. It was fun to wander through the crowds and do mini demos along the way. This is a slight variation on the beatbox hoop prototype I blogged about previously – instead of a hacked toy I used a LilyPad Arduino to make notes for each of the conductive patches. Many thanks to my fellow Seacoast Maker Alex Nunn for helping me with some last minute code on this one before I left for the faire. The nice thing about this particular jacket is that the board is completely modular; sewing snaps allow you to remove the LilyPad from the traces and speaker and pop in another one in the same configuration. I also used Sugru to add a finishing touch and a little extra protection to the connection between the snaps and the wires going to the LilyPad. I stopped by the Sugru booth and they loved the use of their product in wearables.



The first prototype is a little messy with some hot glue to make sure things didn’t fall apart with all the movement. The outfits held up well after two days of hooping, with only minor repairs needed.



I modded some gloves with conductive patches so that I could create effects while hooping on my hands as well. They snapped right into the sleeves of the jacket.

This is a completed version of my early experiment with LEDs. A small battery holder, conductive fabric, and LEDs make it a nice blink and bling example of my hoop-as-a-switch concept.




This little battery holder from Aniomagic worked well on the collar of this jacket. Unfortunately, it looks like they don’t make them anymore.


Summer Vacation

After a whirlwind month of two maker faires – the Cambridge Mini Maker Faire and the Bay Area Maker Faire, I am ready to take a brief vacation from blogging. I’ll be working on a few projects throughout the summer and I hope to share them along the way or when I start blogging more often in the fall. See you then and enjoy your summer!

Here are a few pics from my trip to San Mateo for Maker Faire.

I had a great time doing a demo at the CRAFT booth on getting started with soft circuits. I had some examples of conductive threads, fabrics, and kits to show and pass around.

I met up with Dia, Sparkfun’s TechStyle Specialist, who had a cool sound-making dress with conductive flower petals and conductive threads as the triggers.

I got to stop by the Instructables HQ in San Francisco, so exciting! We made some liquid nitrogen ice cream and got a tour of the office.

E-Textiles Workshop at SparkFun

Last weekend I traveled to Boulder, Colorado to attend the ‘Where Electronics Meets Textiles‘ workshop hosted by SparkFun Electronics and taught by Lynne Bruning and Troy Nachtigall. I jumped at the chance to learn from these two leaders in e-textiles and had an amazing weekend playing with LilyPad and hanging out with the assortment of artists, programmers, and makers that had traveled from across the country to attend.

I was very excited to visit SparkFun HQ! Thanks to Inga Marie Carmel for capturing the moment.

A little more about the instructors from the SparkFun blog:

Troy Nachtigall will be visiting us from Florence, Italy to share his expertise in E-Textiles. He is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and has worked with EU based Plug and Wear to develop E-Textile sensors, fabrics and wearable computing projects. Troy teaches courses in Fashion and Technology at the University IUAV of Venice, University Sapienza of Roma, the Institute of European Design, and ISIA Firenze.

Lynne Bruning bases her textile, wearable art, and adaptive technology studio in Denver, Colorado. She will share her talents on integrating computer hardware into fashionable E-Textiles and clothing while sharing with you her love of adaptive technology and E-Textile developments for the medical industry.

For a full breakdown of the curriculum/schedule you can check out this PDF.
Saturday was an introduction to wearable technology with Lynne and a basic intro to programming from Troy. We each received a LilyPad kit and some cool knitted sensors from Plug and Wear to use with some simple Arduino code.

Troy shows us the textile sensors from Plug and Wear (image via Inga Marie Carmel)

Plug and Wear’s textile button sensor

In the afternoon, Nwanua Elumeze of Aniomagic gave a great presentation on his products and the philosophy behind them. We got to see a demonstration of Aniomagic’s schemer board, which is a microcontroller programmed through a web interface and sends the code via light pulses on a computer screen or iPhone.

Nwanua demonstrates programming a Schemer through a web browser – it can even work on a projector!

Sunday morning we worked on more LilyPad programming, and then spent the afternoon creating our own unique e-textile projects. I brought along a vest with some snowflake decals that I was going to make light up using a zipper sensor as a switch. I drafted out my pattern/traces and started hooking things up to the LilyPad. It is rare that I am in a room full of people with the same interests and working on e-textile projects so I decided to finish my vest at home and wander around seeing what everyone was working on and discussing projects. There were so many talented people there, it was a wonderful opportunity to chat with everyone as they worked.

Classmate Liz Baumann also wrote up a blog post about her experiences in the workshop.

Working on my vest (image via Inga Marie Carmel)

Check out some more pictures of the workshop in our Flickr Pool

Crafty Electronic Costumes at the Portsmouth Halloween Parade

Photo by Denise J. Wheeler from Portsmouth Halloween Parade on Facebook

Last weekend I celebrated Halloween by marching in the 16th Annual Portsmouth Halloween Parade. I had great time admiring all the hand made and elaborate costumes on display during the event. Here are a few of the electronic/light up costumes I saw along the way.


My boyfriend loved the robot that our friend Sean O’Connell made so much that he decided to craft one for himself to wear in the Parade. Using Sean’s process of cutting arm holes in a trash can for the body, a bucket for the head, and LED taplights for the eyes, he made a few light-up mods as well. I had some spare EL wire and random odds and ends in my studio so the robot got a blinky upgrade, an antenna, and a circuit board chest plate. While Sean’s original design had the head attached to the body, we were able to make it easily detachable by using magnetic purse snaps. There’s a great album of Sean building the original robot over on Facebook, I especially love the detail of using googly eyes to make rivets.

Magnets on the robot head.

Some gutter grating, taplights, and plastic bits for decoration

Cloud Costume

Our friend Dave made this light up cloud costume using EL wire, some portable blacklights, glow in the dark paint, and a headlamp attached to a belt for ‘lightning’. I love his solution of using blacklights to make the glow in the dark paint react at parties and during the parade. He made the cloud shape by attaching the EL wire to some cardboard and hanging around his neck with ribbon worn underneath a Tyvek suit.

Fiber Optic Fairy Wings & Mask

For my costume, I made another pair of fiber optic wings with a few modifications: I added a switch and ended up soldering together the components for durability. Instead of ribbons or elastic to hold the wings on, I used magnetic purse snaps so they blended seamlessly with the rest of my costume and didn’t move around as I walked.

With the left over bits of fiber optic strands and fabric, I made a matching mask. It has a switch and a smaller 3V battery hidden under a flower on the front of the mask. To make the standing swirls I used Mod Podge to adhere some fabric to a bit of a plastic egg carton to make them rigid. To complete the look, I reused my Lady Gaga light up cane from last year’s costume (made out of plastic beads glued onto a plastic bubble ornament with LEDs inside).

Battery holder, wiring to the LEDs/fiber optics, and a switch hidden underneath a flower decoration.

Magnets to attach the wings to my shirt

Other Costumes at the Parade

A cool light up jellyfish costume. Looks like it was made out of clear plastic sheeting or trash bags, with some lights embedded along the edges. Photo by Roger Goun.

These costumes were made through a creative use of glowsticks. Photo by Denise J. Wheeler from Portsmouth Halloween Parade on Facebook.

Check out this glowing Cheshire Cat costume, fantastic! Photo by Denise J. Wheeler from Portsmouth Halloween Parade on Facebook.

Jim Burns, the man in the Cheshire Cat tree costume provided me with info on how he made it:

Creating Chesire seemed easy in concept – get some lights, make the eyes and grin light up by themselves and in conjunction with the body. It turns out the lights were the easy part, it was getting the Cheshire to be shaped correctly that my poor artistic skills had trouble with. A friend came on the idea to print a picture of the Cheshire from the web, which with a little help from an application that allows a big image to be printed on multiple 8×11 pages was done. The rest was easy: put image onto foam board, cut out, hot glue white EL wire for eyes and grin; pink and purple EL wire for stripes on body. Each EL wire was attached to its own control box that had an low frequency on/off cycle. Ideally the pink and purple would have been on one control box, but alas, my electronic skills disallowed this. The most fun part of the EL wire was routing it like old-fashioned neon – it has to be one continuous path of wire so that it has no cuts in it.

The Alice in Wonderland group also made a light up float of the Caterpillar with EL wire. Photo by WireNH on Flickr.

More Parade pics and video:

  • Portsmouth Halloween Parade Facebook Page
  • Portsmouth Halloween Parade Flickr Group
  • Dan Freund from ShortStream TV captured some of the costumes and performers on video for theMonday Morning Show (coverage starts around 2:55).

Talking About Making at PodCampNH

Last weekend I attended PodCampNH in Portsmouth. I gave a presentation on connecting with other makers online and talked about trying to organize a mini maker faire in our area. Other sessions included a variety of topics: fashion blogging, podcasting, indie film marketing, social media for music, making videos for the internet, and more.

Fellow maker Sean O’Connell’s hand-made robot looks on as I lead my session.
Photo by Wayne Kurtzman (@WayneNH). For more photos of the event, visit the PodCampNH flickr group.

I had a great turnout for my talk and got some great responses/interest in putting together a mini maker faire for NH folks. I’d love to partner with the local Portsmouth Halloween Parade and do a Halloween-making themed faire with workshops on creating your own props and costumes. The Halloween Parade is a kindred spirit in making, “a grassroots, all-inclusive alternative to contemporary Halloween. Striving always to strip the plastic back out of the holidays fantastic, it is a celebration of community, creativity, resourcefulness and free expression…” This will be my first year walking in the parade and I donated two of my light up fairy wings prototypes from last week to one of their raffles. I’ll have another post with pictures from the event later this week.

I explained ways to document your projects and create tutorials to post online at Instructables and Make: Projects. I’m wearing a t-shirt I got from backing the Life Size Mousetrap project on Kickstarter.
Photo by Barbara O’Connell (@barboconnell).

Here’s a copy of my presentation to check out:

What is PodCampNH?

PodCamp NH is an innovative gathering of new media enthusiasts, professionals, and anyone curious about what comes next in blogging, social media, podcasting, video on the net, and so much more. It’s called an UnConference because the attendees themselves present the sessions, workshops, and panel discussions.

World Maker Faire Recap

It’s been one week since I traveled out to Queens to experience the first World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science. I had an amazing time seeing some familiar faces of my fellow makers and meeting lots of new and interesting participants and faire-goers.

The event had a bit of a different feel than the Bay Area Faire back in May. Many of the makers were outside in tents, lending it more of a craft faire or street faire feel than the expo setting of everyone gathered together in a big warehouse. I was located near the CRAFT area and close to the Bust Craftacular where it was a little more low key than the main traffic areas.

Many of the makers were located inside the New York Hall of Science scattered between the museum’s permanent exhibits. It was an interesting (though sometimes confusing) combination of the stationary exhibits and the maker booths.


In addition to displaying my projects at a booth, I was also invited to do a demo at the CRAFT booth on my ‘Talking’ Sock Puppets. There was a great turnout and I had a lot of fun talking to folks after the demo about how they could make their own noise making puppets at home. The puppets even earned an Editor’s Choice blue ribbon – they were a big hit with kids and adults alike.

Other Soft Circuit Makers

I was lucky enough to have the folks of Fabrickit as my neighbors during the faire. They launched their new product line and I was able to chat with them about it and purchase a kit to bring home and try out. I will be posting soon about my experience with their modules.

Inside the Hall of Science I stopped by Sarah and Lara Grant’s Felted Signal Processing table – they are using conductive and metallic fibers combined with wool to felt their own sensors and controllers for sounds. The pieces have a wonderful texture and sculptural quality to them.

Many of the other soft circuit and wearables makers who presented at the faire were also in the eTextile Fashion Show organized by Lynne Bruning. Unfortunately it was scheduled at the same time as my sock puppet demo, but my friend Rebecca was able to capture some video of it for me to compile and share.

The Rest of the Faire

While I wasn’t able to experience the full faire, the friends who traveled with me were nice enough to watch my booth a few times so I could wander around and see some things for myself. I watched a Life Size Mousetrap performance and caught the last Arc Attack show of the weekend, two things I regretted not being able to see in person while wandering around the Bay Area Faire. Many thanks to Rebecca, Erin, and Randy for their help with photography and video of the faire!

Check out more Maker Faire images/video on my Flickr and Youtube pages.

Getting Ready For World Maker Faire New York

I’m happy to announce that Soft Circuit Saturdays will be at the first World Maker Faire in New York next month! This will be my 3rd time attending a Maker Faire event, and the first time I will be participating in one of the ‘big’ faires with a booth and projects to share. It’s going to be an amazing  experience to be in the midst of so many people – I’m very excited!

I will be bringing a few things I shared at  Cambridge Mini Maker Faire, along with some new pieces. I’ve decided to make sure that most of the projects that I bring along will have tutorials and DIY instructions available either on this site, Instructables, orMake:Projects. That means I’ll be spending the next few weekends putting together how-tos, getting everything prepped for the faire, and finalizing my travel plans. Instead of my weekly posts of projects and builds, I will be posting links to interesting projects I find on my Facebook page, and possibly publishing a round-up or two along the way.

I have a few friends who will be traveling with me to help document the faire and the other soft circuit projects and makers that will be there, so stay tuned for photos and videos in the weeks after the event.

Here are the projects I’m bringing (so far):

Check out all my tutorials over on Make: Projects to learn how to make your own versions of these pieces.

More Maker Faire Pictures

I recently received an email from Lee Guichan, who attended the Soft Electronics Demo at the Craftzine booth during Maker Faire. Lee sent some great images of Becky and me presenting soft circuit techniques to share on the blog.

All images courtesy of Lee Guichan.


Guichan, Lee Guichan is based in San Francisco, CA.

Photographing special events and editorial. Has photographed local and known personalities such as super models. Freelancing since 1990, Lee’s photographs have been published in local and national magazines, and used both for editorial as well as advertising purposes. Participation with an artist at the De Young Museum, San Francisco in a visual photo essay.

Lee’s goal is to capture the main action of the moment and the subjects’ expressions, approaching events in a photo journalistic manner.

Maker Faire 2010 Recap

This week I’ve been transitioning back to the ‘real world’ after spending the weekend in California and experiencing two full days of Maker Faire. There were so many amazing projects and demos, I was only able to catch a few of them, but what I did see was fantastic. I focused mostly on the soft circuits and wearables side of the event, but was able to catch a lot of other wonderful projects, shows, and happenings as well. Here are a few highlights (with more video coming soon!):

E-Textile: A Wearable Computing Fashion Show

From left to right: Skirt Full of Stars by Shannon Henry, LED vest by Erik Johnson, GER: Galvanic Extimacy Responder by Kristin Neidlinger, Soft Electric Capelet and Sessile Handbag by Grace Kim

The e-textile show was a hit, showcasing some projects involving lights, sensors, and augmented clothing. I snapped a couple of pictures after the show; these are only a few of the projects that walked the runway. I had a great spot in which to view the show, but unfortunately, a large garage door was open directly behind the stage. The light pollution kept those of us in the audience from the full experience of the light up projects. ArtFuture was able to capture a good video of the show and they will be uploading interviews with the designers this week.

Anti/Surveillance Fashion Show

On Sunday, a different kind of wearables show hit the runway – this one based around either evading or inviting surveillance. I really enjoyed the thematic element and the creative ways the designers thought to affect surveillance methods such as cameras, face recognition software, and even watermarking on currency.

eTextile Electronics Materials and Portable Lab w/ Adrian Freed

Adrian Freed gave a great presentation on e-textile materials, sourcing, and applications. He showed a few of his own pieces that involved using e-textiles as musical controllers and introduced his portable lab (which he was even able to bring on an airplane). I was able to capture most of it on video (aside from a few minutes of the question and answer session at the end).

Part 1:

Part 2:

Intro to Soft Electronics

Helping Becky out with her Craft demo. More pics here.

Becky Stern’s demo of electronic embroidery was a lot of fun. I was able to act as an extra set of hands for her while showing the audience how to sew with conductive thread, and passed things around to the crowd to check out. I brought a couple of my projects along with me to add to Becky’s soft circuit examples. Below are a couple of video excerpts (the whole demo was about 45 minutes long).

Working on the electronic embroidery example:

Showing examples of soft circuit projects and sensors:

Meeting the Makers

Nwanua from Aniomagic shows me the Soft Remote kit working with an iPhone

The best part of Maker Faire was talking with fellow makers and tinkerers who share my excitement for creating and experimenting. In addition to watching some fabulous demonstrations, I was also able to catch up with some soft circuit peers that inspire me and with whom I share projects through twitter, facebook, and flickr. Syuzi Pakhchyan of Fashioning Technology, Nwanua Elumeze of Aniomagic, Shannon Henry of Polymath Design Lab, and Lynne Bruning were some of the great people whom I finally got to meet in person.

Here are some more soft circuit/craft/sewing photos from the faire, and I have an album for the rest of Maker Faire over on flickr.