I am admittedly a better electronics hacker than I am a seamstress. But I firmly believe that wearables is going to be more than a fad, eventually. So I figure I better at least get enough skills to be able to design prototypes, as I have done with straight up electronics for the last 17 years. I have a lot of learning to do. The hardest thing thus far is finding a suitable replacement for a breadboard. Short of, you know, strapping an actually breadboard to a piece of cloth. I really think there needs to be more work done on the “foundational” prototyping hardware to make wearables electronics hacking much easier. It’s not that I mind sewing, it’s just proving to be a beast to troubleshoot. So I think in 2015 I am going to try and figure out a way to make wearables prototyping easier. But for now, may I present the Mk I Digital Compass Glove. Basically, an Arduino Flora, and LSM303 Triple-Axis Accelerometer/Magnetometer, and a NeoPixel (essentially a souped up RGB LED). The idea is if you are out hiking or skiing instead of whipping out a compass, GPS device, or smartphone. You just hold your hand out and a glowing LED gives you basic feeling for what direction you are facing. The LED glows white for north, green for east, blue for south, and red for west. Here are some videos of the design process:
Thanks to Lisa of Super Chic Dollies for the crocheting the awesome gauntlet!
Some lessons learned I have so far from doing this wearables project:
- Don’t sew directly onto final product, sew circuit on to fabric then attach onto the final garment.
- Use sewing rings to keep the fabric taunt. It will also help to store the circuit safely until it’s finished.
- Use nail polish to protect the start and finish point of each connection you sew, but be careful no to insulate contacts.
- If you are using I2C devices you may need external resistors or double the thread to reduce resistance/increase current between points.
- Snaps are key so that you can use your wearable microcontrollers across multiple projects/
- Rivet kit, seam ripper, and needle threader are essential first purchases.
- Use a double layer of cloth between circuit and garment to prevent shorts as fabrics move against each other. So in the end you will have layer where the circuit is sewn onto, an “insulating” layer, then the final layer is the underlying garment itself.