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to finalize beginner
2023/02/03 ⚒⚒ 2019/08/28
  • be aware of various e-textile resources in this wiki
  • basic principles
See also


  • be aware of various e-textile resources in this wiki
  • basic principles

See also

  • Quality: to finalize
  • Difficulty: beginner


“Electronic textiles, also known as smart garments, smart clothing, smart textiles, or smart fabrics, are fabrics that enable digital components such as a battery and a light (including small computers), and electronics to be embedded in them. Smart textiles are fabrics that have been developed with new technologies that provide added value to the wearer. Pailes-Friedman of the Pratt Institute states that "what makes smart fabrics revolutionary is that they have the ability to do many things that traditional fabrics cannot, including communicate, transform, conduct energy and even grow".” (Wikipedia, August 2019)

“Electronic textiles, or e-textiles, are an increasingly important part of wearable computing, helping to make pervasive devices truly wearable. These soft, fabric-based computers can function as lovely embodiments of Mark Weiser's vision of ubiquitous computing: providing useful functionality while disappearing discreetly into the fabric of our clothing. E-textiles also give new, expressive materials to fashion designers, textile designers, and artists, and garments stemming from these disciplines usually employ technology in visible and dramatic style. Integrating computer science, electrical engineering, textile design, and fashion design, e-textiles cross unusual boundaries, appeal to a broad spectrum of people, and provide novel opportunities for creative experimentation both in engineering and design.” [1]

According to Wikipedia (Aug 22 2019), the field of e-textiles can be divided into two main categories: “e-textiles with classical electronic devices such as conductors, integrated circuits, LEDs, OLEDs and conventional batteries embedded into garments and e-textiles with electronics integrated directly into the textile substrates. This can include either passive electronics such as conductors and resistors or active components like transistors, diodes, and solar cells.”

Domains of application

According to Wikipedia (Aug 22 2019) there are several domains of use:

  • Health monitoring of vital signs such as heart rate, respiration rate, temperature, activity, and posture.
  • Ddata acquisition in sports training
  • Monitoring personnel handling hazardous materials
  • Tracking the position and status of soldiers in action, for example a soldier's bulletproof kevlar vest if the wearer is shot, the material can sense the bullet's impact and send a radio message back to base.
  • Monitoring pilot or truck driver fatigue
  • Diagnosing amputee discomfort
  • Innovative fashion (wearable tech)
  • Regain sensory perception that was previously lost by accident or birth

Peppler (2016, pp. 269-270) identifies the following e-textile examples in practice.

  • “Wearable Workout Buddy: A knitted arm band embedded with a circular sensor and wireless transmitter detects whether its wearer’s arm is bent or straight.”
  • “Music-Improvisation Dance Costume: A collaboration between multiple artists and software designers resulted in the development of a computationally enhanced dance costume and accompanying musical environment (Lindsay, 2013).”
  • “Fairytale Fashion: To promote science and technology learning through fash- ion design, a fashion collection was created using technology to make “magical” clothing that functions in real life (Eng, 2013).”
  • “Embedding Knitting Patterns in Knitted Objects: Despite associations with anti- quated traditions, knitting communities are often hotbeds of innovative approaches to high-tech textile production.”
  • “Haute Couture Meets High Tech: Bringing together experts from diverse fields such as microelectronics, wireless communication, embroidery, fashion design, and interaction design, the “Climate Dress” is an interactive dress that reacts to CO2 changes in the nearby surround- ings (Diffus Design, 2013).”

In education

In 2008, Bucheley et al. [2] reported conduct of several workshop that aimed to raise children's interest in computer science education subjects. “We want to emphasize that our data is clearly preliminaryand inconclusive. However, we feel these results strongly indicate that the emerging universe of (artistic) e-textiles has compelling contributions to make to technology education.” (p. 432).

In study on the adoption of the Lilypad, Buecheley and Hill (2010, p 206), addressing the issue of broadening the participation to women, suggest a different approach, one we call Building New Clubhouses. “Instead of trying to fit people into existing engineering cultures, it may be more constructive to try to spark and support new cultures, to build new clubhouses. [...] Some of the most revealing research in diversity in STEM has found that women and other minorities don’t join STEM communities not because they are intimidated or unqualified but rather because they’re simply uninterested in these disciplines [3]

In a conclusion to a qualitative study of e-textile workshops held in a public high school in a large urban area, Kafai, Fields and Searle (2014) conclude [4] e-textiles are one type of hybrid activity that combines the digital and material in authentic, aesthetic ways and can draw diverse groups of youth into identification with disciplines by connecting seemingly abstract computing and concrete, hands-on, do-it-yourself craft. In a similar study the authors [5] analyses “indicate that the e-textile activities were successful in engaging students in a rich array of computing concepts and practices while at he same time broadening their perceptions of computing. Students expanded their thinking about the relevance of computing to their personal lives, their self-concept as computer scientists, and their understanding of computing as a field.” (Kafai et al., 2014, p. 18).

Some studies, e.g. Peppler & Glosson (2012) [6] focus on learning about circuitry through creation of e-textiles. In the discussion, they argue that “the use of the LilyPad Arduino toolkit allows for more diverse ways for youth to “short” or “break” their circuit, creating manifold opportunities for discussion and questioning of misconceptions. What results is a deeper conceptual understanding through the mistakes and reasoning to fix those mistakes providing opportunities to fix those lingering conceptual misconceptions.”.

Tofel-Grehl et al. (2017) [7] conducted the first quasi-experimental design with four classes engaged in a traditional circuitry unit while the other four classes undertook a new e-textile unit. The authors report, that, “overall, students in both groups demonstrated significant learning gains on standard test items without significant differences between conditions. Significant differences appeared between groups’ attitudes toward science after the units in ways that show increasing interest in science by students in the e-textile unit.”. The authors conclude that “e-textiles may support social connections with teacher, family, and friends that are particularly productive areas for developing students’ interest in science. These findings converge with those of qualitative studies that have described increased engagement with underserved populations, including urban youth (Searle and Kafai 2015a, 2015b) and American Indian youth (Kafai et al. 2014).”

In (provisional) conclusion, creating e-textiles may not significantly improve computer science skills, but may raise interest for these subjects within different populations. In addition, crafting and social skills are being developed, which are beneficial for individual's personal development.

Hardware and Software

E-textile kits

E-textile kits vary from Arduino-type ecosystems of boards and extension, to special-purpose textile electronics components. In a 2018, Tariq Ahmed made a comparison of the Lilypad, the Flora and the Gemma. Lilypad and Flora have similar sizes and capabilities. The Flora may have more interesting input sensors and smarter (multi-color) LEDs.

  • Lilypad (Buechley, 2006) was the first popular system. It is based on the popular Arduino technology, and for which exist many tutorials. An early version was described in Lovell & Buechley (2010). [8]
  • Adafruit Flora and the small Gemma MO are similar systems and also come with good sets of tutorials. The Flora is also Arduino compatible. However, there is a version, the Circuit Playground Express that can be programmed with three other languages, include the children friendly MakeCode.
  • i*CATch (Ngai, Chan, & Ng, 2013) includes snap-on electronic modules that attach to pre-made garments and is suitable for beginners.
  • “Schemer (Elumeze, 2013) is a set of sewable electronic modules similarly constructed to the LilyPad designs but offering more versatile approaches to programming.” (Peppler 2016, p.273).
  • In the “kit of no parts” [9] (Perner-Wilson & Buechley, 2013), “electronic components can be constructed out of raw crafting materials like conductive and non-conductive thread, fabric, yarn, and beads.” (Peppler 2016, p.273).

E-textile Software

So far (March 2020) we did not test any of these. Most systems seem to be research systems and require high technical skills for installing and using. Some may not be available.

  • Sketch&Stitch: Interactive Embroidery for E-Textiles. Hamdan, Voelker & Borchers [10] describe Sketch&Stitch as “interactive embroidery system to create e-textiles using a traditional crafting approach: Users draw their art and circuit directly on fabric using colored pens. The system takes a picture of the sketch, converts it to embroidery patterns, and sends them to an embroidery machine. Alternating between sketching and stitching, users build and test their design incrementally. Sketch&Stitch features Circuitry Stickers representing circuit boards, components, and custom stitch patterns for wire crossings to insulate, and various textile touch sensors such as pushbuttons, sliders, and 2D touchpads. Circuitry Stickers serve as placeholders during design. Using computer vision, they are recognized and replaced later in the appropriate embroidery phases.”. This system seems seems to be in early development stage and only works on macOS/IOS. It is not clear what kind of machine code will be produced. Download link: Sketch&Stitch at GitHub


  • Buechley, L. (2006), “A construction kit for electronic textiles”, 2006 10th IEEE International Symposium, Wearable Computers, Montreux, pp. 83-90.
  • Buechley, L., Peppler, K., Eisenberg, M., & Yasmin, K. (2013). Textile Messages: Dispatches from the World of E-Textiles and Education. New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies. Volume 62. Peter Lang Publishing Group. 29 Broadway 18th Floor, New York, NY 10006.
  • Buchholz, Beth, et al. (2014). "Hands on, hands off: Gendered access in crafting and electronics practices." Mind, Culture, and Activity, 278-297.
  • Buechley, L., & Qiu, K. (2014). Sew electric. Cambridge: SLT Press, ISBN:0989795608
  • Design, D. (2013). When technology meets sensuality. Paper presented at the Smart Fabrics Conference, Barcelona, Spain
  • Eng, D. (2013). Fairytale Fashion. Retrieved August 20, 2019 from www.FairytaleFashion.org
  • Fields, D.A. and King, W.L. (2014), “So, I think I’m a programmer now”, developing connected learning for adults in a university craft technologies course”, in Polman, J.L., Kyza, E.A., O’neill, D.K., Tabak, I., Penuel, W.R., Jurow, A.S., O’connor, K., Lee, T. and D’amico, L. (Eds), Learning and Becoming in Practice: The International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2014, ISLS, Boulder, CO, pp. 927-936.
  • Fields, D.A. and Lee, V.R. (2016), “Craft technologies 101: bringing making to higher education”, in Peppler, K., Halverson, E. and Kafai, Y. (Eds), Makeology, Routledge, New York, NY, pp. 121-137.
  • Fields, D.A., Lui, D. and Kafai, Y.B. (2017), “Teaching computational thinking with electronic textiles: High school teachers’ contextualizing strategies in exploring computer science”, in Kong, S.C., Sheldon, J. and Li, R.K.Y. (Eds), Conference Proceedings of International Conference on Computational Thinking Education 2017, The Education University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, pp. 67-72.
  • Fields, D.A., Searle, K.A. and Kafai, Y.B. (2016), “Deconstruction kits for learning: Students’ collaborative debugging of electronic textile designs”, FabLearn ’16, Proceedings of the 6th Annual Conference on Creativity and Fabrication in Education, ACM, New York, NY, pp. 82-85.
  • Kafai, Y., Searle, K., Martinez, C., & Brayboy, B. (2014, March). Ethnocomputing with electronic textiles: culturally responsive open design to broaden participation in computing in American indian youth and communities. In Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education (pp. 241-246). ACM.
  • Kinnunen, M., Mian, S. Q., Oinas-Kukkonen, H., Riekki, J., Jutila, M., Ervasti, M., … Alasaarela, E. (2016). Wearable and mobile sensors connected to social media in human well-being applications. Telematics and Informatics, 33(1), 92–101. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.TELE.2015.06.008
  • Jutila, M., Rivas, H., Karhula, P., & Pantsar-Syväniemi, S. (2014). Implementation of a Wearable Sensor Vest for the Safety and Well-being of Children. Procedia Computer Science, 32, 888–893. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.PROCS.2014.05.507
  • Lee, V. R., & Fields, D. A. (2017). A rubric for describing competences in the areas of circuitry, computation, and crafting after a course using e-textiles. International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, 34(5), 372–384. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJILT-06-2017-0048
  • Lindsay, E. (2013). The space between us: Electronic music + modern dance + e-textiles. In L. Buechley, K. Peppler, M. Eisenberg, & Y. Kafai (Eds.), Textile Messages: Dispatches from the World of E-Textiles and Education.
  • Ngai, G., Chan, S. C. F., Ng, V. T. Y., Cheung, J. C. Y., Choy, S. S. S., Lau, W. W. Y., & Tse, J. T. P. (2010). i*CATch. In Proceedings of the 28th international conference on Human factors in computing systems - CHI ’10 (p. 443). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1753326.1753393
  • Patel, M.S.; Asch, D.A.; Volpp, K.G. Wearable devices as facilitators, not drivers, of health behavior change. JAMA 2015, 313, 459–460.
  • Peppler, K. and Glosson, D. (2013). Stitching circuits: learning about circuitry through E-textile materials, Journal of Science Education and Technology, 22(5), 751-763.
  • Peppler, K. (2016). A review of e-textiles in education and society. In Handbook of research on the societal impact of digital media (pp. 268-290). IGI Global.
  • Searle, K. A., & Kafai, Y. B. (2015). Boys' Needlework: Understanding Gendered and Indigenous Perspectives on Computing and Crafting with Electronic Textiles. In ICER (pp. 31-39).PDF (Research Gate)

Cited with footnotes

  1. Buechley, L., & Eisenberg, M. (2008). The LilyPad Arduino: Toward Wearable Engineering for Everyone. IEEE Pervasive Computing, 7(2), 12–15. https://doi.org/10.1109/MPRV.2008.38
  2. Buechley, L., Eisenberg, M., Catchen, J., & Crockett, A. (2008). The LilyPad Arduino: Using Computational Textiles toInvestigate Engagement, Aesthetics, and Diversity in Computer Science Education. In Proceeding of the twenty-sixth annual CHI conference on Human factors in computing systems - CHI ’08 (p. 423). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1357054.1357123
  3. Weinberger, C. (2004). Just ask! Why surveyed women did not pursue IT courses or careers. In IEEE Technology and Society Magazine, 23(2):28-35.
  4. Kafai, Y., Fields, D., & Searle, K. (2014). Electronic Textiles as Disruptive Designs: Supporting and Challenging Maker Activities in Schools. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 532–556. https://doi.org/10.17763/haer.84.4.46m7372370214783
  5. Kafai, Y. B., Lee, E., Searle, K., Fields, D., Kaplan, E., & Lui, D. (2014). A Crafts-Oriented Approach to Computing in High School. ACM Transactions on Computing Education, 14(1), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1145/2576874
  6. Peppler, K., & Glosson, D. (2013). Stitching Circuits: Learning About Circuitry Through E-textile Materials. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 22(5), 751–763. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-012-9428-2
  7. Tofel-Grehl, C., Fields, D., Searle, K., Maahs-Fladung, C., Feldon, D., Gu, G., & Sun, C. (2017). Electrifying Engagement in Middle School Science Class: Improving Student Interest Through E-textiles. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 26(4), 406–417. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10956-017-9688-y
  8. Lovell, E., & Buechley, L. (2010). An e-sewing tutorial for DIY learning. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children - IDC ’10 (p. 230). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1810543.1810578
  9. Perner-Wilson, H., & Buechley, L. (2013). Handcrafting textile sensors. In L. Buechley, K. Peppler, M. Eisenberg, & Y. Kafai (Eds.), Textile Messages: Dispatches from the World of E-Textiles and Education.
  10. Hamdan, N. A. H., Voelker, S., & Borchers, J. (2018). Sketch&Stitch: Interactive embroidery for E-Textiles. In Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings (Vol. 2018-April, pp. 1–13). New York, New York, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/3173574.3173656
  11. Buechley, L., Elumeze, N., Dodson, C., & Eisenberg, M. (2005). Quilt snaps: A fabric based computational construction kit. In Proceedings - IEEE International Workshop on Wireless and Mobile Technologies in Education, WMTE 2005 (Vol. 2005, pp. 219–221). https://doi.org/10.1109/WMTE.2005.55
  12. Katterfeldt, E. S., Dittert, N., & Schelhowe, H. (2009). EduWear: Smart textiles as ways of relating computing technology to everyday life. In Proceedings of IDC 2009 - The 8th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children (pp. 9–17). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1551788.1551791
  13. Ngai, G., Chan, S. C. F., Cheung, J. C. Y., & Lau, W. W. Y. (2009). The teeboard: An education-friendly construction platform for e-textiles and wearable computing. In Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings (pp. 249–258). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1518701.1518742
  14. Ngai, G., Chan, S. C. F., Ng, V. T. Y., Cheung, J. C. Y., Choy, S. S. S., Lau, W. W. Y., & Tse, J. T. P. (2010). i*CATch: A scalable, plug-n-play wearable computing framework for novices and children. In Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings (Vol. 1, pp. 443–452). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1753326.1753393
  15. Kazemitabaar, M., McPeak, J., Jiao, A., He, L., Outing, T., & Froehlich, J. E. (2017). MakerWear: A tangible approach to interactive wearable creation for children. In Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings (Vol. 2017-May, pp. 133–145). New York, New York, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. https://doi.org/10.1145/3025453.3025887