Talking Fabrics – NYU Shanghai – Spring 2018

Instructor: Antonius Wiriadjaja

This course will explore the history of textiles and how to communicate through the medium of fabric using new technologies. Human history is woven together by tales spun from our common threads. The art of fabric-making entered human culture so early that we often use it for important metaphors. We communicate using fabric every day. The clothes we wear, which bags we carry our belongings in, and the economic and social price we pay for textiles speak volumes about our identities. This course will cover basic textile crafts such as sewing, embroidery and pattern-making along with techniques on how to integrate textiles with electronic circuitry. New methods of fabric-making such as 3D Printing textiles and laser cutting fabrics will also be covered.

Objectives. Students are expected, by the end of the course, to gain the following:

  1. Knowledge of traditional textile arts such as felting, sewing and embroidery.
  2. Proficiency in integrating circuitry and conductive materials to different types of fabrics.
  3. A primary understanding of new methods of fabrication such as 3D printing and laser cutting.

Class Website:

Required Textbooks:

  • Make: Wearable Electronics (1st edition) by Kate Hartman

Suggested Reading:

  • The Primary Structures of Fabric by Irene Emery
  • Textiles (11th Ed) by Sara Kadolph
  • Making Things Talk (2nd Ed) by Tom Igoe

Grading and Assignments:

Grading is based on successful completion of all assignments, class participation and attendance.

  1. Class Assignments
    1. Felting (5%)
    2. Circuits (5%)
    3. Handloom (5%)
    4. Microcontrollers (5%)
    5. Communicating (5%)
  2. Writing
    1. Notions Market (2.5%)
    2. Fabric Market (2.5%)
  3. Big Projects
    1. Sight (10%)
    2. Touch (10%)
  4. Presentations (10%)
  5. Final Project (30%)
  6. Participation and Attendance (10%)


Students are expected to attend all scheduled classes. Greater than two unexcused absences warrant a fail. Tardiness counts as 1/3rd of an unexcused absence.

Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1:30-3:30 pm in the IMA Studio. Make appointments via this link. Or email if you want to schedule an office hour at a different time.

In addition to the schedule below, students are expected to attend the following field trips and do the associated writing assignment:

Saturday, 2/10 – 13:30-16:00 pm – Notions Market Field Trip

Thursday, 3/1 – 13:00-15:30 pm – Fabric Market Field Trip

Week 1

1/23 Introduction to course. Review of syllabus. A brief history of fabric technology.

1/25 Introduction to fibers, felting and yarn-making. Introduction/review of basics of electricity. Getting comfortable with the multimeter. Felting fabric. Creating a circuit.

  • Assignment 1: Felting.
  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 1
  • Sign up for a presentation date.

Week 2

1/30 Yarns and Threads. Introduction to hand sewing and embroidery with conductive yarns and threads.

2/1 More circuits. Hand sewing and embroidery basics. Simple circuits on fabric.

  • Assignment 2: Simple Circuits on Fabric.
  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 2

Week 3

2/6 Lecture: Introduction to Machine sewing. Intro to Soldering.

2/8 Student Presentations (Group 1) Lecture: Introduction to Machine sewing.

2/10 Field Trip

2/13 – No Class due to Field Trip

  • Writing: How was your experience visiting the notions market in Shanghai? Write a blog post with photos and document on the documentation blog (due 2/22).

2/15 – 2/21 Spring Festival Holiday

Week 4

2/22 Basic weaving. Warp and weft.

  • Assignment 3: Design and make a hand loom.

Week 5

2/27 – Introduction to Illustrator.

3/1 – Field Trip to Fabric Market

  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 3
  • Writing: How was your experience visiting the fabric market in Shanghai? Write a blog post with photos and document on the documentation blog (due 3/6).

Week 6

3/6 Finishing textiles. Fusibles, Vinyl, Computer-assisted embroidery, and dyes.

3/8 Synthetic materials. Conductive fabrics. Fabric sensors.

  • Create a fabric or item(s) made out of fabric that tells a story via the human sense of sight. Due week 7.

Week 7

3/13 Work on Sight Fabrics

3/15 Sight Fabrics Due. Prepare to Present.

  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 6

Week 8

3/20 – Integrating textiles with microcontrollers.

3/22 – Working with microcontrollers

  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 7
  • Assignment 4: Incorporate Arduinos into Textiles.

Week 9

3/27 – Working with microcontrollers continued.

3/30 – Student Presentations (Group 2)

  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 8

Week 10

4/3 Sewing patterns. Making 3D items from patterns.

  • Choose at least three partners in the class to work with. Hack a fabric outfit with microcontrollers that allow for a form of social interaction.

4/4-4/6 Spring Recess

Week 11

4/10 Work on outfits (smaller microcontrollers)

4/12 Work on outfits

  • Reading: Make: Wearable Electronics Chapter 9

Week 12

4/17 Networked Fabrics

4/19 Present Outfits. Student Presentations (Group 3)

  • Assignment 5: Make Fabric Projects that Communicate with Each Other.

Week 13

4/24 – Touch Project Concepts

4/26 – One on one meetings Part 2. Work on final projects.

  • Touch Project:
  • Create a fabric or item(s) made out of fabric that tells a story via the human sense of touch. You must incorporate microcontrollers into your project.

Week 14

4/30-5/1 – China Labor Day Holiday

4/3 – Work on Touch Projects

Week 15

5/8 – Work on Touch Projects

5/10 -Present Touch Projects! And Student Presentations (Group 4)

5/11 IMA Show!