Talking Fabrics – NYU Shanghai – Fall 2017

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
  • “God’s Own Country” and “Kochu Thomban” from The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • The White Porch” by Cathy Song
  • The First Day” from Lost in the City by Edward P Jones (Video)
  • The Sound of Summer Running” from Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

Grading and Assignments:

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

  1. Assignments and Lab Exercises (40%)
  2. Presentations (20%)
  3. Final Project (30%)
  4. Class 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 lecture:

Kate Hartman: Bodies and Beyond: Exploring Technology and the Human Form. Tuesday, October 10, 2017 – 17:00 to 18:30 – Room 1505

And students are expected to attend the following field trips and do the associated writing assignment:

Saturday, 9/23 – 13:30-16:00 pm – Notions Market Field Trip

Saturday, 10/14 – 13:30-16:00 pm – Maker Carnival Field Trip

Saturday, 10/21 – 13:30-16:00 pm – Fabric Market Field Trip

Week 1

9/5 Introduction to course. Review of syllabus. A brief history of fabric technology.

9/7 Introduction to fibers, felting and yarn-making. Introduction/review of basics of electricity. Getting comfortable with the multimeter. Felting fabric. Creating a circuit.

Week 2

9/12 Yarns and Threads. Introduction to hand sewing and embroidery with conductive yarns and threads.

9/14 More circuits. Hand sewing and embroidery basics. Simple circuits on fabric.

Week 3

9/19 Lecture: Introduction to Machine sewing.

9/21 Student Presentations (Group 1)

Week 4

9/26 Basic weaving. Warp and weft.Work on your assignments.

9/28 Introduction to Illustrator. Laser cutting hand looms and weaving a simple fabric.Basic weaving. Warp and weft.

10/2-10/6 – FALL BREAK

Week 5

10/10 – Introduction to Illustrator.

10/12 – Guest Lecture – Kate Hartman

Week 6

10/17 Finishing textiles. Fusibles, Vinyl, Computer-assisted embroidery, and dyes.

10/19 Synthetic materials. Conductive fabrics. Fabric sensors.

Week 7

10/24 Work on Sight Fabrics

10/26 Sight Fabrics Due. Prepare to Present.

Week 8

10/31 – Integrating textiles with microcontrollers.

11/2 – Working with microcontrollers

Week 9

11/7 – Sewing patterns. Making 3D items from patterns.

11/9 – Student Presentations (Group 2)

Week 10

11/14 Designing wearables.

11/16 Making multiple microcontrollers speak with each other. Touch Fabrics Concepts.

Week 11

11/19 (Sunday) Work on Touch fabrics.

11/21 Present Touch Fabrics


Week 12

11/28 Networked Fabrics

11/30 Student Presentations (Group 3)

Week 13-14

12/5 – One on one meetings Part 1. Work on final projects.

12/7 – One on one meetings Part 2. Work on final projects.

12/12 – Present Final Projects!

12/14 – Student Presentations (Group 4)

12/15 IMA Show!