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Switch Reader Creates A Skirt Full Of Stars


Shannon of PolyMath Design Lab  is a 30-year old designer in Oregon and a follower if I Heart Switch. I found her through her comments on this blog and was just facinated by what I found. Not only is she a talented designer in jewelry and unique products, Shannon has been playing around with her first electronic skirt (as you see above). I decided we must interview Shannon and let everyone on Switch see what an amazing project can be done by a first time electronic fashion crafter. The interview, video of the skirt, and more images are after the Break.

The skirt uses the Lilypad Arduino platform, developed for integrating electronics into textiles. There’s a purple organza underlayer where Lilypad main circuit board and a power supply are sewn, then an accelerometer hangs from a ribbon to allow good movement data to be used.  The Lilypad receives the measurements of the accelerometer’s movement, and translates them into color output for tricolor LEDs around the waistband of the skirt. She used sparkle fiber optic cable to soften the light and alllow it to flow more evenly over the skirt. You can find out more about the skirt and the prcoess on her blog here:

Skirt Full Of Stars from Shannon Henry on Vimeo.

ALISON: Shanan, thank you so much for sharing your ideas on Switch. Had I not seen you on the comments section, I may not have ever found your wonderful work. I want to know how did you first learn about I Heart Switch?

SHANNON:I think it was via the Make or Craft blogs... they were really how I got my introduction to the whole idea of wearable electronics as something an individual could make. I found out about the Switch Craft book first and picked it up, then started following the SWITCH blog.

ALISON: What was your inspiration for making a light up skirt?

SHANNON:Oh my, I'm not really sure. I definitely have a bit of a magpie nature. I also tend to learn about a technology and then immediately start coming up with ideas on how to use it. So finding out about the existence of the lilypad arduino lead directly -- as in probably within a week or two -- to my thinking "wouldn't it be cool to have a skirt that changed colors as I moved?!" And since I thought it would be fun both to make and to have, and I knew this was a field that I was interested in learning more about, I started looking into what I'd need to make it happen. If we're talking inspiration more as influence, I also was a student of tribal bellydance for a few years, so the idea of clothing that responds to a dancer's movement owes something to that.

ALISON: How long have you been playing with electronics? What was the first electronic project that you did?

SHANNON:About two years ago I picked up a kit for a little sound-responsive light circuit because I wanted to learn to solder.

ALISON: How long have you been sewing and doing fashion? Do you make other clothing, or just electronic?

SHANNON: I actually come to textiles more through knitting, which I've been doing for about seven years now. When it comes to sewing I've done as much in the realm of decorative as actual construction. One thing I'd really like to do this year is get more comfortable with my sewing machine - at this point I'm pretty much exclusively hand-sewing, which definitely slows me down.

ALISON: Where do you plan to wear the skirt? What do you think people will say?

SHANNON: I've already worn it to a couple of concerts, and it will come with me to music festivals and hopefully to Maker Faire. Response has been really positive - people think it's a lot of fun. The fiber optics are great because they spread the light all around the skirt while keeping it from getting overwhelming.

ALISON: What was the trickiest part of the skirt to make?

SHANNON: The tricolor LEDs and accelerometer require 4 and 5 leads each. Sewing that many conductive paths close together can be tricky, especially avoiding having them touch each other and short as the fabric moves during wear, and avoiding lots of leapfrogging paths when connecting a number of LEDs. That's why I made the grosgrain ribbon cables - the ribbon has enough structure that the paths don't end up connecting, but allows plenty of movement for the accelerometer to get good, varied readings. That was also interesting to me, actually, finding that when I had the accelerometer attached directly to a hip it didn't take all that widely varied of measurements - hanging it from a few inches of ribbon amplified the movements enough to get a good range in the readings.

ALISON: What do you have planned next?

SHANNON: I'll be working through another version of the Skirt Full of Stars, making a couple of design tweaks and documenting the steps to share on my blog. I'll also be making a sound responsive shirt for my husband. And I may explore the connection between electronicinteractives and bellydance a bit further.


Beautifully done! Thanks for sharing.


Sunday, May 23, 2010 - 20:55

Just gorgeous!

Saturday, May 22, 2010 - 21:08