Exploring the E in E-textiles

In the face of growing and endemic social conditions such as loneliness and social isolation Textile Connections is a site dedicated to the exploration of the use of textiles, soft materials and electronics in enabling people – particularly older adults – in feeling more socially connected to their family, peers and wider community. This is part of the PhD research project by Sara Nevay, a current PhD student with Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design at University of Dundee, Scotland.

I have long been interested in incorporating metals into fabrics (my undergraduate collection used metal fastenings and tools to dye and embellish clothing) but until recently, in undertaking my PhD, I had not had the opportunity to explore the conductive capacities and design opportunity offered by combining these two materials. With textiles historically acknowledged as communicators and the making of textiles acting as a vehicle for social interaction, my practice-led PhD works with older adults who may be vulnerable to loneliness to imagine and co-design possible future means of enabling and supporting feelings of social connectedness. In combining the social practice of crafting textiles with electronics and technology, we aim to create novel and enlightening tools for interaction to reveal different ways of communicating and connecting meaningfully with others.

To date we have explored and played with simple soft switches and e-textile prototypes that have helped us begin to develop our own ideas for e-textile social tools. I led a set of ‘Social Textiles Inspiration Workshops’ between May and September 2017 to explore and develop some of our ideas. We’re playing with textiles, Arduino, Lilypad, Adafruit and Bare Conductive, to name a few, in giving life to these ideas. (Something my cat Tasha – pictured being very helpful below- is certainly excited about as she loves the at-home testing sessions!) We’ll keep you posted.


Thank you to Dr Sara Robertson for lending me her ototo board and to Loraine Clarke for the embroidery inspiration (second row, middle image).