electronic and computational artifacts.
For engineers this is an invitation
to include those new materials and
processes in their practice. For
crafters it is a potential entry point to
electronic making, recognizing their
specific knowledge as valuable to the
field. For students it can provide a new
constructionist approach to technology
and engineering. And it is a universal
challenge to predominant assumptions
about engineering and crafting practices
as they symbolically and literally
move closer together, making way for
diverse materials and knowledge to be
incorporated into electronic making
and the objects produced.
This ongoing research has been initiated
in collaboration with Ebru Kurbak,
Hannah Perner-Wilson, and Mika
Satomi as part of Stitching Worlds,
an artistic research project funded by
the Program for Arts-Based Research
(PEEK) of the Austrian Science Fund
(F WF) at the University of Applied
Arts Vienna. I especially want to
thank Daniela Rosner and Geraldine
Fitzpatrick for feedback on draft
versions of this text.
1. Beaudry, M.C. Findings: The Material
Culture of Needlework and Sewing. Yale
Univ. Press, New Haven, CT, 2006.
2. Kurbak, E. and Posch, I. The Knitted Radio.
3. Posch, I. and Kurbak, E. Crafted Logic:
Towards hand-crafting a computer. Proc.
of the 2016 CHI Conference Extended
Abstracts on Human Factors in Computing
Systems. ACM, New York, 2016.
4. McCarty, C. and McQuaid, M.
Introduction. Tools: Extending our Reach.
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design
Museum, New York, N Y, 2015.
5. Adamson, G. The Invention of Craft.
Bloomsbury Academic, London, 2013.
6. Schön, D. A. The Reflective Practitioner:
How Professionals Think in Action. Basic
Books, New York, N Y, 1983.
Irene Posch ( www.ireneposch.net) is
currently the key researcher within Stitching
Worlds, an artistic research project at the
University of Applied Arts Vienna. She is also
a Ph.D. candidate at the Institute for Design
and Assessment of Technologies at the Vienna
University of Technology.
comfort of working with devices of a
common shape and recognizable form,
and the ergonomic and functional
qualities embedded therein, as
well as for the social and cultural
associations evoked. These include
being widely recognizable as belonging
to an inherently female and often
undervalued trade [ 1].
Unplugged, the connectable tools
are usable as conventional needlework
tools. The changes introduced to their
form are small but explicit signifiers of
electrical function. This physical form,
deviant from existing norms, provokes
a rethinking of the possibilities and
constraints of these tools, especially the
materials and skills assumed relevant
in the design and development of
electronic technologies, and the objects
and interactions expected to evolve
I have been using these new
electronic textile tools regularly for a
few months. Since then, they have taken
on an essential role in my practical work.
A typical routine would be to embroider
a connection, test it with the seam-ripper probe, and if the multimeter
indicates a wrong connection, directly
cut the sewing, or parts of it, in order
to the reach the desired functionality.
The seam ripper serves a dual role,
incorporating the qualitative needs of
a textile utensil as well as those of an
electronic probe. This also means that
the crafting and testing are no longer
separate tasks, but rather combined in a
practice that acknowledges the material
mastery and electronic functionality as
equally contributing elements.
In a different scenario (Figure
4), I use the multimeter with pin
probes, affixing them to the two end
points of a not-yet-crafted conductive
textile connection. While stitching
the connection, the multimeter
provides continuous information
about its current electrical value.
The immediate feedback allows
instant action, facilitating an
aesthetic-driven workflow to reach
precise electronic results. Similar
scenarios are possible for other textile
techniques as well. When crocheting,
the multimeter can give direct
feedback about what loop the next
stitch should go through to establish
the correct connection, or when the
desired resistance value is reached.
These scenarios reframe the value
of textile work as being not purely
decorative, but rather fundamental to
the engineering of electronic functions.
Rather than realizing a technical design
and then, in a separate step, adding
textiles to it, or realizing a textile
design and then adding electronics,
they consider both disciplines and their
corresponding bodies of knowledge as
mutually dependent and simultaneously
This process of research through the
design, discussion, and active use of
these tools is an ongoing inquiry into
the relationship with the technologies
surrounding us. Tools shape our
interactions when making and using
technologies, taking a central role in
what is considered possible or even
desirable. New tools point to new
work processes, skills, experiences,
and insights, becoming valuable in
the context of electronic making. This
extends to new potential outcomes
regarding the tactile and visual qualities
of electronic and digital technologies
The scenarios of use I have described
here demonstrate the potential of
blending the tacit knowledge embedded
in manual crafts with explicit electronic
goals. The tools allow the creation
of textile electronics in a process of
reflection in action [ 6]. Responding
through genuine craft routines to
electrical necessities, they render
the making process into an active
conversation with the material at hand.
They aesthetically and functionally
enable us to consider textile crafts as
What if electronic textile tools and
materials were part of the standard
equipment for electronic making?
The connectable textile tools do not
exclude the electronic functionality
expected from multimeter probes, but
they are specifically inclusive of textile
materiality. While they would still
be perfectly usable in most hardware
electronic applications, their forms
allude to textiles being a legitimate
material and process for the creation of
DOI: 10.1145/3038227 COPYRIGH T HELD BY AUTHOR. PUBLICATION RIGHTS LICENSED TO ACM. $15.00