The shape of computing is changing all the time. See: Arduino, the prefabricated, programmable circuit boards designed to bring nonprogrammers into the world of computing. Electronics maker Adafruit Industries has developed its own Arduino-compatible boards, including one called the Flora—and a few craft projects to go with them. Want to give one a try? Fantastic!
- Conductive fabric: For the buttons.
- Fabric: To make the thing.
- Adafruit Flora: It's under here.
- Conductive thread: To connect the buttons to the Flora.
- Thread: To hold it together.
- Stuffing: To make it fluffy.
- Double-sided iron-on interfacing: i.e., "stuff that will stick the buttons to the controller."
- Water-soluble marker
- Clear nail polish
Iron the double-sided interfacing onto the conductive fabric. Cut out the fabric pattern, then use the water-soluble marker to trace the controller buttons onto the conductive fabric and cut them out. Trace the outlines of the controller onto the regular fabric and cut them out too.
Arrange the buttons on one of the large rectangles according to the circuit diagram and iron them on. Set the Flora in place, and sketch in connections to the buttons using water-soluble marker.
Stitch over the connections using conductive thread, wrapping the ends several times around the connecting pads on the Flora before knotting the thread on the back of the fabric and sealing with clear nail polish.
Download the code for the controller from Adafruit (plus the "capacitive touch-sensing library" from tech-gear company Modern Device) via GitHub. Plug the Flora into the computer and load the code, then open a text editor and test it out: Press a button on the controller, and a letter ought to appear on the screen. If it doesn't, you might have electrical interference caused by traces stitched too close together and you'll have to rip them out and start over.
Stitch the body of the controller together, leaving the seams facing out and a 2- to 3-inch gap for stuffing. Flip the whole thing right-side out, stuff to your desired firmness, and sew the gap shut. Iron some interfacing onto another piece of fabric, cut out the overlay template indicated in the pattern, and iron it in place over the traces and the Flora.
Download this fabric pattern for the body and the circuit diagram for the controls on Adafruit's website.
And that's it! Use the controller to play keyboard-controlled online games, customizing the code as needed to perform any functions necessary.
Adapted from a project for Adafruit.
A version of this article appeared in the April 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine.