Weaving with sound

We were very lucky to have guests at a recent Material Memory session who showed us some pretty cool things we could do with weaving. Emilie Giles from the Open University explains what we got up to:

For session 3 of Material Memory, myself and Janet van der Linden from the Open University ran a session with the group in weaving with eTextiles (yarns, threads, fibres and fabrics which can conduct electricity) and other interesting materials. Using a combination of these, a woven swatch can be created that can trigger sound on a computer, just by touching it.

I had popped in to see the group the week before to demonstrate something which I had made, a woven swatch containing an array of conductive and non-condcutive materials. Everyone took turns to have a go with it, stroking, poking and squeezing it to explore how their actions could change the sound produced, using a circuit board called Arduino and an application called Super-Collider.

We began the workshop by exploring conductive materials: some of these being very metal-like, smelling metallic and feeling rough, whilst others feeling soft like regular thread.


The group were very intrigued as to how a soft object such as this could trigger music and spent some time feeling my example piece, and the different textures within it.

As the Islington museum also have a wonderful archive upstairs, we also drew from their collection of photographs of dance halls, theming our workshop around music as we were using the eTextile to trigger different sounds and songs.

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We showed the participants how they could trigger music files with the conductive materials using a circuit board by Bare Conductive called the Touch Board, sparking conversation about songs which they wanted us to find. One participant also brought in some music for us to listen to which her mother used to sing to her.


Before they began their weaving we asked the participants to go over to a materials table and spend some time feeling different yarns, threads and fibres including jute fibre, milk protein fibre, a selection of yarns, unwashed sheep’s wool and merino fibres. One of the participants commented on how the latter reminded her of a cat. They also chose conductive yarn and fibre to go in their weaving too.


Everyone’s approach to the weaving was different, as well as favouring different materials, everyone’s technique differed too.

Some participant’s followed an over and under technique, whilst others went back on their warp (the yarn they were weaving through) before going onto the next part. Some participants chose to include personal materials, such as fabric and ribbon which they had brought in whilst others stuck to the materials which we had chosen.




The group was very focussed through the session but everyone
took the time to observe and comment on each other’s work.


At the end of the workshop everyone had something which they could take away, either as a square or a rectangle – each piece being different.

The current idea is that hopefully the participants can make their final collaborate piece, a quilt, interactive. Something which incorporates the work which they did today and that can trigger sounds which are personal to them upon being touched. We will be involved with this process and look forward to catching up with the group and their progress later on in the project.

Thank you Emilie and Janet for your fantastic workshop – the group were excited to show us what they had made and talk about how much they enjoyed the weaving activity – a definite winner!

Author: Kara Jarrold

Kara is Head of Arts & Wellbeing at Sense. She leads on arts projects that find ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to improve access to art through the senses.

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