Craft Connects Book

Here is the final version of the Craft Connects book! Play the video link to see it in action. I am especially happy with how the knitted triangles came together. The cover looks fantastic, and when you link the letters C R A F T to the knitted triangle labelled “connect”, you trigger sound-bytes from Farnborough residents about why they like to get involved in crafts.

The book was exhibited at Farnham Maltings Festival of Crafts in October, and will be on display at Farnborough library for their 40th Anniversary celebration in December.

Plug in your book?! When the battery gets low, you can charge it using a micro USB.

Knitted book cover

To make the knitted book cover I had the the help of the Farnborough knit and natter group, and the Nepalese craft group. Both groups worked together to make loads of triangles, which I then stitched together.

English and Nepalese casting on techniques are quite different, and the two groups learned from each other.

I laid the triangles out in ordered rows according to size. We made all of these (above) in one session. I didn’t think we were going to have enough to cover the book, until a library staff member delivered this package (below) -a carrier bag full of neatly knitted triangles from the nepalese craft group. Amazing!

And finally, I stitched “C R A F T” to the cover. I used conductive thread to make the crouching stitch, which formed the shape of each letter. Each letter was then connected to a trigger pin. I also stitched “connects” to a triangle which is connected to the ground pin (see my diagram to look at how this related to the other circuits). When the “connects” triangle connects with any of the C R A F T letters, it triggers an mp3.

Stitching Circuits

To connect the hardware with the book I used conductive thread. I chose to buy it from kitronic in the end, as it has a relatively low resistance, it does not unravel easily and a good price!

First I stitched it to felt.

Look at the messy back! I hid some of the wires under the felt.

Then, I stitched both the circuits and the felt to the book, and connected to the conductive threads I had already sewn into the spine (see post on binding).

A diagram of the connections (above) and the finished stitching (below).

B(f)reak out!

Ohhh. look at the (kind of neat, almost good, getting there, bit on the long side) soldering!

Another tricky part of the process was connecting to the pins -i.e. making a breakout board for conductive thread. After a skype “consultation” with Seb and Hannah, who both work on a really exciting glove project and are experts in e-textiles, I decided to solder wires to the live pins, and then padded them with felt to stop any breaks or shorting. 

I then made loops on the wires to connect the conductive thread to (inspired by the wire-loop/thread in this example).

Book binding with circuits

Binding the book was no easy task. Originally, I had planned to bind using coptic technique which I had learned from one of the studio technicians when studying at Leeds College of Art. This would have worked by binding the book as usual, whilst also working the circuits into the back of each page with a similar stich. This did not work.

So, instead, I used a concertina fold, inspired by an old favourite of manual of mine: Non-Adhesive Binding: Books Without Paste or Glue (although, I used both paste and glue!). By creating a concertina spine I could sew the circuits along the width of the spine, and they would stay very firmly on their own tracks -minimising any interference. This also strengthened the spine of the book, and made it is easy to fully open pages. 

Paper Switches

So we have lots of creative work by members of Farnborough library, we have some stories and sound bites, and we have a small device to play these back. Now to put them all together and make the book!

We made 18 sound recordings in total, and I saved these recordings with the file name 001-018. These are stored in the mp3 trigger device. I then made 18 circuits and connected them to the pins 1-18. When closed, each circuit triggers the corresponding sound recording -i.e. recording #018 is triggered when the circuit connected to pin #18 is closed. I based all the switches on traditional pop-up techniques. Here are a few:

Hacking Speakers

For the speakers in the Farnborough community book, I used some travel speakers -they are cheaper, but much better quality than the speakers you can buy for projects like this. the only draw back is you need to hack them apart. If you try this make sure you buy speakers with screws! I bought some on-line and had to send them back because they had none. Boy, I really screwed up that order!

So, in order to get this:

compact like this:

We had to get rid of all this:

and do a little bit of this:

Now the speaker is ready to fit nice and snug inside the book.

Putting the MP3 together

I am *incredibly* excited about adding a mini MP3 trigger to the community book I am making. What this means is that whilst making the artwork for the pages of book, we can also record short sound bites and then play them back in the book through some mini speakers. The trigger has 18 tracks, each track is connected to a pin. It plays the track when the circuit to corresponding pin is closed (i.e. when you press a button in the book).

Of course I have not been doing this on my tod, I have had help from (the brilliant) Seb Madgwick, who is an expert in these matters. In fact, this was like a walk in the park in comparison to the kind of projects he usually works on (but fun I hope!).

This is the MP3 we are using. It is a standard MP3 trigger that you can get from Sparkfun. It’s nice and slim and will fit very neatly in the book. I have drawn the diagram to show what each bit does. I’m afraid I am not sure what all the parts of the circuit board do (see digram ->”not sure”). I am assuming the processing is happening in these centipedesque microchips, but will find out for shiz and let you know. 

We customised the board by changing the power source to 3.7volts. Seb is an fantastic solderer and gave me some good pointers (yes, I soldered these bits!).

We also replaced the the low dropout regulator (pictured below), because it was not working properly with the new power source we added. Well. Hacktually Seb did this as it was pretty fiddly as you can see.