Normally when I dye fabric I just dump the powder and salt in the washing machine and let the chemistry and engineering do what they do best. But it's wasteful, especially when all you want to dye is one or two t-shirts. So I decided to dip my toe into the domain of hand-dye.

I had two fine white cotton t-shirts to hand; one with blue and red print on the front and black on the back, the other with green and orange print on the front and black on the back. Clearly what they needed was purple. (I have been accused of thinking everything needs to be more purple, but see nothing wrong with this.) I found a nice dark, deep, "Intense Violet" colour. Perfection.

Perhaps doing it at the hackerspace was a mistake. There were many people to help, but largely it resulted in distraction and mass mis-reading of the instructions. We did it 'wrong'; you're supposed add the dye-water to the salt-water! But, t-shirts got dyed, so it can't have been that wrong.

Pictures )

But, they're still cotton t-shirts, so there's no problem with trying again. And the coverage is nice and even, I especially like how even the gaps in-between the printed bits took the colour just as well. Maybe I'll get a better colour next time, if you know, I actually follow the instructions. But there will be more modding of these t-shirts first. Like adding of waists, and maybe lowering the necklines. Though that's a task for another day!
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Bear with me, this is going to be a long post.

This Saturday just gone, July 14th, was Dublin's first Mini Maker Faire! It was held in the Science Gallery and on the Physics Lawn of Trinity College. I was there as a part of TOG, the Dublin maker/hacker-space. It was a fantastic day. So many people showed up who already knew a lot and came up with interesting questions and ideas. Some people were just wandering through Trinity like they do every weekend and were a little confounded to find us there. Yet others showed up wearing ESOF lanyards! I'm sad I didn't get to see much of the other makers or exhibits, things were just so hectic! It certainly seemed like everyone was having a good time.

Maker Faire )

TOG's new tshirt )


Arduino IR receiver )

LED matrix top )

Constellation Quilts )

Well, I fairly collapsed with exhaustion about 4pm (missing the after-party and everything), but up until that point it was a great day and I'm already looking forward to next year!
Previously whenever I painted a tshirt I bought dedicated tubes of fabric paint. This stuff is thick, plasticy, and good for 3D effects. But it is too stiff to be comfortable when used over large areas. While browsing the Art & Hobby Shop I came across a wonderful discovery. Daler Rowney System 3 Textile Medium. System 3 is their acrylic range, and to make fabric paint all you do is mix these acrylics in 1-to-1 ratio with this medium! Voilá, any fabric paint colour you ever wanted is now attainable. (Also, the textile medium is specifically formulated to work with screen-printing, but can be used in any method for application to textiles.)

I can get excited. Very excited. And some people have taken to telling me to "Enhance your calm". (Guess the film?) I decided it would be nice to own my passion, and put this phrase on a tshirt. Only, I don't know anything about printing. So I found myself a book. Printing by Hand. It's a lovely book with a spiral spine that covers Stamping, Stenciling, and Screen Printing. Well then, let's get started.

Tools and process )

Only thing left to do is fix the paint. Once dry (allow ~24 hours) heat-fix the paint with an iron; iron (turn off steam) on the reverse of the design, with scrap fabric on the otherside to avoid staining your ironing board. Then wait a few days before washing.

Your stencil is reusable, and the thickness of the plastic also makes it very durable. Now that the hard-work is done I can stencil away on as many things as I like. Obsession, here I come.
I like listening to music. I find when navigating the city and its public transport that having portable music is a must. However, when you're subjected to very changeable weather there are often problems with trailing wires, bag straps, jumpers, coats, buttons, zips, and passing umbrellas. Not to mention having wires catch on the most awkward of things even in fine weather. (Which is particularly painful when wearing those wrap-ear headphones.) Every one of my portable CD-players smashed to the ground because of this, and smaller MP3-players have been known to go flying through the air. Wouldn't it be great, I thought to myself, if I could wear my headphones as easily as I wear a tshirt. *grin*

- Headphones break all the time, at one stage I was buying a new pair every two weeks. And sometimes you just want something different. So, I want to make my headphones replaceable, just something I plug into my tshirt. This requires a female stereo audio jack. Okay, but how am I going to attach it to my tshirt? Aha! Finally I've found a use for the Lilypad mini protoboards!
Female audio jack construction... )

- Now, you have your jack to plug your headphones into. I'm going to put this on my shoulder, to keep the wires away from my body, where they have the habit of getting caught on things. But my music player will be somewhere around my hip/waist, in a pocket or bag. Okay, so I need to connect the two together, and I don't want wires... Ah, conductive thread! So, I came up with a design to suit having three trails of conductive thread (sleeve, ring, tip) across my tshirt.
T-shirt design... )

- Okay, this last bit could have been done with conductive thread as well, but I reckon this part will be subjected to a lot of wear-and-tear, and wire comes pre-insulated, which makes our life easier (the small insides of the male audio jack is very likely to result in shorts). And, as long as it's removable the rest should still be washable. This bit, being the plug into our music player.
Male audio jack construction... )

- Done. Now plug in music player, and headphones. And enjoy!
Final product. )

You may want to add some extra things, like an inside pocket to hold your music player if it's small, or a loop of fabric to keep the wires from annoying you. But overall I'm loving this! It's comfortable, much less likely to catch on anything, and there's only a slight drop in volume level. Plus I think it's pretty cool to have audio waves carried through silver-plated thread across your body!
It's not just blinky LEDs and microcontrollers that amuse me. Recently I've gotten into modifying tshirts. And since school I've had a thing for chemistry. Luckily for me the two go together quite nicely. I present to you 'smart' pigments:

Ta-da! )

I reckon it's pretty snazzy, and at least now I have something to wear to the AGM. Oh, the possibilities for the future :)