Introduction: Analog Fabric Joypad

Picture of Analog Fabric Joypad
How to make an "analog" input device from fabric and a few other necessary materials.

"Analog" in parenthesis because, although it is made up of 4 analog inputs, the only analog transition between the directions (up, right, down and left) comes from the buffering material (in this case 3cm thick squishy packing material) that absorbs and spreads the pressure from the user's pushing, creating a gradual transition between the inputs.

This Fabric Joypad does not need to be used with the drawing application seen in the video, it basically supplies you with analog outputs that sense which direction (part of the circle) pressure is being applied to.

If you are interested, the drawing application etchAsketch was written in Processing and can be downloaded from the link in STEP 8.

All pictures can be seen on Flickr in my Analog Fabric Joypad Set

Step 1: Materials and Tools

Picture of Materials and Tools

MATERIALS you will need for the Joypad:

- Conductive thread - 117/17 2ply (
- Ex-static - plastic from the black bags used to package sensitive electronic components
- 6 mm thick neoprene with jersey on both sides (
- 3 cm thick squishy packing material (or anything else you can think of)
- 5 metal snaps
- Stretchy fabric
- Regular thread

TOOLS you will need for the Joypad:

- Sewing needle
- Scissors
- Cutter (forgot this in picture)
- Ruler
- Compass
- Pen and paper or cardboard

Step 2: Pattern Making and Tracing

Picture of Pattern Making and Tracing

Using the compass, draw a circle with a 5.5cm radius on the paper or cardboard. Using scissors cut the circle out and mark the center. Divide the circle through the center into four equal sections. Give these sections about .5 cm space between themselves, 1.5 cm to the edge and 1cm to the center. Cut out these inner sections with the cutter.

Now trace this circle onto the neoprene three times:

1 x TOP: just the outline
1 x INPUTS: as it is (outline and sections). Remember to leave a little tag that is not included in the pattern!
1 x VCC: outline and inner circle line (see picture). Remember to leave a little tag that is not included in the pattern!

Now cut out these circles. Just the outlines (remember the tabs!) and nothing from the inside!

Step 3: Sewing Inputs and Vcc

Picture of Sewing Inputs and Vcc

Thread the needle with conductive thread and take the INPUTS piece of neoprene. Start to sew back and forth in cake-slice manner inside one of the sections. When the section is full, sew to the tab and attach a snap with the same piece of conductive thread.
With separate pieces of conductive thread do the same for all four sections. Make sure that the individual threads never touch each other.

Now take the VCC piece of neoprene and one long piece of conductive thread. Sew back and forth (see pattern in picture) with this to cover the space inside the inner circle. Using same piece of thread sew snap to tab.

Step 4: Cutting More Circles

Picture of Cutting More Circles

Using the pattern circle, trance it's outline on the ex-static. Use scissors to cut out the circle a few millimeters smaller the outline.
Also trace the circle to the squishy packing material and cut this out using the cutter to get a straight edge.
Now all the individual layers are finished. Before continuing to create an edge and sewing everything together, we will want to test the inputs, to make sure there are no mistakes.

Step 5: Multimeter Test

Picture of  Multimeter Test

To test the individual inputs, layer the circles as follows:

- TOP neoprene
- Squishy packing material
- VCC neoprene
- Ex-static
- INPUTS neoprene

now you can either use a multimeter and check the inputs individually by connecting each input to the VCC in tern and when applying pressure to the top of the connected input you should get a change in voltage of a few hundred Ohm (the harder you press the less resistance).

If you have a constant connection or no connection at all then you have a problem. Check all your connections and make sure the ex-static is in place.

If everything is working. Great!

Step 6: Making the Connection to Arduino

Picture of Making the Connection to Arduino

This step shows how to make the connection to the Arduino. If you don't intend to hook the Analog Fabric Joypad up to the Arduino, then you can skip this step. Otherwise I recommend making the connection before completing the Joypad, in case any problems occur.

MATERIALS you will need to make Arduino connection:

- 4 x 1K Ohm resistor
- Perfboard with copper line patterns (6x6 holes)
- Rainbow wire with 6 cables
- About 25 cm of cable
- Solder

- Ardunio Serial USB Board (
- USB cable
- 5 crocodile connectors

TOOLS you will need to make Arduino connection:

- Soldering iron
- Third hand
- Pliers or some kind of wire cutter

Solder everything together as seen in the pictures and the schematic.
That was easy. Smile

Step 7: Completion, Sewing It All Together

Picture of Completion, Sewing It All Together

To keep everything in place we need to cut a strip of stretch fabric that is as long as the circumference of the circle plus 1.5 cm seam allowance, and as wide as all the layers together (in my case 4.8cm) plus 1.5cm seam allowance. I'm writing this down, because it is possible to make the circle bigger and the buffering material thicker or thinner. You'll just have to do this calculation:

RADIUS = 11 cm
PI = 3.14159

--> 36 x 6 cm for side strip

Start by sewing both of the shorter ends of the strip together. Then attach one edge to the INPUTS circle of neoprene and the other edge to the TOP circle of neoprene (as seen in photos).

Step 8: Hooking Up to the Drawing Application

Picture of Hooking Up to the Drawing Application

If you want to try out your Joypad with the drawing application, as seen in the introduction to this Instructable. Then you will need to be using an Ardunio and have Processing ( installed on your computer.

For Arduino microcontroller code and Processing visualization code please look here >>



champi91 (author)2014-11-08

Hi, this is a great tutorial! I have also worked on your pressure sensor matrix. The link for the code appears to be broken, do you have these codes posted somewhere else? Thanks!

agrippatheperson (author)2011-01-22

>"Analog" in parenthesis because

" " <-- not parenthesis!
( ) <-- parenthesis.

Comment FTW!

ldubnitzky (author)2011-04-04

Absolutely amazing, original, and intuitive design.

I was just wondering- is there any way something like this can be modified to have more sensor points and have smoother input (as in faster signal + not as much pressure needed)?

colacarp (author)2010-11-02

Thank you very much with your extensive archive of tutorials! It has made things much easier for my own soft sensors!!!

colacarp (author)colacarp2010-11-10

here is what my collaborator and I did...

We created three single analog output (unlike the 4 that the joypad has) pressure sensors which we then hooked up to a lilypad arduino. We then sent the data into Max/MSP to generate MIDI values for Ableton.

GenViper (author)2010-11-08

Ya know, I have to say, for someone involved in making soft circuits, you're pretty hard-core awesome :)

Such a wonderful, professional look and quality you bring to both the hardware and software examples; enough to make this EE weep tears of joy!

raiderxx (author)2008-02-24

I've been doing some research, because I am very interested in making one to use at a help center I word at, but I figured you would probably know more about it than me: How much do you think you spent on making this? You can assume I already have a soldering gun. Or is this something I would have to make in bulk to make it affordable? Thank you!

Plusea (author)raiderxx2008-02-25

... and about affordability... seeing as most of the materials you'll need come in larger quantities than needed for one pair, you can definitely make more for the same price. it's the hand-made production time that really makes them "expensive".

colacarp (author)Plusea2010-11-02

I've been trying to find ways to cut down costs as some of these materials can get pretty pricy. I found some neoprene at a fabric warehouse near where I live, and I found some velostat bags for free- just ask places that deal with computer parts, you never know when someone want to throw some away.

Plusea (author)raiderxx2008-02-25

seeing as i was still experimenting while making it, it took me almost a whole day to fabricate both slippers. and i imagine it might also take the good part of a day to follow the instructions. the one weak-point of the slippers is where the wire connects to the thread in the heel of the slippers. i really need to find a better solution for this connection, which was also the trickiest part in the making. maybe you will come up with some alternative solutions and can share the results? that would be great. i'd also love to see some pictures of the slippers you make. if you have any more questions, please ask.

raiderxx (author)raiderxx2008-02-24

I forgot to mention what a great idea this is. Keep up the amazing work!

darkmuskrat (author)2008-02-01

This is really original and cool. Though it does have somewhat limited uses.

colacarp (author)darkmuskrat2010-11-02

If you hook it up to Max MSP/Jitter, the uses multiply...

awkrin (author)2008-06-07

looks really cool! I wish I had an arduino..

dunnos (author)awkrin2009-05-08

buy one! they are only $30!

KarateLover21 (author)dunnos2010-09-19

or even make one for cheaper

jon01 (author)2010-09-09

What's the point of it?

harborcity13 (author)jon012010-09-09

First thing I think of is the original arcade Street Fighter from the mid 80's. Instead of six buttons it had two large pads you punched/pushed. The harder, the more fierce the punch/kick. Soooooo I guess it could be used for disabled gamers/pc users, the very young or old, or ? You're only limited by your imagination.

freerunnin1 (author)2009-04-06

im guessing you like fabric tech seen as most of your instructables are made with fabric... :P

Cerafem (author)2008-05-26

( and ) are parentheses, " " are quotations. (little things like that bother me, sorry) otherwise, nice instructable.

Plusea (author)Cerafem2008-05-27

I don't get it but. okay

Cerafem (author)Plusea2008-05-27

"Analog" in parenthesis because... (intro)

SpuriousGrowth (author)2008-03-09

I'm building an analog touch sensor currently, but am having difficulty finding the right dielectric material. I had hoped that the silver or pink antistatic bags would work similarly, but I haven't had any success. I've verified with a meter that the pads on either side of the fabric are working, but no voltage is passing between them. When I replace the antistatic bag with a known conductive material, such as my hand, I do see a charge across the two pads. Any suggestions for other materials? I do have quite a bit of copper foil somewhere, but I suspect this is too conductive.

Plusea (author)SpuriousGrowth2008-03-09

I've also found that the silver and green anti-static bags don't work to create a pressure sensitive variable resistance between two conductive layers. In the Analog Fabric Joy i used the black anti static bags ( I've also found that the EX-STATIC™ CONDUCTIVE FABRIC from LessEMF works, though it is very sensitive, charging and discharging current even when no pressure is applied. What I also thought would be cool, is if there would be some kind of anti static paint or liquid plastic. I think that polyaniline products might work, but i really don't know for sure (

RetroPlayer (author)Plusea2008-03-26

Also look at anti-static foam, which ICs come pushed into. There is a nice big piece on the bottom of motherboards when you buy them. People have been using them for pressure sensors for years. They also make good flex sensor for a data glove.

SpuriousGrowth (author)2008-03-09

I think I just need to search for some of the ex-static at one of the local outlets for creative materials. I can't see purchasing 250 of these. After your comment about the painted coating I remembered that I had some acrylic containing iron oxide and hematite, and another gold pigment that I thought might contain brass (I think it is really just yellow pigment + mica), but both seem to be non conductors. Another thought I had was just using an interlocking maze pattern with the conductive thread to measure the galvanic skin response plus pressure, but results of this would be less consistent and the signal very low. Might be applicable to a sensor that needs to be embedded in light fabric. I have an idea for an input buffer that automatically adjusts the threshold and is able to detect spikes and shorts. But depending on how the sensor actually behaves this may or may not work.

Dave the Builder (author)2008-02-15

What's that music playing in the background?

Plusea (author)Dave the Builder2008-02-15

The music if from Karate. I forgot to turn it off before making the video, and couldn't figure out an easy way to delete the audio before uploading it. I find it very disturbing. Hmmm

fiezi (author)2008-02-07

You should make a huge pillow out of this where people can lie on and play racing games with - like wipeout. That would be super!

berserk (author)2008-02-02

Hmm... maybe I am just ignorant on the tech gadget front, but I would have liked to see somethign about what a joypad is at the beginning of this instructable. It sounds neat...

Plusea (author)berserk2008-02-02

joypad was intended as a play on "joystick", but it does actually exist as an alternative term for gamepad - which is an input device for games

Noodle93 (author)berserk2008-02-02

You don't know what a joypad is?

GorillazMiko (author)2008-02-02

Really good job. I wish I was smart enough to make this. Cool job, imagine a bigger one! :-O

henrywfstone (author)2008-02-02

nice! if you could make this sort of bigger (like the size of a chair cushion) then this could potentially be a really good alternative input device for computer games.

alexsolex (author)2008-02-02

nice job ! Imagine, you don't have arms anymore.... just make a seat of your "mouse" and sit on it ! You have an armless or handless mouse pointer... +1 for originality

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