Three Fabric Buttons

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Introduction: Three Fabric Buttons

About: My work combines conductive materials and craft techniques to develop new styles of building electronics that emphasize materiality and process. I create working prototypes to demonstrate the kinds of electr...
These super simple fabric buttons are soft, fun to push and can come in handy when building various prototypes. They all share the same ground or plus, depending on what you hook what up to.



I am also selling these handmade fabric buttons via Etsy. Although it is much cheaper to make your own, purchasing one will help me support my prototyping and development costs >>
http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=5178109'''

Step 1: Materials and Tools

MATERIALS:
- 1.5mm thick neoprene from http://www.sedochemicals.com
- Stretch conductive fabric from http://www.lessemf.com
also see http://cnmat.berkeley.edu/resource/stretch_conductive_fabric
- Fusible interfacing from local fabric store or
also see http://www.shoppellon.com
- Thread
- Pen and paper
(- LEDs and crocodile clips for testing)

TOOLS:
- Sewing needle
- Scissors
- Iron
(- Multimeter)

Step 2: Create a Stencil

Following these instructions you will be able to make fabric buttons whatever shape you like and it you don't need to make three, you can make just one or more by following the basic idea.

So for the first step you need to either recreate this stencil by tracing the in- or outside of your sticky tape roll to a strip of paper... or pick another object to trace...

Once you have your stencil, trace it two times onto the neoprene (or you can use any other fabric you want to work with. Felt also works well. And cut things out.

Then trace the stencil one more time onto the foam and cut this piece out slightly (2-3 mm) smaller than the tracing.

Step 3: Fusing Conductive Fabric

Fuse your fusible to one side of your conductive fabric and then trace pieces with tabs for each of your buttons and one larger piece with one tab for the common side. See the photos.

Cut these out and then fuse them to your pieces of neoprene. Make sure that none of your button tabs come out in the same place as your common tab. In the next step we will put a piece of perforated foam between these two conductive fabric fused neoprene layers and, when nothing is pushed, none of the individual pieces of conductive fabric should be touching.

Step 4: Making Holes

Using a hole making tool or pinching the foam with your fingernails, pluck or stance out holes either at regular intervals if you would like the buttons to be sensitive everywhere, or specifically in the center, or wherever you want the sensitive spot(s) to be. Holes should not be too big, 5-7 mm in diameter is usually great.

Step 5: Sewing Thing Together

Layer things together and sew around the edges, bringing the two layers of neoprene together (conductive fabric sides facing inwards) and sandwiching the perforated foam in between. Don't sew things too tightly or else you might create enough pressure to initially push the button(s) constantly.

Step 6: LED Test

Hook up the common tab to your battery plus pole and each of your LED minus legs to the battery minus pole. Then hook up each of the LED plus legs to the individual button tabs.

Now, whichever button you press should light up the corresponding LED.



If an LED is constantly lit then you have a bad permanent connection. Try to see if you can see where two layers of conductive fabric might be touching?

If your LEDs don't light up at all:
- Make sure the battery is strong enough to power them all (touch LED directly to battery)
- Make sure your LEDs are oriented the right way (plus to plus, minus to minus)
- Did you forget to make holes in the foam?

ENJOY!
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    47 Comments

    Thank you SO MUCH for this! I added some mods that will help me on future projects ––> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pzC5_cCLkPI
    1 – battery to the left so that I don't have to run power to the buttons AND so that this becomes a portable circuit tester

    2 – indicator lights on the buttons so that when I'm testing I'll always know if the battery and button fabric connections are sound – it complicated the process as I had to stitch in the negative current throughout the buttons, but it was really quick and I love playing with them.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS!

    1 reply

    thank you for linking to the video! was really nice to see your work.

    Hi! This i'ble is really cool. I am trying to make the same on my own. Could you please tell me how is the pressure vs voltage calibrated? Is it possible to program the controller without calibrating it? Please help me.. Thanks in advance for any of your advice..

    can u press more than one button a a time and it work?

    can any one tell me that both the fabric is neoprene in which they fuse the conductive fabric
    jst two faric are used in tjis project neoprene and conductive fabric plz help me as soon as possible

    2 replies

    neoprene is not necessary in this design. you can use any fabric or material as your base substrate, as it is not a functional part of the button/sensor. fusible interfacing is a fabric glue that comes in sheets and is fused with heat from an iron, you can also use double sided sticky tape or even just stitch your conductive fabric in place with some regular non-conductive thread. instead of conductive fabric contacts you can also use aluminum foil. and even the spacer material can be made from a material other than foam. anything thick enough to keep your two conductive contacts apart when you aren't pushing them together!

    thank you
    now its so easy to make fabric button with simple cotton any (or any other type of fabric ) aluminum foil and and fabric foam and if we use aluminum foil rather than conducting fbric then there may be a little bit problem to stitch aluminum foil or fuse
    and if you mention these thing in material part then its very easy for others

    have you considered putting this inside a pea pod case or something of the sort?
    also *free idea*
    has anyone made a soft game controller for the kind of people who like to throw them at tvs? that would be cool :3

    would it be possible to replace the conductive fabric with tin foil?

    What about embedding it in the wrist part of a hoodie, in the sleeve, and assign the three buttons to "Back a track", "Play/Pause", Forward a track", for music players (iPods)?

    6 replies

    Yea, like a sessions jacket!

    So, how do you think one could do that?

    I am late to reply on this, but Aniomagic sells a "Magic Dock" for $10 that you can use in soft circuit projects. I just found them online the other day and ordered one to play with: http://www.aniomagic.com/store/index.php?p=1&q=18

    you could hack one of the iPod remotes that come with the ear buds that you can order from Apple.

    hmm, interesting idea but isnt that for volume only? Im looking for track skip

    I have actually done this for the ipod remote, which i now use for when I go snowboarding. I did hack one of those remotes that comes with headphones as weretater mentions. The remote headphone combo cost about $40 and it has volume up/down, skip forward/back and play/pause. I only did it for play/pause and skip forward, although i'm considering also adding skip backward.

    How thick is your perforated foam, and where did you buy it? I can't find it on your materials list.

    2 replies

    the thinner the better. i like 2-3mm.
    i try to get it locally at upholstry stores, but there are lots of online foam stores depending on where you live. lots of different kinds of foam will work. also felt and other squishy packaging materials that you can perforate.

    this is one place i've ordered from before, though they don't have very thin sheets.
    >> http://www.foambymail.com/PolyFoam.html

    Thanks!