Introduction: Three Fabric Buttons

Picture of Three Fabric Buttons
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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!

Comments

nickpagee (author)2013-03-13

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!

Plusea (author)nickpagee2013-03-15

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

dhivya2110 (author)2011-06-10

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..

cheesemarathon (author)2011-04-21

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

nida22 (author)2011-04-15

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

Plusea (author)nida222011-04-15

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!

nida22 (author)Plusea2011-04-16

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

chawla_mohali (author)2010-12-22

super like!!
(its super cute too)
:)

MrHanimi (author)2010-12-22

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

TheoTTFF (author)2010-12-22

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

ilovetea (author)2008-11-30

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)?

Clayton H. (author)ilovetea2008-12-12

Yea, like a sessions jacket!

ilovetea (author)Clayton H.2009-01-18

So, how do you think one could do that?

pkirschmann (author)ilovetea2010-12-02

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

weretater (author)ilovetea2009-01-18

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

ilovetea (author)weretater2009-01-28

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

puyanera (author)ilovetea2009-02-02

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.

Fodaro (author)2010-10-12

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

Plusea (author)Fodaro2010-10-12

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

Fodaro (author)Plusea2010-10-13

Thanks!

connor1868 (author)2010-09-09

where can you buy these, the ines that you make and we buy and how much are they.

Roxy 143 (author)2010-09-02

Nice

jobxu2000 (author)2009-12-10

Hi plusea!

I'm interested in your fabric button, but cannot find it in your Etsy shop (only Fabric Bend Sensor KIT and Fabric Pressure Sensor/Matrix KIT are there). Will you make one if I order it? Thanks a lot!

Best,

jobxu2000

Plusea (author)jobxu20002009-12-10

I've re-listed it >>
http://www.etsy.com/view_listing.php?listing_id=19386298

Chimaera (author)2009-06-10

Why did you choose neoprene?

Plusea (author)Chimaera2009-06-11

good question. for the buttons (as supposed to the conductive thread pressure and bend sensors) there is no need for the outer fabric to be neoprene. i used it mainly because it is easy to work with in terms of not fraying and no need to finish the edges. it does have a nice squishy feeling feedback to it, but this can also be achieved by the sponge materials that is anyway inside the button. so, really there is no technically necessary reason to work with neoprene here.

Argool (author)2008-12-29

This is an intriguing development...

The Expert Noob (author)2008-11-30

hmm... Neoprene console controller, or even a better DDR dance pad. Hmm... may have to build one.

puffyfluff (author)2008-11-16

That would be a great stress reliever! I am going to make one of these, but I might make it five buttons, and put them in a ring so that I can rest my hand on it, it may be a useful control fro a future project.

Berkin (author)puffyfluff2008-11-22

Or you could put your hand in the ring and rotate so it can tell which way you're turning your hand!

puffyfluff (author)Berkin2008-11-22

Oh, that would be cool too. I didn't mean a complete ring, I meant like having the five buttons arranged so that I could just keep my fingers on them. That's another good idea, too.

Berkin (author)puffyfluff2008-11-22

My idea is that you could scroll through a web page or something by turning your wrist. Those thing actually aren't that hard to do.

puffyfluff (author)Berkin2008-11-22

Oh, I see now, that would be really cool. I'll have to start looking into that.

profiteer (author)2008-11-21

I was looking around, and I didn't see if you mentioned where you bought the foam from. Where did you get?

Plusea (author)profiteer2008-11-21

oh yes. i get it from a shop in linz, austria >>
http://www.kaindl-linz.at/

it is a shop that sells curtains and flooring.... and this foam i guess is used for the padding inside seat covers and such. so maybe try finding a local store that sells this kind of stuff. i have not really looked for online suppliers of foam yet.

you can also try felt. it might not be as super soft, but should work.

whiteoakart (author)2008-11-20

I love this. It looks like a soybean pod. Since my car runs on soy-based BioDiesel, I need this for my accessory switches.

jackcday (author)2008-11-18

that would make an awesome piano/keyboard

red-king (author)jackcday2008-11-18

that is a great idea!

fungus amungus (author)2008-11-18

Great stuff! Thanks a ton for the link to the EMF site. Been meaning to make something with that for a while.

Skor459 (author)2008-11-17

Super cool. I'm hoping to make something completely unrelated, but I'd love to use that green neoprene material. I couldn't find anything neon green though, just black and white. Can you guide me through the website somehow?

Plusea (author)Skor4592008-11-18

You mean the sedochemicals website? They have an english version here >>
http://sedochemicals.com/index.php?curr_lang=en
Then click on "Inquiry / Order"
Close the pop up winder and fill out what you want
the neoprene i use is:
- 1.5mm thick
- quality HS
- surfacing is standard polyesterjersey on both sides
- colour neon green (247)
- quantity 1 sheet (about 2 x 3 m)
Then press send and it will ask you for a few more details.
Upon your first inquiry they will send you an email with how much it will cost.
A sheet of the neoprene specified above costs about 40euro. Shipping within Europe is about 8euro but about 85euro to the US. if you live in the US i would recommend searching the internet and asking at your local surf or diving store.
Hope this helps

nejo0017 (author)2008-11-17

You produce great stuff! I've subscribed your instructables and like them very much! Can you tell me where to get conductive fabric?!? Regards from Germany, nejo0017

Plusea (author)nejo00172008-11-17

I get my non-stretch and stretch conductive fabric from lessEMF as well as the Velostat that i use in some of the other Instructables. But please also look at the materials list in step 2 where i list all the links and more info. Thanks

chosenone3 (author)2008-11-17

This is so briliant. I've waited for this kind of instructable for a long time (1-2 months :D) . They will be perfect for my M-touchPad (my secret little project :D)

Lynne Bruning (author)2008-11-16

sweet!

Brennn10 (author)2008-11-16

Awesome project! It would make a great gift for any tech-savvy person. Nice work!

Noblevagrant (author)2008-11-16

Neato! could be used for a new line of toddler friendly electronics if only drool wasn't such a major factor.....

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