Introduction: Massage Me Jacket

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 electron…
- - please also visit - -
(this instructable is part of a series, please also visit Massage me Custom cable and plug and Massage me Gamepad hack for the complete instructions on how to make Massage me)

Check out videos at Massage me on YouTube

Before starting it makes sense to understand the basic principle
The technology inside the jacket is really very simple. We are making buttons out of soft materials and extending their outputs with wires to a central point, the plug. The neoprene layers are not functional, they just give a good feel to the jacket and make it strong enough to withstand frequent massage. underneeth the neoprene there are patches of conductive fabric stuck on both sides and in between there is a layer of foam. The foam has been perforates with holes where the buttons are, so that when you push on a button you are effectively bringing two layers of conductive fabric together and thus closing the switch and pressing the button.

Though this technology has proved to work very well so far, we still think it can be improved. We are looking fwd to your suggestions on how to solve things simpler and more efficient. It takes about two whole days if not three to complete all three components (Jacket, Custom cable with plugs and the Gamepad hack) of Massage me.

Step 1: What You Will Need

MATERIALS you will need:
- Game controller to take apart
- Flexible Cables
- Conductive fabric
- Neoprene, both sides jersey, 1.5mm thick
- Soft, stretchy material for collar and bottom, if you prefer to not to use neoprene for these
- Sponge sheet, 5mm thick
- Velcro
- Thread
- Solder
- ...

Equipment you will need:
- Soldering iron and stand
- Sewing machine
- Screwdriver
- Pattern
- Hole maker
- Scissors
- Paper and pens
- Wire stripper
- Pliers
- ...

Step 2: The Pattern and Stencils

Start by tracing out the pattern for the jacket on to the neoprene. On the DIY part of the websiste you will find an Illustrator file of the pattern that you can scale to the original size (see reference measurements). To trace it you can either print and cut the pattern or project it onto the neoprene. The orange pieces on the pattern should be made from neoprene; the grey pieces on the pattern can be made out of another kind of material if you like.

It helps to cut stencils for the button layout for two reasons:
a) So that you can cut the individual button shapes out of conductive clothe.
b) So that when you have to iron the buttons onto the neoprene you know exactly where they go.

Step 3: Cutting

Cut the shapes according to the pattern traced on the materials.

Additionally, trance the INSIDE shape on foam and cut it out. Then trace the button stencil onto the foam to mark where to make the holes. Using a hole maker, evenly distribute about 3, 4 or 5 holes per button, depending on its size.

Using the same button stencil, trance the button shapes onto the iron-on sheet and number them. Iron the iron-on sheet to the conductive fabric. Now you can cut out the 38 buttons from the conductive fabric and keep them in a safe place.

Step 4: Making Buttons

Trace the button stencil onto the inside of the OUTSIDE piece of pattern.

Now you'll need wire, a wire stripper, pliers, and an iron. You can cut the wires one by one; they should reach from the buttons that they are connected to to the left or right of the lower hem where the plug will be. The end of the wire that will be attached to the button should be striped of its isolation about 2 cm. Fan out the the individual wires and place this end of the wire underneeth the conductive fabric buttons from step3, in between the iron on and the neoprene. Make sure to use a sheet of baking paper between the iron and the conductive fabric to avoid direct contact. Iron over the button until it is glued tightly and by pulling on the wire it does not come loose. Do this with all 38 buttons, make sure to follow the button layout. Connect the ends of all the same buttons into one cable at the end where the plug will be connected.

On the inside of the INSIDE piece of pattern you will need to either iron on a really large piece of conductive fabric that covers the area of all the buttons, or you can make smaller patches but connect them all back together via wires so that you have only one wire in the end to connnect to VDD(3.5v) of the gamepad.

Step 5: Layer Together

Carefully layer together as follows:
a) OUTSIDE neoprene with all 38 buttons ironed on and wires neatly arranged (using a few stitches if necessary) so that these collect along the spine and end in one point at the bottom hem.
b) The layer of foam with the holes covering the buttons.
c) INSIDE neoprene with the conductive fabric that will serve as the VDD for all buttons.

Stitch the layers together by hand carefully so that everything stays in place before using the sewing machine. You can use the button stencil to lightly trace onto the inner side of the neoprene where the buttons are so that you can sew around them.
You will need a strong sewing machine (I know for sure that the Pfaff Tiptronic 6230 works), also a large needle, strong yarn and a walking foot are a must! I used a medium width zigzag stitch to trace the button divisions. Besides sewing neoprene, the hardest part is not to include the individual buttons in the stitch because even though there is the layer of foam in between, this does not isolate the two layers of conductive fabric from each other when they are pulled together buy a stitch. All the foam does is keep the two conductive layers from touching, unless pressed.

One way to make sure you are not making a connection while sewing is to connect all of the button wire ends to one end of the multi meter and the other end to the VDD and set the multi meter to the beep noise it makes when there is a contact and that way you know if your needle just went through both conductive layers and thus they got caught in the stitch. You then have to undo the stitch and re-do.

Now that the buttons are sewn together you should test each button individually with the multi meter. Check (for each button) that so that when you press it it is giving the output to the wire end it is supposed to. Now would also be a good time to mark which wire end is what.

Step 6: Sewing Together

Sew together the sleeves with the OUTSIDE as shown below. Use a wide zigzag stitch and simply place the pieces of neoprene next to each other under the needle and the zigzag will connect the two pieces together wonderfully.

Cut out the COLLAR pattern from either neoprene or any other (preferably soft and stretchy) fabric. It folds along the dashed line. Best to hand-sew the collar onto the jacket before using the zigzag stitch of the sewing machine. Don't forget to stuff the collar before you get to the end of sewing it on. Stuff it lightly, this will comfortably support the neck of the wearer.

The same goes for the BOTTOM of the jacket, first sew it on by hand then use the zigzag. You will have to leave a gap where the plug will stick out and the wires from the buttons can connect via the Massage me Custom cable and plug to the Massage me Gamepad hack.

Cut two strips of Velcro and sew these onto the SIDES as shown bellow. One side hooks, one side loops.

Step 7: Finishing

Finally tidy up the wires where they will be attached to the plug - cut them all to the same length so that they stick out about 2cm from the hole and solder their ends. You can sew together the neoprene plug covers as shown bellow and then see the next instructable for how to make your own Massage me Custom cable and plug using silicone and a very basic 14 pin plug.


Please also visit and videos at Massage me on YouTube
The Instructables Book Contest

Participated in the
The Instructables Book Contest