Reason and understanding are the arms of our souls

Sewing machines, Patterns, and The Beginnings of Wearables

It’s no secret that I really love working on things that are practical and can be worn. The Directional Hearing Aid is an indicator of that (No, I haven’t forgotten, but projects and the world got in the way. There have been new jobs in the family, long-distance moves, and other insanities). One of the big things I’ve considered is making tech that can be worn in the form of fun clothes; there has only ever been one big factor preventing me from breaking into this world: I had absolutely NO idea how to make real clothes, other than a couple costumes in my past, I’d never really worked from solid patterns. I had definitely never drafted a pattern before.

I decided it was time to get started on this endeavor, and make some clothes. This brought forth another challenge: speed.

Recently, I had made some costume pieces for a LARP (don’t start) that I play in. These were hand stitched and took a fair bit of time to make. If I wanted to make anything practical I was going to need a sewing machine. I started asking around to family members for machines I could use, or machines I could take. I used my Grandmother’s for a piece, and that helped me get my bearings with machines again (I used one in the past to make the aforementioned costumes). It worked out, but driving to her house every time I had a small piece to stitch would be cumbersome by way of time. Luckily, my dad had an old (late 1950s, early 1960s) Kenmore 158 in the basement. It was as good as mine!

To say it needed work isn’t necessarily an understatement, but I don’t think it really captures the essence of the tedium required. This machine hadn’t run in at least 20 years. The motor needed to be cleaned out, all of the pieces needed oiling, some parts needed replacing, a couple of the pieces needed rust removed, and the timing got all sorts of messed up in the number of moves the machine had seen. Ultimately though, after about 2-3 hours of work, I had the machine purring like a very loud, industrial kitten.

I finally got to my first project: A child’s bathrobe. I went out and got a pattern, bought some plush fleece fabric, and learned that a bathrobe may not have been the best place to start. I got both bathrobes made, mind you (for my, currently, 2 kids),  but the first one took much longer than it should have. Cutting out the pattern was clumsy (I probably should have thought to pin the pattern down early on instead of halfway through), and I had to stick to the stitching instructions to the T. Putting flat pieces of fabric together to make a garment was much more complicated than I thought it would be. Woodworking, sculpture; both of those activities have some sort of rhyme and reason to how the flat pieces make a 3-dimensional object. I’m still not entirely sure I didn’t sell my soul to get these bathrobes made. Ultimately, the first bathrobe took about 3-3.5 hours. The second one, took 45-65 minutes. I had to get used to the machine, get used to the mindset of putting pattern pieces together, get comfortable with my abilities enough to move at a reasonable speed, and I had to realize that it was OK to make mistakes (If only woodworkers or metalworkers had something as simple as the seam ripper to undo and re-do mistakes).

Once I got that down, I took on a bigger project: a pair of pajama pants for my wife. This was the project where I learned that you should never trust the sizing diagrams on patterns. These pants are HUGE, they were supposed to be a large. Although they turned out well, and required only minor alteration to fit together well, I should have thought to measure and alter before making the pants. This is when I thought that if I was going to be making clothes and costumes, with or without tech embedded, I was going to need to learn how to take all of these measurements and make patterns.

Enter Valentina. I found a FLOSS pattern drafting application that I used to make a flat-front pants pattern with exterior pocket for my sons. The application makes everything super easy. Lines are made with equations based on measurements, so the same pattern can be applied to anyone you have the measurements for. It was a godsend. Trying to draft graded patterns by hand did not look, nor was it, particularly fun to do. Using Valentina, everything made sense (with a CAD background), and everything worked perfectly.

Today I’m making the pants. I’ll post an update with how things go once I get that done. When it all works out, I’ll share the pattern and measurements file too.

Anyway, expect more from me in the coming year. I’ve got light up models, I’ve got costumes, I’ve got wearables, and I’ve got a hearing aid completion planned for 2017. Hopefully, I can actually remember to get it all blogged out.


I have heard a lot of flak given to those who say “All Lives Matter”. With analogies to fixing a broken bone before the skeletal system and feeding the least fed person at the table, which are both efforts that need solving; yet it must also be said that you don’t fix one bone by breaking others, nor do you feed one person by starving another. Both of these problems are solved by fixing the system in which the break or the starvation occurred.
I’ve heard the response that those who feel that “All Lives Matter” should respond to why they do not believe that we should have Universal Healthcare, or find a resolution to the homeless problem in our country. These are good questions for someone who would appear to believe in an egalitarian world. However, there are people claiming that “All lives matter” who are countering racism with supremacy; but this is not the way to handle the problem.
I find that there are a good number of people who believe strongly that we need Universal Healthcare, and homes and food for all. We need a society that no matter the color of your skin, your creed, your sexuality, or your appearance, nor anything for that matter, should diminish one’s right to exist, peacefully, and live in a compassionate way. All people, and I do mean ALL people, should be free to pursue a happy and prosperous existence, free from discrimination, free from prejudice, and, most of all, measured on their merits.
Each person, from birth, has the same potential to succeed, and each person should be given the tools and conditions to make that potential a reality. Different situations yield different successes; some people will be farmers and presidents, others will be engineers and groundskeepers. What we need to realize as a people is that all jobs, no matter their responsibility, are important and have their place.
We have an amazing world full of amazing people all with amazing potential, yet it seems like all we can do is shoot at each other and spread a message of hate and intolerance. No one should be shooting anyone; no one should hate anyone. We should fight to make this world what we want it to be, to make this world a paragon of equality and loving-kindness, not turn it into something worse than it already is.
Maybe a better way is to believe that all of our lives are important. We are all in need of understanding and kindness. We are all very capable of giving understanding and kindness. Perhaps this is how we should move forward into the world. With peace, and with compassion.

Game Design – Scrimmage, a Tactical Soccer Game

While waiting for a chance to get out to a lab to test some circuitry (tomorrow) for the directional hearing aid, I decided to act on a thought I have had floating around for a week or two now. I wrote up and drafted some crude graphics for a fun (I think) hex-based tactical football soccer game.

It is available here to print and play. Give some feedback on this post if you play it, I would like to know what people think. (No, that is not me, or anyone I know, in the picture on the cover).

Why Haptics?

Haptics is defined as “the science of applying tactile sensation to computer applications in order to enable users to receive feedback in the form of felt sensations” by Encarta, and more generally in the world of Psychology as the study of the sense of touch or other tactile sensations. Haptics is an interesting field to me, it offers a world of opportunity for wearable, or temporary augmentations. There’s a whole subculture of transhumanists out there, grinders, for whom I have immense respect. They work with actually implanting devices within themselves and, in extreme cases, are working on gene bombardment therapies that will allow them to engage in self-induced macroevolution through the use of programmed retroviruses. Although, in practice, I find myself afraid to move to that fringe.

Call it cowardice, but I can not imagine what I would do if an implant went bad and I went blind, deaf, or otherwise unable to perform usual tasks. In lieu of the fearlessness needed to breach into the grinder territory, I want to use Haptics and other similar somatic stimuli coordinated with wearables to approximate the same results. I may not be able to have a magnet put into my finger to let me feel magnetic fields, but with a hall effect sensor, an op-amp, and a vibration motor, I can approximate the same thing. I may not be able to have super senses or strength, but I am confident that exoskeletons and somatic devices will be able to give the same effects; the only difference is that these changes are removable.

I want to evolve and transcend, and I want to use technology to do it, but I’m not sure I’m willing to cut myself up to do it just yet. I will stick with external augmentations for now.