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FELTED TERRAIN Felted Terrain attempts to subvert the notion of knitted/felted textile that is associated with primitive handcraft through its integration of soft electronics, computation design, and fabrication method. Inspired by the rolling, mossy landscape of Iceland, Felted Terrain translates the shapes of natural terrain through the generation of three-dimensional, interactive textile. At a scale of the interior, knitted/ felted textile no longer becomes the familiar material of the body. Partly furniture, a surface, and also a sensory outlet, Felted Terrain allows users to experience the familiar textile in an unexpected way. Exhibition support has been provided by the Department of Architecture and a Director’s Grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT.

knitting process using a Singer 155 knitting machine

finished knitted terrain ready for felting

circle packing pattern To generate a pattern, a Grasshopper circle packing script was used in Rhino3D. The size of the circles corresponds to the pitch of the musical notes.

knitting pattern The Grasshopper generate pattern is overlayed on a grid to translate these into a knitting patten. The red circles indicate where the conductive thread wil be added to create a capacitive sensor tips.

capacitive sensor at tips knitted with conductive yarn Tips are knitted with combined wool and conductive yarn, to create a conductive surface. With Arduino code and a Lilypad microcontroller, these tips become a capacitive touch sensor.


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circuit diagram The curved lines indicate the circuit that links all of the conductive tips (gray poched area) with the Lilypad microcontroller. Soft circuits are made with conductive thread, embroidered along the designated pattern.

microcontrollers Lilypad arduino and x-bee module are hand sewn using conductive thread.

capacitive sensing arduino code piano sound processing code The Lilypad microcontroller is loaded with a modified Capsense Arduino Code. The received serial data is the transferred to a Processing script (adapted from High-Low Tech’s Piano Code). Each touch on the tips are translated into a sound and a sine wave graph. A tactile touch is both felt acoustically and visually.

knitting machine

knitted 3d pattern

felting Wet felting shrinks the knitted textile by 30-40% from its original size. This piece has been felted (with warm water and soap, in the washing machine) multiple times, and the formed and air dried to retain the shape of bumps.

wool testing looking for the perfect yarn that felts

from sheep to wool

(image by daniela covarrubias)

wool up close (why it felts) If you look closely, wool fibers have scales like a reptile. These scales are the main reasons in giving traditional wool its abrasive texture. When washed, these scales interlock and become tighter and tighter causing shrinkage aka. felting

wool fiber

(image by daniela covarrubias) 1. locking mechanism of scales 2. woolen fibers 3. worsted fibers 4, types of spinning 5. degrees of spinning

twisted molecular chain and helical coil cortical cell microfibril

paracortex orthocortex

matrix macrofibril

cell membrane complex cortical cell cuticle cell

wool fiber

(image by daniela covarrubias)



The structure of the scales promotes capillary action for drawing liquids to the interior of the fiber. However, the scales of the fibers have a waxy hydrocarbon coating chemically bonded to the surface, which is water repellent.

When the wool fibers are oriented such that the scales interlock, the grouping of fibers form bonds that provide resistance to wear and absorb vibrations and shocks. This surface frictional difference also allows for felting when the fibers are agitated together in water.

mechanics behind felting wool fibers (image by daniela covarrubias)

YIHYUN LIM is in her final year of Master of Architecture program at MIT. She received her undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley. Prior to MIT, she worked in architectural design firms in San Francisco and Seoul. Her initial interest in fibers started with hand knitting and felting. While at MIT, she further explored the topic through a class with MIT Media Lab’s High-Low Tech Group, where she first started working on the project of Felted Terrain. 2013.10

Felted Terrain  

MIT Keller Gallery exhibition 10.2013