Walton Institute in South East Technological University (SETU) is proud to announce that the innovative Yarning Connections project has been awarded funding under Science Foundation Ireland (SFI)’s Discover programme.

The SFI Discover Programme aims to support and develop the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) education and public engagement sector in Ireland by investing in, developing and extending activity and ability in this area, and exploring and encouraging novel means of engaging the public.

Yarning Connections brings together traditional yarn crafters, knitting and crochet community groups from Waterford city and county with technical experts from Walton Institute’s electronic textiles (eTextiles) lab, to actively engage in a STEM exploration of eTextiles. 

Beginning in April, ten knitters and ten crocheters from local groups and Waterford ICA guilds will participate in peer-to-peer idea generation workshops delivered by Walton Institute, Caroline O'Toole, industry knitting partner, and Jacqui Kelleher, industry crochet partner. The workshop participants will be introduced to various conductive yarns and fabric circuits and will collaboratively work on conductive yarn integration, and experiment with construction techniques to realise knitted and crocheted circuits and soft switches.

Aileen Drohan, Yarning Connections project lead, outlines how this could impact the textile landscape. “This collaboration between eTextile experts and yarn crafters provides a unique opportunity to create a new and sustainable network of skilled e-textile crafters, who learn from each other, keeping the old traditional craft methods alive, while encouraging the practice of e-textiles as potentially complementary disciplines.”

Frances Cleary, Head of Division in Walton Institute, says “the project provides a pathway for traditional yarn crafting communities who typically don't engage in STEM-related activities to embrace and understand e-textiles. Releasing new electronic patterns under a CC licence makes it free to share and available to all to use or modify, keeping the tradition of pattern sharing and re-mixing alive for centuries to come.”

Design ideas generated during the workshops will be co-designed and co-created and developed by industry partners into new knitting and crochet patterns with eTextiles at its core. Once the draft patterns are ready, another 25 knitters and 25 crocheters will then test them and give feedback with a final aim of releasing knitting and crochet patterns with simple electrical functionality under a creative commons licence (CC BY-SA 4.0).