From the beginning, designing the pair of Gloves was a challenge. I knew from the start that I wanted to have the gloves act as turn-signals and that I wanted it to make the user's intentions clear while being simple to operate. After a couple days of brainstorming, I decided that the way to achieve this was to attach lights on the back of the gloves. I wanted them to illuminate when two fingers made contact, so the user had full manual control over the frequency and duration of the illumination.
My first iteration was very basic, sloppy, and hardly functional. It was made from loose-knit woolen gloves, a single LED light, conductive thread, and a AAA battery with a small holder. Conductive thread is a kind of thread that can conduct an electrical current. I began by sewing little patches of thread into the fingers and worked it down the length of the fingers, passing through the LED, and eventually connecting with the battery and holder. My initial sewing technique was very poor, inefficient, and often problematic. The stitch I was doing is called a running stitch and which is a simple technique where the needle is passed over and under the fabric. This technique unfortunately left the stitches inconsistant and loose. So loose in fact, that the user's fingers would get caught on the thread and often would ruin the circuit. Despite the flaws with this design, the LED would still occasionally illuminate, proving that my basic concept was on the right track.
In order to improve the glove's overall functionality, I began testing different elements of the glove to see if they could be improved. I was testing things like the light source and I explored the possibility of using LED tape and an arduino as opposed to simply sewing on small LEDs. I found that the Arduino and LED tape would be too complex a setup and wanted to keep my design reletively simple. Another thing I tested was new kinds of stitches to see if they were more efficient. Tess showed me a technique called an overcast stitch which is essentially sewing in a small, tight spiral pattern. This in turn made the stitches more abundant, secure, and conductive.
I then began to assemble my second and final version of the gloves. In this design I opted to use 5 LEDs, a thinner conductive thread, and better gloves while using the same AAA Battery holder. A problem I encountered while sewing the prototype was that I would sew through both sides of the glove. In order to avoid this in the second version I cut a small piece of PVC and wedged it underneath where I was sewing. This fully resolved the problem and it never happened again. In my testing, I realized that the initial patches I sewed into the fingers of the prototype wasnt covering enough surface area on each tip and made the lights not illuminate to their maximum brightness. This made it hard to get the LED to light up. The solution was to sew little patches using reflective fabric and a lot of conductive thread. Unfortunately he material on the palms of the gloves and the front of the fingers was very durable and tough, so much so in fact that it was really difficult to pass a needle through it. To work around this, I glued the patches to the fingers using fabric glue. All of these changes proved to be very effective as the final version of the gloves were far more functional than the prototype.