15-469A/869K: Algorithmic Textiles Design (Spring, 2021)

Fridays from 14:20-17:10 via video conference.

Instructor: Jim McCann. Office hours, virtually, by appointment.
Help also available during IDeATe's Soft Tech "Open Hack Hours" (Wednesdays, 7-9pm).


Textile artifacts are -- quite literally -- all around us; from clothing to carpets to car seats. These items are often produced by sophisticated, computer-controlled fabrication machinery. In this course we will discuss everywhere code touches textiles fabrication, including design tools, simulators, and machine control languages. Students will work on a series of multi-week, open-ended projects, where they use code to create patterns for modern sewing/embroidery, weaving, and knitting machines; and then send these patterns to be fabricated in the textiles lab. Students in the 800-level version of the course will be required to create a final project which develops a new algorithm, device, or technique in the realm of textiles fabrication.

This pandemic-aware iteration of the course will place a greater focus on improvised and virtual textiles fabrication, including visual simulation. Students will not work in person with our larger textiles machines; instead they will send pattern files for the instructor to run. We will also build our own embroidery machines.

Other versions: This course was also appeared (with some variations) in Spring 2019 and Spring 2020.


Familiarity with at least one programming language.


Students will be graded out of 60 points, divided as follows:

20Class Exercises / Participation

Feel free to use source code from others, as long as that code's license permits it and you give proper credit. Using the work of others without giving credit (even if they don't ask for credit) is plagiarism and will result in you failing the course.


This schedule is perpetually prone to adjustment.

2-5-2021 Course Overview Algorithms and fabrication KnittingKnit something by hand.Critique what you knit. Basic Knitout OperationsProgram a Knitout rectangle.
2-12-2021 Big ideas in Machine Knitting Puzzles: knit/purl on tube; four layers of fabricDiscuss Knitting Project ideas.
2-19-2021 Guest Lecture (Jenny Lin): The Transfer Planning Problem Tube Layouts and Gauge Mappings 2/3rds Gauge Dependencies and Slack Stitch Scheduling Research: Spacer Fabrics Research: Knit Tendons Research: Knitting simulation
2-26-2021 Critique: Knitting Project. Weaving IntroHand weaving with paper.
3-5-2021 Drafting, double cloth.Algorithmically-Generated Weaving PatternsWeaving Side Views Research: 3D Weaving Research: Yarn-Level Woven Cloth Simulation (video)
3-12-2021 Guest Lecture (Vidya Narayanan): How to make 3D objects with both knitting and weaving (and papercraft).Critique: weaving project.
3-19-2021 Break day, no class.
3-26-2021 Before Class: watch (the secret life of) sewing machines Sewing Intro Cut-and-sew, Embroidery, Quilting How Machines Sew CNC Sewing Data formats Our embroidery machine kits.Kit unpacking, start the build.
4-2-2021 Interfaces for single-line patterns and embroidery design Smocking Stuffing Tensegrity StructuresKit build session two, testing.
4-9-2021 Guest Lecture (Ella Moore): changing material properties with embroideryKit building session three, extra sensors.
4-16-2021 Carnival, no class.
4-23-2021 post documentation for embroidery machine.Final project discussion.
4-30-2021 Overflow time.
5-7-2021 Autograding (for clothing) CT Scans and Rendering (cloth, yarn)
out 5 February Post Knitting Project inspiration in Discord. (At least 3x pictures with URLs.) due before class,
12 February
out 12 February Work on Knitting Project. due before class,
26 February
out 5 March Weaving Project. due before class,
12 March
out 26 March Embroidery Project. due before class,
23 April
out 23 April Final Project. due before class,
7 May