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 may ship around some embroidery machines, depending on circumstances.

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 55 points, divided as follows:

15Class 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.

02/05/2021 Course Overview Algorithms and fabrication Virtual Lab Tour Before Class: Start the Warm-Up Tetraptych
02/12/2021 Before Class: upload Warm-Up Tetraptych documentation Mini-Critique: Warm-Up Tetraptych
02/19/2021 Knitting Basic Knitout Operations In Class: Hand-Powered Knitting Machines Big ideas in Machine Knitting In Class: Your first Knitout Rectangle Puzzles: knit/purl on tube; four layers of fabric
Knitting Project (TODO - TODO)
02/26/2021 Before Class: knit your rectangle on our machine Before Class: post Knitting Project inspiration 2/3rds Gauge Dependencies and Slack Stitch Scheduling Discussion: Knitting Project ideas Tube Layouts and Gauge Mappings
Flat Sewing
03/05/2021 Before Class: upload Knitting Project documentation Critique: Knitting Project Research: Knitting simulation
Sewing Project (TODO - TODO end of semester)
03/12/2021 Before Class: watch (the secret life of) sewing machines Sewing Intro Cut-and-sew, Embroidery, Quilting How Machines Sew CNC Sewing Our Embroidery and Quilting Machines Data formats In Class: Make an interesting line
03/19/2021 No Class: Mid-Semester Break
03/26/2021 Before Class: post Sewing Project inspiration Mini-Critique: Interesting Line single-line pattern generation Interfaces for single-line patterns and embroidery design Smocking Stuffing Tensegrity Structures changing material properties with embroidery Discussion: Sewing Project ideas
Weaving Project (TODO - TODO)
04/02/2021 Before Class: upload Sewing Project documentation Critique: Sewing Project Weaving In Class: Hand Weaving With Paper Drafting, double cloth Intro to the Jacq3G library In Class: Algorithmically-Generated Weaving Pattern Research: 3D Weaving
04/09/2021 Before Class: post Weaving Project inspiration Discussion: Weaving project ideas Research: Yarn-Level Woven Cloth Simulation (video)
04/16/2021 Before Class: upload Weaving Project documentation Critique: Weaving Project In Class: Weaving Side Views
Remainder of Class
Final Project (TODO - TODO)
04/23/2021 In Class: Weaving Side Views Wrap-Up In Class: Final Project inspiration boards Discussion: Final Project ideas In Class: Final Project Work Time
04/30/2021 Autograding (for clothing) CT Scans and Rendering (cloth, yarn)
05/07/2021 Before Class: upload Final Project documentation Critique: Final Project