Category Archives: technology


By Carmen Rivera

Scientists hope to soon be able to spin spider silk without the aid of spiders, achieving this task would not only be an amazing technological breakthrough in the field of genetic manipulation, but also in the development of new and exciting fibers. Randy Lewis, a professor of molecular biology in the University of Wyoming, who’s been experimenting with the genetic manipulation of the spider’s silk producing protein. The development of the spider’s silk fiber would be an amazing advancement in the fiber sciences field by being an organic material that is not only elastic, but also quite possibly the strongest man-made fiber. But where do goats come into the mix? Well, spiders being the territorial and aggressive creatures they are make it impossible to farm, unlike goats that are accustomed to such. Because of that Prof. Lewis started working on implanting the spider’s silk producing gene into the goat’s genetic structure. The results were unbelievable, it worked! Goats could now produce the same protein that allowed their milk to be spun from liquid to solid. Such amazing results caught the Army’s attention. They now plan to use the goat’s milk fibers in their bulletproof vests, which are now 100% effective. After the development of the “Biosteel”, or what the spider silk is now referred to as, scientist researched into even further possibilities like bulletproof skin. Scientists took the genetically modified silk and cultured it with human skin cells that, after about five weeks, created a tough, flexible, living material that is calculated to make a slow bullet ricochet from skin. Scientists hope to further refine the discovery into cells that can actually stop any type of bullet as consistently as bulletproof vest. And so the spider gave the goat genetic properties that made silk as strong as iron that then made skin as strong as Superman’s.  Science will never cease to amaze us.

Photo Source:


Handwerk, Brian. “Artificial Spider Silk Could Be Used for Armor, More.” Daily Nature and Science News and Headlines | National Geographic News. National Geographic Channel, 14 Jan. 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2011. <>.

“Military Breakthrough: ‘Bulletproof’ Skin Made from Spider Silk.” The Week – Science+Tech. The Week, 19 Aug. 2011. Web. <>.

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Thermochromic Fabric: Could It Save Lives?

by Carida Diaz

Growing up, I always had a fascination with those t-shirts and scrunchies (and countless other random summer accessories) that changed color in the sun or when you touched them. This magical material was always so mysterious and intriguing to me, but I never really knew what it was called or how it worked. Fast-forward a decade later, and I’m researching “thermochromic fabric” (fabric that chances color according to temperature)for my Textiles Science class.

When thermochromic reactions are found in fabrics, a unique type of dye acts as the thermochromic agent. This agent is typically composed of one of two main elements. When thermochromic dyes are made up of liquid crystals, the crystal molecules re-orient their helices according to their temperature causing our eyes to register a change in color. When the dye is made up of a micro-encapsulate thermochromatic system, it contains countless microscopic capsules that contain a hydrophobic solvent that contain a dye precursor and a color developer. When the temperature rises, the chemical reaction between the two causes the fabric to change color.

Thermochromic fabric has been used for a few things, most of them purely trendy- like the Hypercolor brand shirts that were popular in the 90’s and recently made a comeback at your friendly neighborhood American Apparel. However, I recently stumbled upon a function for this particular substance that could potentially save lives.

Two students pursuing their Master’s NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts , Sue Ngo and Nien Lam, recently developed a prototype for a type of garment they have entitled “Warning Signs”. Warning Signs combine carbon monoxide sensors with thermochromic fabric in order to create a graphic appliqué that changes color when it detects a spike in the level of air pollution. Ngo and Lam have designed these appliqués in lung and heart shapes that respond to this pollution chase with the appearance of a smattering of blue veins.   

Though still a prototype, the Warning Signs opens up a whole new realm in which the  nature of thermochromic fabric can be utilized. It addresses a serious issue and provides a creative and novel solution. While its a little disheartening to imagine a world in which all clothing was required to incorporate this technology, it is also quite groundbreaking. Imagine if car seats changed color when they detected a carbon monoxide leak in your garage, or your jacket developed a pattern when the air around you was no longer safe to breathe. These airborne toxins are usually invisible to the human eye, but with this type of technology we would all be more immediately able to respond in what could potentially be a life-or-death situation. This type of application is full of possibilities, and it will be interesting to see how well it catches on.



Popova, Maria. “Warning Signs: Clothing That Detects Carbon Monoxide | Design for Good | Big Think.” Big Think | Blogs, Articles and Videos from the World’s Top Thinkers and Leaders. 24 Jan. 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2011. <>.

Gaimster, Julia. “Textiles and Trimmings.” Visual Research Methods in Fashion. [S.l.]: Berg, 2011. Print.

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Victimless Leather and the Promise of a Victimless Utopia

by Chelsea Franklin

In the Museum of Modern Art in New York City a project titled ‘Victimless Leather” was displayed as a small portion of a larger series known as the Tissue Culture and Art (TC&A) Project. The piece is described as being a prototype for a stitch-less jacket, grown in a techno scientific ‘body’. According to an article by the artists themselves, titled “Growing Semi-Living Sculptures: The Tissue Culture & Art Project” the core of the project functioned as an artistic manipulation of living materials, a way to challenge human reaction and prevailing western views of nature-culture dualism. The project operated out of the University of Western Australia, and was lead by artist/scientists Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr. Catts and Zurr argue that the piece appears to be a part of the slowly manifesting obsession with the genetic code that has presented itself as a current trend within contemporary art. “Victimless Leather” has focused primarily on the cell, communities of cells and the forming of tissue grown from immortalized cell lines harvested from both humans and mice. In the exhibit the piece appears as a small, grown, outer garment living within a type of incubator, confronting people with the concept and moral implications of wearing previously living material. According to the project’s website, it is apart of the series that functions as the promise of a victimless utopia, combating how western culture appears to have difficulty stomaching images of real violence, but willingly views synthetic or simulated images of gore and violence. In another article by the artists titled, “Are the Semi-Living Semi-Good or Semi-Evil?” Catts and Zurr explore the “language used to describe life and evolutionary processes; from bacteria to collections of cells.” They discuss semi-living entities created by the Tissue Culture and Art Project, and investigate different notions of life “in the context of current rhetoric used in our pre-war global society”. The project has successfully challenged established ideas on the wearing of previously living substances, and provoked interesting thoughts as to the connections made here between art and science. As a whole, the potential of developing a substance that replaces leather is insightful and manages to initiate further investigation into the morality of wearing animal remains.



Catts, Oron, and Ionat Zurr. “Growing Semi-Living Sculptures: The Tissue Culture & Art Project.” Leonardo 35.4 (2002): 365-70. JSTOR. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <;.

Hemmings, Jessica, and Caryn Simonson. “Grown Fashion: Animal, Vegetable or Plastic?” Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture 6.3 (2008): 262-73. Textile Technology Complete. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Schwartz, John. “Museum Kills Live Exhibit – New York Times.” The New York Times – Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <;.

“The Tissue Culture and Art Project – The Victimless Utopia.” The Tissue Culture and Art Project – Home. Web. 17 Nov. 2011. <;.

Zurr, Ionat, and Oron Catts. “Are the Semi-Living Semi-good or Semi-evil?” Technoetic Arts: a Journal of Speculative Research 1.1 (2003): 47-60. Academic Search Premier. Web. 17 Nov. 2011.

Electronic Knitting Provides Endless Possibility for Customization

by Elizabeth Meiklejohn

The relatively recent innovation of electronic knitting machines has made it possible for manufacturers, designers and independent artists to create knitted textiles with an incredible amount of detailed and varied patterns, much more efficiently than would otherwise be possible.  A step up from previous “mechanically controlled” knitting machines, which use physical pattern-programming devices (such as paper punch cards or peg drums), electronic knitting machines store data on a computer or external drive, automatically moving needles to create the correct pattern.  Many aspects of computer technology are well-suited to knitting, such as the binary (0 or 1) system being applied to two-color patterns or knit/tuck stitches.  Since the carriages on many (although not all) electronic knitting machines move automatically, instead of being moved back and forth by hand, textiles and garments can be created much more easily and quickly, although there is less opportunity for hand-manipulated details.  Software also exists to aid in the shaping and formation of garments, working alongside textile pattern data to produce (for example) a sweater with a repeated motif.  There are multiple types of electronic knitting machines – some, like the large machine in RISD’s textile department, move completely automatically and are capable of many complex functions including jacquard, intarsia, lace and cable-knit designs.  Others are more like traditional knitting machines with a hand-operated carriage, the only difference being that they can connect to a computer or data-storage drive.  The latter type is often used by independent artists or crafters to create knitwear and textile art that takes full advantage of the computerized aspect of these machines.  Artist Andrew Salamone and craft blogger Becky Stern have both utilized “hacked” Brother knitting machines that have been upgraded from their basic functions (knitting fabric from stored data) by adding a computer cable.  This allows the artists to input literally any pattern they can find or create, and creates room for a greater degree of intricacy.  (Andrew Salamone created a “recursive” sweater with an image of Bill Cosby wearing a sweater with a picture of Bill Cosby wearing a sweater, continuing into infinity).  This type of DIY customization or “hacking”, common in many creative and computer-based fields, has now spread to electronic knitting systems.  No longer confined to larger and more expensive machines, this type of complicated knitted pattern is now possible for anyone with a basic machine and a certain amount of technological savvy to create.

Photo:     Andrew Salamone’s project knitted on a “hacked” Brother machine: a balaclava customized with an image of the wearer’s face.


“Chapter 12: Electronics In Knitting.” Knitting Technology. 134-144. Woodhead      Publishing Limited, 2001. Textile Technology Complete. Web. 16 Dec. 2011.

Stern, Becky. “How-To: Hack Your Knitting Machine.” Video blog post. CRAFT. O’Reilly Media, Inc., 5 Nov. 2010. Web. <;.

Montgomery, Angus. “Create Your Own Christmas Jumpers with a Hacked Knitting Machine.” Design Week. Centaur Media, 23 Nov. 2011. Web. <;.