7. Textile as Scaffold#

Overview of work#

For this assignment, I worked on different ways to integrate materials with textiles. The techniques pursued were:

Integrating soft materials with textile#

Research and inspiration#

This week, I was inspired by tree fungus. Everytime I go hiking, the one thing I’m always drawn to is the way this type of fungus embeds itself in trees. Thus, my efforts for this assignment was through the integration of soft materials with textiles that mimicked the look below:

As a former Latin ballroom dancer, one way I realized the tree fungus design could be achieved was through skirt ruffles. Designs from a ballroom dress designer whose work I admire is Vesa, based in the UK, exemplify this below.

Examples of how I see the representation of tree fungus in Vesa ballroom dresses. Top left: focus on the green conical shapes on the skirt; top right: focus on the pink ruffles trailing down the leg; bottom left: the orange ruffles almost create layered mushroom fungi; bottom right: the pink details throughout the dress.

With these tree fungus designs, I surmised the integration of these designs involved making the designs offline, and then sewing them onto the main body of the dress. And so I wondered: is there a way to integrate soft, flexible materials onto our clothes in the same way fungus grows on trees?

Prototypes - what worked, what didn’t work#

The table below is an overview of my attempts in satiating my curiosity.

Prototype ID Soft material Textile Integration technique Notes, findings
I Hot melt glue Canvas String/wire molding Technique works well for soft materials that cure as they cool
II Hot melt glue Jersey knit, 4-way stretch Parchment paper smushing Technique works well when trying to create first shape, but difficult to create multiple layers of shapes in a row
III Ecoflex 00-30 (silicone) with 5wt% thermochromic pigment mixed in Jersey knit, 4-way stretch Laser engraving/etching designs on the silicone integrated on the textile Uneven mixing of thermochromic pigment with silicone design created weird burning behavior. Inconsistency met in etching the colored pigment and was not pursued further.
IV Ecoflex 00-30 (silicone) with 5wt% thermochromic pigment mixed in Jersey knit, 4-way stretch 6mm laser cut acrylic overmold Work with silicone toward end of potlife to control integration with textile and reduce liquid phase of soft material seepage under laser cut mold

Prototype I - string/wire molding of hot glue#

The inspiration for this method came from when we used to make huge bubbles out of strings sticks when we were in California:

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Stephanie F. Zopf (@stizzz) on

If bubbles can form by surface tension, we can do the same with a materials that starts out as liquid and slowly cools in the shape it forms. My first trials involved putting a layer of hot glue on two skewers, putting them in contact, and slowly separating the two sticks until a thin sheet formed (left of below image). I then used metal wire as a secondary substrate to make the round shape of the hot glue on the skewer (middle of image below). My latest ‘controlled’ attempt involved taking electrical wire soldered onto copper plates, putting a piece of fabric in between the copper plates, putting a thin layer of hot glue on the fabric, placing wire on top of the textile, and then slowly pushing the plates close to the fabric to make the wire bow and give shape to the hot glue.

This method seemed to work, but I recommend having a controlled way to place hot glue melt on the textile before forming with wire because it ends up being a mess on the textile.

What worked: Being able to form thin shapes on top of textile

What didn’t work: Creating a thin base layer of hot melt glue on the textile in a clean way that would get me ready in time to do thin shape forming

Recommendations for next time: Come up with a way to apply thin base layer in a quick, controlled manner

Prototype II - parchment paper smushing of hot glue#

The inspiration for this method came from wondering how bakers make chocolate flowers. I figured chocolate was similar to hot glue, but an even trickier material to work with, so I followed a method of making chocolate flower petals similar to this video:


  1. Fold fabric over rigid material on top of parchment paper
  2. Lay a drop of hot melt glue where the fabric fold meets the parchment paper
  3. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the newly laid down hot melt glue. Apply pressure on top paper, ensuring glue is spreading on and away from fabric fold.
  4. Remove top parchment paper when glue feels cool and dry


What worked: Being able to form thin shapes on top of textile

What didn’t work: Creating multiple thin shapes in a row reliably. Creating the first shape was good, but subsequent shapes need a way to be separated from the first initial shape. Also, the way the drop spreads on the textile creates a rigid form so when using on stretchy materials, the textile will warp (can be seen in 1st and 2nd picture above)

Recommendations for next time: Make shells offline, and apply method of adhesion after when applying thin shapes on final product

Prototype III - laser cutting ecoflex already integrated on textile#

This method was motivated by my curiosity in wondering how I could apply laser cutting an etched design onto silicone infused with thermochromic pigment applied in textile. I researched the feasibility of mixing pigment with thermochromic pigment and the experimentation I found is shown in the following video. Thus, I decided to experiment with mixing in thermochromic pigment with ecoflex 00-30 silicone material.

Experimentation silicone rubber + thermochromic ink + carbon fiber from Collectif !RAW on Vimeo.

Thermochromic pigment is mixed with ecoflex at a 5wt% basis of the silicone mixture. The liquid mixture is then poured onto the textile and put in an oven to cure. The silicone infiltrates the textile all throughout. Prototype III is shown below:

Etching on the material composite was attempted with the goal of being able to etch a design that would reveal the textile underneath. Below is a table of the settings tried with the Epilog laser at Dassault. The height of the silicone above the textile is about 5mm:

ID Speed Power Frequency Notes
A 10 5 500 Etches, but doesn't go down through to the textile
B 10 10 500 OK, deeper cut than A, but observed some burnt edges where laser etches silicone
C 10 20 500 Burned silicone, and crack surrounding areas
D 5 5 500 OK
D2 1 5 500 Slow speed obliterated the top layer of the silicone
E 5 5 600 Burned the silicone (not shown)

What worked: Etching the silicone worked for the most part! but keep in mind that there is some burning that happens with other settings that is not aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
What didn't work: Getting the desired deep etch I was looking for to try to laser cut mushroom gills in the silicone.
Recommendations for next time: Try to keep silicone on top of textile, work on getting a homogeneous mixture of thermochromic pigment to ecoflex mixture.

Prototype IV - overmold of thermochromic ecoflex using laser-cut acrylic sheet#

The motivation for this method came from frustrations of making Prototypes I-III: I wanted to use a softer and more pliable material like silicone (similar to the way mushrooms feel in nature), and I wanted to see if there was a way of making the material all at once.


  1. Create your shape for the textile- Laser cut your acrylic mold design. There will be an outer mold and an inner, free-standing mold
  2. Make thermochromic silicone dye - create ecoflex 00-30 according to instructions. Note the start time at which you start making the ecoflex, and start timing yourself (VERY IMPORTANT since you want to work with the silicone within and towards the end of its 45 min pot life). Once you’ve stirred your mixture, add about 5 wt% of thermochromic pigment, and stir in your solution really well. Degas in vacuum chamber.
  3. Prepare for overmolding process - while your silicone is degassing, work quickly. Lay textile down flat, then lay laser cut acrylic mold over textile in the desired fashion. Use clamps to secure mold over textile. Also apply mold release to acrylic mold.
  4. Pour silicone into mold and over textile - when ~18-20 mins has lapsed, remove silicone mixture from gas chamber and pour into mold.
  5. Let silicone cure - Air dry (method pursued in this prototype) or use an oven (if big enough for your textile and mold) to expedite the drying process.
  6. Remove silicone from mold - Once everything is dry, remove the textile from underneath the silicone mold (I found this process to be easier than trying to lift the mold up. Use a metal spatula to help release problem areas. Honestly, use whatever method that works to separate silicone from acrylic in a way that won’t damage your design!

Me applying silicone into the mold (step 4 from above)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Stephanie F. Zopf (@stizzz) on


What works: The whole process seems to work!
What didn’t work: I probably should have used a smaller design to prototype, made thinner shape designs, and could have used a way to estimate the amount of silicone I needed because I ended up having to make a second batch (darker blue thermochromic silicone) to add to the first batch of silicone made.
Recommendations for next time: Clamp down on acrylic mold better, wait a little bit more for incorporating silicone, or work within constraints of processing equipment.

Growing crystals on textile#

Research and concept#

Since my final project involves triggering the formation of sodium acetate crystals, I experimented with growing these crystals on textiles. Furthermore, since I want to learn how I could integrate electronics with crystals, I experimented with growing these crystals on conductive textiles.

My research in understanding sodium acetate trihydrate and how it forms crystals is from reading this thesis. Basically, being able to have seed crystals present on the surface you want to grow from can initiate its formation in solution. Thus, my thought process in terms of growing crystals on textiles involved pre-soaking textiles in a melted salt solution to implant crystals, and then growing the salt after the pre-soak.

Prototypes - what worked, what didn’t work#

Textiles used:

ID Description Composition Resistance Notes on what worked and didn't
A Woven conductive fabric Copper+nickel plated nylon < 1 Ohm/ft Very minimal growth of crystals on textile
B Silver stretch fabric 76% Silver / 24% Nylon < 1 Ohm/sq Small, but noticeable crystal growth
C Knit Jersey Conductive Fabric 63% cotton, 35% silver yarn and 2% spandex 46 Ohms/ft in stretchy direction; 460 Ohms/ft in less stretchy direction Most dramatic crystal growth
D Stainless steel mesh 100% stainless steel 2 Ohms/sq Crystal growth similar to textile B, but maybe even less so
E ESD static fabric 60% stainless steel, 40% polyester 2.2 Ohms/sq (transverse direction); 1000 Ohms/sq (longitudinally) Second to most dramatic crystal growth


  1. Create super saturated solution of sodium acetate trihydrate (SAT) solution in water: I melted SAT crystals in a glass petri dish on a hot plate. I pipetted a few drops of distilled water so that the crystals were homogeneously melted.
  2. Soak strips of conductive textiles into solution made in #1 for 10 mins
  3. Remove strips from solution and rinse in distilled water (this step is to remove the chunky crystals that form when you remove the textiles in step 2)
  4. Make another solution of sodium acetate in water (2:1 SAT:distilled water)
  5. Place rinsed textiles in solution made in step 4. Wait for solution to come down to room temperature. Poke each textile to induce crystallization.

Molding fabric with concrete (not successful)#

This section will be short and sweet, since I wasn’t very successful. Over the Christmas break, my mom and dad lent me some random parts they had: (1) concrete, (2) a wooden frame, (3) stockings, and (4). In the video below, I attempted the fabric formwork assignment, using string attached to a wooden frame to create tensioning and stockings and gravity to shape the concrete. As you can see below, I made pretty stringwork, but the concrete didn’t stick to the stockings very well and broke apart in a cloud of dry concrete particles when I was trying to remove the textile.


Download laser cut mold for Prototype IV here