One of the hardest parts of developing Stitch Synth was…stopping. There are so many different ways to make a synthesizer, and within analog synthesis alone, there are tons and tons of interesting circuits that can make and alter sound.
Here is a 100% real depiction of me trying to figure out how to focus and choose which circuits to actually make:
I got pretty much all of my circuits from one wonderful book, and one fascinating blog:
Both, in different styles, show you how to prototype various types of sound-making electronic circuits, how to change them, hack them, and put them together. I used a tiny fraction of the possible circuits that these two resources will teach you about, and turned them from hard breadboard circuits into soft e-textile things.
Other great resources for analog synth building include:
- Look Mum No Computer: Musician, synth builder and YouTuber who builds all kinds of weird and wonderful synths (synth bike, furby organ, and more) and also shows you how to make stuff
- Music From Outer Space: A classic DIY analog synth website by the late Ray Wilson
The #1 source for all things e-textiles on the internet is Kobakant - artist/designer/researcher duo Hannah Perner-Wilson and Mika Satomi have been researching e-textiles (particularly how to make your own soft sensors) for years, and have documented everything in depth on their website. They are truly the queens of documentation and we should all aspire to be like them ಠ◡ಠ
Adafruit’s former YouTube Live show Wearable Electronics with Becky Stern taught me a LOT, and is worth watching, as well as Becky’s numerous wearable electronics project videos on Adafruit’s channel.
E-textile summer camp is a yearly (ish) gathering of e-textile practitioners, and there are some interesting projects documented in their ‘swatchbook’ that are worth checking out.
Lara Grant also does great things with e-textiles and has lots of tutorials, including this mini soft oscillator in Instructables, which uses the same chip (and similar circuit) as Stitch Synth’s Wendy module.
Things to try#
Here are some of the many many things that you could try:
The CD40106 chip that is at the heart of the Wendy module actually has six different oscillators on it - we’re only using two! The other oscillators can be used to set the tempo of a sequencer or drum machine, or be combined together to make new sounds. Nicolas Collins’ book and Logic Noise both cover this
Making your own capacitors: Irene Posch and Ebru Kurbak did research into knitting capacitors in their wonderful and fascinating research project Stitching Worlds. Maybe you could make a fully soft synth!
Embroidering the circuits instead of hand stitching them: I got into machine embroidery towards the end of this project, and used it to make one Stitch Synth module. But it would be really interesting to go back and redesign some of the modules to have fully machine embroidered circuits! I have a feeling that this could end up being a lot quicker than sewing them by hand, and could result in less issues with short circuits and loose connections (the classic e-textile problems!).
Making a soft speaker: another nice addition to a soft synth would be a soft speaker! Check out this example by Kobakant
Different kinds of connections: I used metal press-on snaps to make connections between the modules, but you could try different kinds of buttons, safety pins, magnets - the options are endless.
Cowbell: With the addition of one extra chip (a 4077 XOR logic gate) you can make metallic bell sounds with the 40106 oscillator - see the Logic Noise blog series listed above for more info.
Share your hacks#
If you do make a version of Stitch Synth, or are inspired by it to make your own soft synth, please share it and let me know! Share it on Instagram or Twitter using the tag #stitchsynth, or document it with a tutorial on Instructables, or Fablabs.io.