Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

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The making of The Dress

The Dress

Using vinyl I created templates for screen printing the pocket.

I used tissue paper to alter the pattern while preserving the original pattern in case I ruined everything.

The almost finished dress still needs a zipper, hem, & for the pockets to be to lined & sewn on.

But look at those sleeves! They’re crisp, beautiful, the right size & on in the right direction!

My proudest moment was the first seam around the neck. You can’t even see it anymore. But the stitches were even. I don’t mean straight. I mean even. You see, my machine was originally sewing weird, loose stitches, & it took between 20 min to an hour of carefully & methodically turning knobs & dials & threading & re-threading to create strong, even stitches.

Other than a finicky machine, I dealt with several other issues, a few of which were triggers for changing my design. Bicycle spokes were going to be too tedious & messy to screen print so I changed to birds. Then I discovered that my pattern was the wrong size & had to switch patterns, which meant redesigning my color blocking. But I persevered.

Over & over, I was grateful for my learning goals, which were:

1) I would like to learn how to do multi-layer screen printing through asking questions of staff and experimenting independently. 
2) I struggle with understanding patterns, so I would like to use this project as an opportunity to practice/learn how to use them.
3) I would like to afford myself the flexibility to simplify in order to preserve my mental and emotional health, and work on being willing to make adjustments to my project as I go along. 
These goals provided a framework for my learning and continually called my attention back to what I cared about most.
The first outcome was fairly straightforward and was accomplished in a fairly straightforward way. I asked questions of Emile, Amanda, and every other employee standing close by at the time I thought of a question. In this way I learned of the basic process of multi- layer screen printing including creating a vinyl template for each layer, sticking the vinyl on the screen, applying paint, setting the paint with heat, and cleaning the screens. I mostly experimented with my vinyl pattern, but I also experimented with color mixing and by creating my print. In this way I learned that skinny pieces don’t work well and that you should clean the screen between layers. My pocket was messier than I wanted it to be, but I had enough good patches to jimmyrig it. Honestly, I like the jimmyrigged pattern better than the original one.
The second outcome was far less straightforward to learn. Patterns are difficult and they seem to be written in another language. But I followed each step, asked my mother and Grandma questions, and made and fixed silly mistakes, such as sewing the sleeves on upside down. By the end, I got plenty of practice and can understand patterns a little better, but could by no means call myself an expert. Though I am very proud of those sleeves.
The third outcome was my favorite. This was the one meant to preserve my well-being. There were still some tears, anger, and frustration. But each time something went wrong, such as discovering my pattern was twice my size, I was able to say to myself “Thank goodness I built that into my plan.” Counting on adjustments took the pressure off and allowed me to continually simplify, or build on, my original plan. I learned not only to simplify, but also to trust myself. I seem to have proven myself trustworthy.
Throughout the course, I have persevered, except when I haven’t. I have triumphed, except when I haven’t. I have changed, except when I haven’t. I am still me. Sure, I can win against Inkscape in a fight more often than before and I have tinkered with a few more techniques and technologies than before. But by the end of a semester of struggling with things I’m not good at, I chose a project that played to my strengths. I don’t always do that. I often do what’s needed instead of what I want. So I guess I became more comfortable being and doing what I want. Am I a maker because sometimes I want to make stuff? I don’t know. I’m just me. Can that be enough? I think it can.
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Iterate the Dinosaur

The original project:

Dinosaur Pom Pom Bot

But it’s a bit fragile & not super practical for actual play. I wanted something I could give to a three year old.

The goal for iteration:

Create a customizable dinosaur puzzle for my nephew. The puzzle itself was to be made out of clear or translucent plexi so you can draw a background on paper or use stickers to make the dinosaurs different colors and give them fun faces.

I didn’t feel like starting from scratch so I found some free dinosaur silhouettes & simplified them by using the node feature of my dear frenemy Inkscape. I felt toes would get in the way of the puzzle interlocking easily so I deleted them. I also resized & arranged them to make a cohesive picture.

Sidenote: I wanted to work at home so I downloaded Inkscape on my computer. I did the 64 bit version for Windows. I tell you this because I had no clue which version to pick & had to ask Emilie.

I used this tool to connect the dinosaurs with lines that would become the edges of the puzzle pieces.

I changed the stroke & fill to make the images into outlines & used lots of copying, pasting, & the difference tool to overlap the dinosaurs. Also the mirror image tool to flip the way they faces.

Major Mistake #1: See how small those notches are in some places & how skinny some of the pieces are? That doesn’t end well….

To make the stickers I planned to use the Silhouette to cut the same pattern as the puzzle, only I wanted to cut it 6 times onto 6 colors so you could pick & choose what color stickers you wanted to put on which piece. For example, you could have the T-Rex red & the Triceratops blue or you could have the T-Rex green and the Triceratops purple. 

I also wanted the eyes to be customizable so I designed those on Inkscape as well.

For these I started with circles & changed them from objects to paths. Then I differenced out the pupils to make the whites of each eye one piece.

Although I ended up redoing the designs a couple of times, I was feeling pretty good at this point. So I went in to the Fablab to use the laser cutter. 

I was pretty flexible on which plexi (apparently also called acrylic) to use so I wound up using the 1/4 inch. This was Major Mistake #2.

Major Mistake #3: I didn’t want to wait for 2 other people to use the Universal so I grabbed the Epilog, which was open. 

Apparently the Epilog doesn’t work as well for cutting through thick things so I had to run it twice. This took me an hour & it still didn’t go through. Other people were waiting & I had to leave soon anyway so I gave up. 

Once I got home I asked a few people for ideas of what to do & determined to score the back with an exacto knife & try to break it apart. This had mixed results.

I didn’t have time to cut out most of my stickers so I prioritized & did the eyes.


I was very frustrated with this project & am not pleased with the result. Oh well. If I mess with it further it will just make it worse, so, we’re calling it done.

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I began by sketching & brainstorming types of movement. Waddling seemed possible. So I added that to the fact that my nephew loves dinosaurs & the recent discussions my family has had about Nessie to create a dinosaur that waddles.

At first, I couldn’t get the servos to go opposite ways so I designed version 1 in way that would facilitate having them move the same direction…. I put one servo upside down so they moved in opposite ways despite the code.


I was very proud of the way I attached the flippers to the motors by untwisting the pipe cleaner. It made for a stable, but removable, flipper.

Version 1 didn’t get enough traction because the motors were raised so high above the surface. For version 2, I determined to set them right on the surface. This meant fixing my code. 

Thankfully, Emilie taught me that to make them move opposite ways at the same time I simply had to give 1 set of instructions for the placement & movement within a loop then put both servos into the loop with 1 catch. 1 servo was – 180. This made them go opposite ways!

(I lost my code, or else I’d show you)

As I created version 2 I’d add a bit then test it, add a bit then test it. It only barely moved so I was paranoid about it getting too heavy.

To reduce weight I undid my first hump made of fabric & redid it in puffballs.

He took his sweet time, but he got from point A to point B & even moved enough to fall off the table.

It didn’t even occur to me until later that I could’ve put the arduino & bread box inside. That could’ve either made it too heavy, or prevented them from holding back the movement.

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Code-tastic! -Playing with Arduinos

I was actually quite terrified of the arduinos but so far it hasn’t been as confusing as it could have been, thanks to the internet.

I chose to do my lab assignment immediately after lab. This was useful because, not only did I still have the info fresh in my head, but I also still had the example arduino code pulled up on my computer from the exercises we did in class.

I began by scrolling through the list of sensors & settling on the humidity sensor. Perhaps I could jimmy rig it to help me remember to water my plants? 

It’s difficult to think of something that hasn’t been thought of or invent something that hasn’t been invented. Such was the case as I created my storyboard. I discovered only afterward that the exact sensor I needed was already a thing. In fact, smart gardens which water themselves are a thing.

Brandon directed me towards the pitchfork sensor, aka the soil density sensor. So I pulled it out of the box & began googling. I found Sparkfun’s instructions for using the sensor & began to follow the directions to set up the sensor. I needed to stick the sensor in dirt to test it so I filled a random grocery bag I had in my backpack with dirt from outside the fablab. 

Sparkfun even had code I could copy & paste. So I did. The number scrolling thing showed that the sensor was picking up readings. The number changed based on how tight or how loose the soil was.

I wanted a light to light up when the soil was tight but I couldn’t get the LED to work, so I just used the built in light on the Arduino. 

Here is the code I patched together from the light exercise we did in class & code from Sparkfun on the internet. I used a boolean if statement to connect the two. Technically, my code worked.

/* Soil Mositure Basic Example
This sketch was written by SparkFun Electronics
Joel Bartlett
August 31, 2015

Basic skecth to print out soil moisture values to the Serial Monitor

Released under the MIT License(

int val = 0; //value for storing moisture value
int soilPin = A0;//Declare a variable for the soil moisture sensor
int soilPower = 7;//Variable for Soil moisture Power

//Rather than powering the sensor through the 3.3V or 5V pins,
//we’ll use a digital pin to power the sensor. This will
//prevent corrosion of the sensor as it sits in the soil.

void setup()
Serial.begin(9600); // open serial over USB

pinMode(soilPower, OUTPUT);//Set D7 as an OUTPUT
digitalWrite(soilPower, LOW);//Set to LOW so no power is flowing through the sensor

void loop()
Serial.print(“Soil Moisture = “);
//get soil moisture value from the function below and print it
Serial.println(readSoil());if (readSoil() < 100) {
digitalWrite(LED_BUILTIN, HIGH); // B turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)
else {
digitalWrite(LED_BUILTIN, LOW);

//This 1 second timefrme is used so you can test the sensor and see it change in real-time.
//For in-plant applications, you will want to take readings much less frequently.
delay(1000);//take a reading every second

//the 100 next to readSoil() means that if the reading is higher than 100, the light will turn on
//This is a function used to get the soil moisture content
int readSoil()

digitalWrite(soilPower, HIGH);//turn D7 “On”
delay(10);//wait 10 milliseconds
val = analogRead(soilPin);//Read the SIG value form sensor
digitalWrite(soilPower, LOW);//turn D7 “Off”
return val;//send current moisture value

I decided then that I should count my successes & end on a high note. So I did.

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Round is the trick (the making of a Vaporeon Pouch)

I was looking forward to this week. Sewing is the one thing I’ve done before. I may not be an expert, but I’ve done enough to be on speaking terms with my sewing machine & to have become best friends with the unpicker. 

I wasn’t counting on having to deal with my old nemesis, Inkscape. After completely redoing my design 6 times I learned, & relearned, a few things:

  • SAVE. The first 2 redoes were because the program just closed on me.
  • Objects must be changed to paths. This is why I couldn’t find the nodes.
  • Merge & join are 2 different things. Merge makes a bunch of objects 1 object. Join just lets you think they’re 1 object.
  • Ungroup.
  • Don’t copy a bunch of objects at once & then paste them. This will look fine in Inkscape but not in the program with a purple flower icon.
  • Sizing does matter. 
  • Troubleshoot. I did this by recreating my design the 6th time one itty bit at a time, saving each bit, & opening it in the program with the purple flower icon to see if it worked.

Physically embroidering it only took 3 times due to jams caused by mis-threading & resulted in a face that was FAR too small. At this point, the fablab was closing for Spring Break & I was not willing to wait until afterwards to do my entire project sooooo….. despite the fact that the entire point of this project was to embroider straight on the fabric instead of making a pouch…. I cut out the pieces of my face & sewed them onto a new piece of fabric. At least this way it wasn’t so obvious they were too small.

Following the pattern by Choly Knight (, I cut the pieces & began sewing them together, both with my machine as well as by hand.


  • I originally did the face upside down so I just re cut it smaller the proper shape. 
  • The zipper. When I tried to sew the backside onto it I sewed it so the peachy part was outside the pouch not inside the pouch. 
  • I sewed the tag so it was stuck in between the lining & the outside & had to unpick a bit to free it.

I also learned that it’s much easier to sew the zipper onto the pouch with the zipper unzipped instead of zipped up.

What’s interesting to me is that the sewing mistakes were not nearly as frustrating to me as my inkscape mistakes. I think part of this is because I’m more familiar with sewing & so it’s easier for me to figure out how to fix my mistakes. I just pull out the stitches.

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Fulfilling a “Need”

For the Playful Design Symposium, we are creating versions of chess. For our game, we need pieces with some sort of mechanism that allows you to mark the bottom as different.

After brainstorming different methods, I settled on prototyping a twisting mechanism similar to my salt shaker at home. The idea is that as you turn the mechanism you can show or hide the crown symbol on the bottom of the piece.

Beginning to create version 1

The first version required a piece to be floating inside of everything, so I realized that wouldn’t work & scrapped it before even printing.

Version 2. The main visual differences are the addition of an axle & the deletion of a brim on the top that previously held the turning plate within the mechanism.

The second version had layers sitting on top of each other. When I printed it, it come out as one piece. The supports had glued it all together. Breaking the supports meant breaking the pieces irreparably apart.

Printing version 2 at BIF’s Makerlab.
Version 2
Version 2 separated

The third version addressed the issue of gluing things together by printing them separately. I simply gave up on 3D printing it all the way made & figured I could use superglue to attach the axle afterwards. I also gave up on the idea of a wall around the plate that spins and instead changed a cutout slice to a cutout circle.

Version 3

When this version printed, the design seemed sound, but the measurements were off. So version 4 was the same design with a larger axle & larger holes.

From top to bottom, version 4, version 3, version 2
Simply changing the size of the hole & axle meant ungrouping everything.
Version 4. In this version, as well as in version 3, I printed the pieces separately.
Version 4 assembled.

By the end of this project, I became a little more comfortable with the software, mostly through having to redo it so many times.

Lessons I applied from past projects:

Simplify- I scaled down my ambition & simplified my life by using this project to create something I already needed to create as well as by choosing to use the simplest software. Using the simplest software felt like a cop out but I didn’t need the fancy stuff & it allowed me to work on it from home.

Better Documentation- You’ll notice I still have awkward holes in the photo documentation of my project, but I did document more of the process than I have in the past. Next time I’ll probably take fewer photos but make sure they span the whole process.

Snap- I learned in Inkscape that you can turn off the snap function so that knowledge made it easier to turn off the snap function in Tinkercad.

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It’s a plane.

I knew I wanted the lights to make sense, to have a purpose. So began to list things that have lights. Different colored lights. My husband
suggested a plane & I liked it.

But I didn’t want a plain old plane so I googled origami planes & followed a tutorial. The first plane I made was from paper that was too thick, so I scratched it before even finishing it. The second was prettier. But it still needed circuits.

The first plane. Maybe picking paper that looked like it was on fire was a little too ominous.
The dotted line means that part goes under the plane.

Thinking out the circuit was tricky. It’s one thing when you’re dealing with a flat surface. I was dealing with a paper airplane. & there simply wasn’t space to lay my diagram out in a nice box with rows. I chose 3 different colors, red, green, & white, since that’s what planes really have, but that made it even more complicated. I figured I needed parallels, but a series would’ve fit better. I put the battery under the cockpit area of the plane & the switch right near it so it’d be where you’d naturally pinch a plane.

My first mistake was not eating lunch so by the time I came up with a design I thought would work, my brain was slow, my hands were unsteady, & my patience was nil. I put the tape on, but it wasn’t pretty, & worse, it didn’t work.

The tape is just part of the aesthetic.

So I took a break & came back to it a couple days later. With a fresh brain I could see that the trouble here was either a lack of resistors or an issue with my circuitry. Struggling to retrace the path of electricity probably indicated that circuitry was at least part of the problem. So I traded coolness for simplicity & created plane #3. Plane #3 is just a traditional paper airplane with a bit of the middle popped up to create a tail whereon I can place an LED.

A new plane meant a new plan.

This time, I built the circuit in such a way that it was complete after each LED. This meant that as I added each level of the parallel circuit I could stop & test to see if it worked. This was a much better plan than “do it all & hope it works”. Because I used this “step, test” method, when one of my lights wouldn’t turn on at the end, I knew for sure it was a resistor issue, & not a circuitry issue. Once I fix that, we’ll be golden. But as it is, two out of three still feels like a triumph.

The switch is hidden within the middle fold of the airplane where you’d naturally pinch, right near the battery.
The bottom.
The new plan is to add a resistor near the red LED. I may actually need to place it on the same line as the red LED now I think about it….
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It’s a pun.


My brother, Stewart, is currently obsessed with 2 things: scripture & stickers. So I figured I’d combine the 2. The name of the ship is his current favorite scripture found in The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It happens to be about stewardship….. Get it?

5 layers with black at the back because the pieces would be tiniest. Then grey, then blue, then silver, then white. But to be honest, a few of the white pieces were so tiny that the machine botched them so I jimmyrigged it with a pair of scissors.

I traced the bitmap with the color separating method, decreased the number of layers, did a bunch of group, ungrouping, & tweaked some nodes.

I’m proudest of the scripture. At first I tried to cut the scripture out of the top four layers to show through to the bottom but I couldn’t get the words to line up perfectly. & then it occurred to me— I only needed to cut the words out of the top layer & could just cut a rectangle out of every layer beneath! Life saver.

If I were to do it again, I’d make the whole thing bigger so the pieces weren’t beastly & fix the hole in the P. I’d also be less ambitious. You see, I designed a key & an equals sign to go with it because Stewardship is Key…. but didn’t have time to print them….

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Story Cache

The prompt: Create a story board for an app that will encourage exploration.

The thought process: If people want to explore, they already have plenty of google searches & online resources to give them suggestions. One resource that encourages people to explore is geocaching. So I took the model of searching for a treasure, finding treasure, & leaving treasures. But where geocaching using knick-knacks as treasures, I used stories instead.

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A Name on a Tag

I begin most everything with a braindump. This time the prompt was “me” since our tags are supposed to represent ourselves. From this brain dump, I determined that I wanted something that appeared to be professional and pretty, but was secretly fun & mischievous. So, drawing inspiration from one of my brother’s favorite ties, I determined to create my name with negative space on top of a pattern that would look benign from far away but like little monsters up close.

A cursory internet search didn’t reveal any monsters I loved so I used the shape, merge, & curve drawing features to create a little monster that I copied, rotated, merged together, & then dragged & dropped the little guys into a pattern. It took awhile, but the carnage didn’t begin until I tried to print.

The first time I tried to print, the laser didn’t cut through so I thought something must be wrong with my vector & redrew it twice. But since I was now working with pdf, I couldn’t erase my vector & ended with 3…..

The second time my rastor didn’t even happen & my triple vector lines caused my tag to melt. When I realized my settings were off, I also I realized that that was most likely the issue the first time as well. So I adjusted my settings & got the following result:

The triple vector left it a little curled so I stuck it under hot water & bent it as straight as I could.

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