Sensory textiles for dementia

The CARIAD Sensor e-Textiles research group from Cardiff Metropolitan University and Dr David Prytherch from Birmingham City University used their time at the Tiree Tech Wave to explore how to embed electronics in sensory textiles for people with late stage dementia. The textiles are being designed by the research team to help promote wellbeing; to sooth, calm, engage and distract people who have very limited mobility and ability to communicate.

Prof Cathy Treadaway, Helen Watkins and Steve Coleman attended a felt-making workshop with Fiona Dix to learn wet felting and needle felting methods of making non-woven woollen fabrics and items. Conductive fleece was integrated into the needle felted samples to make a simple soft switch which was later tested on fabric stitched with tracks using conductive thread with an integrated LED. Helen also wove a small fabric sample with conductive thread weft for use with the felt items.

During the week the team met with Tiree resident Jane MacDonald who works at Tigh a’Rudha residential care home on the island. Ideas for a Hand i Pocket participatory making event with islanders were discussed. The proposed event will be similar to previous events held in Sydney, Australia and South Wales, UK, to encourage family members and carers to make textile sensory pockets for people with dementia.

Dr Gareth Loudon mentored the team concerning integrating electronics and Arduino into textiles.  Concepts for extending functionality were developed collaboratively with Dr Ed Hartley and other members of the Tech Wave community.

Four personalised ‘basic’ garments were designed and constructed by Helen and Cathy. These garments are now ready for the next stage of development, which will involve embedding electronics to extend the sensory properties of the textiles.

The Sensor e-Textiles project is supported with funding from Cardiff Met REIF and OPAN (


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