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Crafting sustainable smart textile services

Kristi Kuusk’s PhD thesis titled “Crafting sustainable smart textile services”
Crafting sustainable smart textile services
Crafting sustainable smart textile services, Kristi Kuusk. Cover: Kerstin Zabransky

The world is looking for solutions to major sustainability challenges that developed with the consumer culture. Among other fields and aspects, the way people design, produce, wear and dispose clothes in the traditional cradle-to-grave model has gained interest. The garment life cycle is continuously innovated from different angles. Examples of sustainable materials, business models and ways of thinking about clothing appear in research and practice both. Independently, the fashion scene gets more and more curious about the possibilities of using electronics and digital properties in clothing, also known as fashion technology, wearable technology and smart textiles. The marriage of the two worlds, that closely influences many people, carries potential concerns and opportunities. Textile manufacturing was one of the drivers of the development of technology from pre-industrial craftsmanship to today’s industrialized consumer culture. In this work, crafts and craftsmanship are taken as an example of sustainable living. The traditional crafts and sustainability are discussed in the context of the developing field of smart textile services. This doctoral dissertation examines the following central research question: what are craft and sustainability qualities and how are they implicitly used in the design of smart textile services?


The public PhD defence ceremony took place on 18. Feb 2016:
Chairman: A.C. Brombacher
1st promotor: prof.dr. R. Wakkary
copromotor(s): S.A.G. Wensveen, dr. O. Tomico Plasencia
Comittee: prof.dr. L.-L. Chen, prof.dr. N. Nimkulrat (Estonian Academy of Arts), ir. K. van Os (Philips Research), dr. K. Niinimäki (Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture)


The dissertation brings together the smart textile examples with three different levels of integration of textiles and technology:

  1. Separated – Digital Stories on Textile exemplified by: QR coded Embroidery, Bedtime Stories, Textales Dream Bear, and Textales Sunny Sunday editions.
  2. Integrated – Body Sensing and Actuating Networks exemplified by: Felt ball, Tender, and Vibe-ing.
  3. Combined – Thermocraft exemplified by: CHACUN(E), YBML, and Butterfly Lace.

Through expert interviews, Kristi discovers craft and sustainability qualities in smart textiles and suggests ways of implementing those in designing sustainable smart textile services.

Academic publications related to the PhD dissertation:

Journal articles

  • Kuusk, K., Wensveen, S., & Tomico, O. (accepted). Craft Qualities evolving from traditional crafts to smart textile services. Studies in Material Thinking, 16.
  • van der Velden, N. M., Kuusk, K., & Köhler, A. R. (2015). Life cycle assessment and eco-design of smart textiles: The importance of material selection demonstrated through e-textile product redesign. Materials & Design, 84(C), 313–324.
  • Kuusk, K., Tomico, O., Langereis, G., & Wensveen, S. (2012). Crafting Smart Textiles – a meaningful way towards societal sustainability in the fashion field? The Nordic Textile Journal, 1(6-15), 6–15.

Book chapter

  • Kuusk, K. (2013). Crafting Meaningful Smart-Textiles. In Social Fabric (pp. 27–31). Eindhoven: SOCIAL FABRIC.

Proceedings & Conference Contributions

  • Kuusk, K., Kooroshnia, M., & Mikkonen, J. (2015). Crafting Butterfly Lace – Conductive Multi-Color Sensor-Actuator Structure. Presented at the International Symposium on Wearable Computers, Osaka.
  • Kuusk, K., Wensveen, S., & Tomico, O. (2014). Crafting Qualities in Designing QR-coded Embroidery and Bedtime Stories (pp. 1–12). Presented at the Art of Research V, Helsinki.
  • Kuusk, K., Niinimäki, K., Wensveen, S., & Tomico, O. (2014). Smart textile products and services in sustainability context (pp. 1–8). Presented at the Ambience 14&10i3m, Tampere.

Bedtime Stories in Surface Design Journal

Surface design

Surface Design Journal had a story about  The Future of Textiles BY Lynne Bruning and among all the featured projects, by Lynne Bruning’s eTextile Lounge, Erin Lewis Kohei Tsuji, Anouk Wipprecht, Daniel Schatzmayer, Ebru Kurbak, Irene Posch, MIT Hi-Low Tech Lab, was also Bedtime Stories.

Unlace by Eef

Project by my first student within TechCrafts combining crafts with technology!

Unlace – from craft to concept from Eef Lubbers on Vimeo.

The Unlace is an interactive lace lingerie garment which allows partners to connect by becoming more aware of touch, time and warmth.  The man’s touch on the woman is sensed by the garment, after which the surrounding threads slowly heat up and change from black to skin color, ‘undressing’ the woman and guiding the man’s hand to another spot to touch. The slow change in ‘transparency’ and warmth increases awareness of touch and creates time to explore the woman’s body together.

The old craft of bobbin lace making was the inspiration for this project. By combining this technique with unconventional and smart materials, the Unlace was developed.


LED-scarf wins Shourei-shou award in Japan!

LED-scarf won Shourei-shou (Incentive award, fifth prize) in an international 6th Snow Design competition (Japan).

The design is shown in Exhibition of Selected Works from 27.10.2011 to 14.02.2012 at the Nakaya Ukichiro Museum of Snow and Ice and published in exhibition’s photo book and website. Ishikawa, Japan.

Some images from the Exhibition in Japan:

And the photos made in Estonia below.

Model: Linda al-Assi

Materials: Knitting waste from Levandi Ltd, electronic components.