Customizable, Self Healing Clothes – Blog 2

Customizable, Self-Healing Clothes

During the course of this project, our design for self-healing / repairing clothes has gone through numerous iterations, with much discussion on the ‘why’. Initially, our design consisted the use of a genetically modified fungus whose growth could be controlled and directed by interacting with a scaffold, with the ‘why’ rather contentiously focusing on reducing waste by it being able to grow to new sizes, and repair cuts.

As our design has evolved, so too have our aims. The current iteration of our project focuses on bringing clothes design and creation to the individual’s home, thereby allowing the individual greater freedom for customization and adjustability. Additionally, the current design may be used throughout a person’s life, changing as they grow, as their tastes change, and as the person goes past certain memorable moments in their lives, making the clothes a treasured memento.

To achieve such aims, our design consists of people growing ‘tiles’ of kombucha leather at their homes. This is easy to do, using granulated sugar, green tea bags, kombucha culture and containers to grow the leather in, ideally in shapes such as triangles and hexagons. After 3-4 weeks, the kombucha leather can be extracted, washed, and then dyed to the users’ desire using plant and vegetable dyes, then left to dry (Smail, 2016; Blum, 2015).

Photo 1: Image of Kombucha Leather, taken by Emma Christensen (Knutson, 2015)

Once dried the leather tiles are treated in order to add Squid Ring Tooth (SRT) Proteins onto their surface. This can be achieved following the procedure developed by Melik C. Demirel et al. (2016). In this procedure the textile is dipped in Polystyrenesulfonate (PSS) solution, washed, then dipped in solution containing SRT proteins, and then this procedure is repeated. This creates a layer of SRT fixed to the surface of the leather which grants the tile additional properties, such as self-healing and easy joining with other tiles (Demirel, et al., 2016).

Figure 2: A) Procedure for coating the surface of a material with Squid Ring Tooth (SRT) Proteins, from Demirel et al. (2016). The material is dipped in 2mg/ml Polystyrenesulfonate solution, then deionised (DI) water, then 1mg/ml SRT solution, then back into DI water. This procedure is then repeated to form 2 layers of SRT, as can be seen in (B). (Demirel, et al., 2016).

To assemble tiles together, or to heal cuts in the leather, simply overlap the edges of the tiles in water and apply pressure, as seen in the diagram below.

Figure 3: Schematic diagram illustrating how kombucha tiles may be joined together. The tiles are assembled so that their edges are overlapping, submerged in warm water (40oC) and pressure applied for 10 minutes. Joining the tiles together.

Additionally, it should be noted that the clothes may be further customised by replacing PSS after the first wash with a different protein, with negative charges at each end. This gives the possibility of creating clothes with inbuilt biosensors, or strengthening of clothes. Right now, however, our efforts are focused on creating the prototype. Kombucha tiles are being grown and I have recently emailed Melik C. Demirel in order to try to get access to SRT proteins.


Blum, A., 2015. Instructables. [Online]
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Demirel, M. C. et al., 2016. Self-Healing Textile: Enzyme Encapsulated Layer-by-Layer Structural Proteins. ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, Volume 8, pp. 20371-20378.

Knutson, A., 2015. The Kitchn. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 26 3 2018].

Smail, S., 2016. ABC News. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 26 3 2018].