Computer Science and Craft

There are many links between Computing and Crafts, not least that both are about making things. Any craft instructions that explain in detail and in a step-by-step way can be used as a way of introducing the ideas behind algorithms to pre-coders. In the case of physical computing you can build computing power in to craft-based artefacts, adding interaction to them. Craft and computing then become intertwined.

Here we give some links between computing concepts and crafts, giving ways to introduce computing concepts using crafts.

Lego Computer Science

What to do with all that lego scattered over the floor: learn some computer science… from different representations of data to making computational machines and machine learning.

HexahexaflexagonHexaHexaFlexagon booklet

Create these fascinating paper shapes with hidden sides and learn about graphs, automata and more.


Knitting uses a complex (computational) notation. Explore sequencing, choice and iteration as well as ideas behind regular expressions.

Charles Dickens (a friend of Ada Lovelace incidentally) knew you could use knitting for encryption and steganography.

In the Second World War, the United States censors held on to a letter that contained a knitting pattern so they could knit the jumper in case it contained a message. Ultimately they banned people from posting knitting patterns overseas at all (along with playing chess by post) in case people were hiding messages in them.

Bunting and flags

You can encode messages in bunting and flags in lots of different ways, using different representations of numbers and letters.



The Romans came up with the idea of  tesserae as a way to make it possible to communicate mosaic designs across the empire. They are coloured squares that can be used to build an image. This is the basic idea behind raster images and so of digital imagery.

Cross Stitch

Cross Stitch is another way to introduce digital images – oldest form of embroidery and one of the oldest forms of pixel imagery too dating back at least to 500 AD in Egypt.


Beads have long been used as a way to represent numbers.

Also see weaving below for how you can use beads to weave your own space age style memory


Knotted strings have been used in past societies as a way to represent numbers and other information, including in Andean South America where they were called Quipu. Make your own Quipu to store information in a colourful decoration.

Watch making

Jewellery can now be interactive with computing power added and watches long ago went smart (if not always keeping the elegance of jewellery). The early watchmakers were not only craftsmen but also innovators of interaction design.

Clay modelling

Representations of data can be physical as well as virtual…

Interactive Arts and Craft

By combining crafts and physical computing you can add a whole new dimension to the things you make.

Fashion and Wearable Computing

Fashion can combine with computing to make the clothes you wear interactive.

Weaving: Core rope memory – space-age computing, with beads

Weaving inspired Charles Babbage in that the Jacquard Loom help form his ideas about making a programmable machine. Weaving played a more recent part in computing history too though…

Beads, threads and binary!

Read about core rope memory (and how woven computers helped to get us to the Moon) on the CS4FN Advent Calendar, then make your own (much simpler!) version with coloured threads and beads, using the beads to represent binary letters and perhaps your name or a word.


There are also lots of ways to link computer science and art…

This page, with related articles / activities, has been developed by Paul Curzon and Karen Shoop of Queen Mary University of London and is part of the public engagement work related to their craftwork computing related research. We hope to develop it further.

QMUL - Queen Mary University of London logo