EL Wire Pants

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Contributors: bboyho
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Introduction

The design and build time of this project depends on your experience manually sewing, the length of EL wire used, and where you are sewing it to. This can take about ~1 - 3 hours if you are following the side of pants.

In this tutorial, we will sew standard EL wire onto a pair of pants.

EL Wire Pants

Required Materials

To follow along with this tutorial, you will need the following materials. We will be using standard EL wire on the pants. You may not need everything, depending on what you have and your setup. Add it to your cart, read through the guide, and adjust the cart as necessary.

EL Inverter - Battery Pack

EL Inverter - Battery Pack

COM-11222
$4.95
5
Panasonic Alkaline Battery - AA

Panasonic Alkaline Battery - AA

PRT-15201
$0.50
EL Wire - White 3m

EL Wire - White 3m

COM-10197
$9.95

Tools

At a minimum, you will need a needle. If you are making an extension cable, you will need a soldering iron, solder, and general soldering accessories.

Needle Set

Needle Set

TOL-10405
$1.95

You Will Also Need

  • Pants
  • Clear Thread or Fishing Line
  • Binder Clips, Pins, or, Tape
  • Scissors

Suggested Reading

If you aren’t familiar with the following concepts, we recommend checking out these tutorials before continuing.

Getting Started with Electroluminescent (EL) Wire

This guide will help you get started with electroluminescent (EL) wire, tape, panel, chasing wire, and bendable wire to let your project glow!

Planning a Wearable Electronics Project

Tips and tricks for brainstorming and creating a wearables project.

How to Make a Custom EL Wire Extension Cable

In this tutorial, we will make a custom EL Wire extension cable as an alternative to splicing wire.

Prepare the EL Wire

Testing the EL Wire and EL Inverter

Before sewing the EL wire to a piece of clothing, make sure to test it out to see if it is functioning. To test, connect the EL wire to an inverter. In this case, we are using AA batteries and the 3V EL inverter battery pack.

Insert EL Wire's JST Connector into EL Battery Pack

With the battery in the EL inverter battery pack, press the button to test. If the EL wire lights up, both the EL wire and EL inverter are good to go!

EL Wire Lit Up

Planning the Path

Plan out where to add EL wire. To hold down the EL wire when sewing, we will be using binder clips. Depending on what you have, you could also try to use pins or tape. Place the EL wire into the binder clip and clamp it down against the fabric. Make sure to avoid clamping the EL wire down where the binder clip pinches as this can damage the corona wires.

Binder Clip Guiding EL Wire on Pants

In this case, all 3 meters of EL wire were used starting by the left pocket, running down the side of the leg, and back up to the waist. The EL wire then followed the waist in the back before running down the right side of the leg and back up to the right pocket. The length along each side was adjusted to be symmetric.

Planning a path with binder clips along the side of pants and waist

Prepare the Needle and Thread

For this tutorial, we will double up the clear thread. Prepare your needle and thread by inserting the end of the clear thread through the eye (opening) of the needle and pull it through. Cut about an arms length of thread (approximately 2 feet long) to work with. Tie the two ends of the fishing wires into a knot. You may need to use the needle to help guide the knot close to the end of the thread.

Pulling the Knot Closer To the End Using a Needle

Repeat the steps again for a second knot. Cut of any excess tail left over.

Clear Thread Tied in a Knot

Sewing the EL Wire

Start sewing by the EL wire's heat shrink and tie a knot around the EL wire. Continue making a loop around the EL wire to hold it down. When sewing with clear thread, make sure to pull the thread all the way through since the thread is slippery when sewn in certain fabrics. Be careful not to sew the front and back of the pants together. Also, ensure that the distance between each stitch is not too long. About 0.5" to 1.0" is a good stitch. Longer stitches can cause the EL wire to snag or become loose when wearing the EL pants.

Start Sewing EL Wire by the Pant's Left Pocket

After about 5x stitches, loop back through the last stitch with an overhand knot to lock the thread in and prevent it from sliding.

EL Wire Loop with Running Stitch

Once you begin to run out of thread to work with, tie the clear thread down against the fabric. Then repeat the steps outlined above with another piece of clear thread.

Clear Thread Tied in a Knot

When you are finished sewing the EL wire down, make a loop with the end of the EL wire and sew the wire down for strain relief. Make sure this loop is beyond the heat shrink as the connection at the heat shrink is sensitive to bending.

Thread with Strain Relief

Plug the EL wire back into the EL inverter to test it out. If it lights up, you are good to go! Place the EL inverter in a pocket or clip to a belt to enjoy! If you are using an EL inverter battery pack, you may want to make an extension cable.

EL Wire with Extension Cable and EL Inverter

Remember, EL wire works best in low light. It may be hard to see in daylight or in rooms with sources of light.

EL in Light EL in the Dark
EL in Light EL in the Dark

Different Pant Sizes

Remember what I said about the size of the pants? Different pant sizes will require different lengths of EL wire - this variation can cause the EL wire to not start or end where you expect it to. Note the difference in the the image compared to the youth sized pants.The beginning of the EL wire was sewn further down the pant leg and followed a narrow path as it headed back up toward the waist.

Adult Sized Pants

Resources and Going Further

Need some inspiration for your next project? Check out some of these related tutorials:

EL Wire Light-Up Dog Harness

Learn how to create a light-up dog harness using EL wire for when you need to take your four-legged friend for a walk in the dark.

Heartbeat Straight Jacket

An EL project that displays one person's heartbeat on another person's costume.

Sound Reactive EL Wire Costume

Learn how to make your EL wire costumes sound reactive in this project tutorial.

Prototype Wearable LED Dance Harness

A project tutorial to add an extra effect for dancers performing a choreographed piece. The harness can be added quickly under a costume.

EL Wire Hoodie

In this tutorial, we will sew standard electroluminescent (EL) wire to a hoodie.

Looking for more ideas, check out these related blog posts: