Diana Eng of Project Runway fame is a geek's fashion designer. Today, she's teaching us how to sew LEDs into your clothing.
We're all familiar with the LED belt buckle and the Motorola/Burton jacket, but now we're grabbing fashion by the threads and showing you how to make your own tech-inspired clothing (and not look like an MIT project in the process). After the jump, we're gonna show you how to sew an LED onto your shirt in 8 easy steps. Yeah, we're gonna sew. But we will sew while drinking a beer to re-emphasize our masculinity.
Before you begin, you'll need conductive thread (the same material used to make fencing vests), a sewing machine, a hand sewing needle, pliers, scissors, an LED, a 1,000 ohm resistor (which can be purchased at any Radio Shack), alligator clips (also from Radio Shack), and a 9-volt battery.
1) Start by cutting the end wires (or leads) of the resistor down to a shorter length.
2)Bend the leads in a round shape. You'll notice that one LED has a longer lead. This is the + side of the LED that electricity flows into. The shorter lead of the LED is the ground side. Like the resistor, cut the leads and bend them into loops. Make the longer lead + a larger loop. Bend the loops so that the LED can sit flat on the fabric.
3)Mark where the components will go on the fabric. Make sure that the resistor is placed by the side of the LED that has a larger loop.
4)Thread your sewing machine. If the thread is too thick to pass through the needle, you can use a larger needle.
5)Sew lines and leave gaps where you'd like the resistor and LED to be (basically you will be sewing between the marks you made on the fabric). Be sure to backstitch the ends where you want to add your components (to back stitch, just push the reverse button on your sewing machine and the machine sews backwards). Backstitching keeps the end of thread from coming undone and ensures that there is more surface area for the components to make contact with. Using a hand sewing needle start from the back.
6)Hand stitch the loop of one lead to the edge of a sewn line.
7)Hand sew the resistor and LED into the circuit. Using a hand sewing needle start from the back of the fabric (so as to avoid loose threads in the front). Hand stitch the loop of one lead to the edge of a sewn line. Be sure that the hand stitched part overlaps with the sewn line.
8)Once all of your components are sewn on, add a power supply. Attach one end of an alligator clip to the + side of the battery and the other end to the resistor side of the sewn line (refer to red clip in photo). Using the second alligator clip attach one end to the side of the battery and the other end to the LED side of the sewn line (refer to green clip in photo). The LED should light up. Now throw on the shirt and hit the town.
Diana Eng is a nerdy fashion designer in New York City who's designs are inspired by science. She was a contestant on Project Runway 2 and her work has been featured in Maker Faire, Siggraph, Wired, and ID Magazine. Diana has recently cocreated BlackBoxNation.com with Emily Albinski, a company dedicated to merging fashion with technology.