Electroluminescent Wire (EL Wire) with Clothes
Ok – I know – cheating isn’t a good thing , but I honestly feel like this technique of using EL Wire to get a cool glowing design on your shirt is so easy that it is paramount to breaking the rules.
If you don’t know what EL Wire is, here’s a quick overview:
- A glowing piece of plastic-feeling cord/wire.
- Easy to bend and re-bend.
- It comes in multiple colors.
- It runs on Alternating Current.
- It shines semi-bright, but best seen under darker conditions
You might mistake it for some type of fiber optic cable if you looked real quick, but it is composed of a copper wire covered in a phosphor all enclosed in a see through PVC shielding.
What You Will Need:
- EL Wire and Inverter Box – usually sold together.
- (2) Double A batteries to power the EL Wire
- (2) T-Shirts
- (1) Sheet of plastic cross stitch canvas
So let’s cut to the chase – this is how it works.
First, get some plastic cross stitch canvas – it looks like this:
It is basically index paper made of plastic. The stuff is normally used to make designs with fabric (you know – like the kitten chasing a butterfly hanging on your grandma’s wall), but is robust enough to handle EL Wire. It comes in all different sized and is dirt cheap.
There are only two things you need to know when buying this:
- The physical size of the sheet – like 10″ by 13″
- The “count” number – which refers to the size of the holes in the material. The smaller the count, the bigger the holes. You want bigger holes.
It is easy to mistake the “count” which specifies the hole size, for the number of sheets that come in a pack. You might be buying 1-sheet of 10 count canvas, when you wanted 10 sheets of 1 count canvas – read closely!
Set Up The Design and Weave
Now trace out the design on your plastic sheet with a heavy marker – this won’t be seen when you are done, so use a dark color that you can easily see.
Keep in mind that EL Wire is one continuous light, so if your design is going to have gaps – for example if you have a gap between two numbers – you will need to cover up the part you don’t want to show. Just use black electrical tape wrapped around the EL Wire.
Now take your EL Wire – you may notice that there is a small plastic cap on the end of it – this increases the dimension of the wire and makes it more difficult to weave through the holes. You can pop the cap off with some small pliers or similar tool – in our experience removing the cap had no ill effects on the wires performance – though it may impede the wire’s water resistance.
Once the cap is off all you do is start weaving the wire through the holes and follow the design you drew out.
If you find the holes are too small for your EL wire, just snip a little piece of the plastic canvas with sharp scissors to make room.
One other thing to think about when you are starting your weave is where you plan to have the inverter/battery box go. We mounted the inverter to the plastic canvas using the clip that came installed on the box, but if you want it to be in your pocket, you will have to account for the length of your EL wire this will take.
Mount and Hide the Monstrosity
I know – so far this thing looks a bit…well…like Frankenstein’s monster – but thats OK – because this is where we cover everything up.
Use a safety pin to attach each corner of the plastic canvas to the outside of a T-shirt, as pictured below:
Now, just slip the second T-shirt over top the first and whalla – an EL Wire shirt that you can can make in no time at all.
Now whether you are into clothing that lights up or not, there is something very special about the picture above – do you see that teenager smiling? That is because he made something himself.
But Wait…There’s More
This what happens when you combine EL Wire and a Pumpkin:
It looks pretty cool at night – all you need is a drill and some EL Wire to pull it off.