While this certainly doesn't represent every method possible, it's a good way to introduce you to some options. And never forget the power of super glue - you just have to make sure you get it right the first time!
Step 1: Materials
To do these samples, I chose a pattern to use, appropriate colors of el wire in the thinnest gauge, fabric, invisible thread, embroidery thread, and grommets.
El wire from thatscoolwire.com.
Step 2: Trace Your Pattern
Trace your pattern onto your fabric. If using a dark fabric like this one, I suggest the following method:
Rub a light colored chalk over the back of the pattern.
Position the pattern over your fabric, chalk side down.
Trace over the pattern with a blunt tipped object.
Voila! Pattern traced and easily erased once you're done with it.
Step 3: Basic Application
This is probably the simplest technique for adding el wire to a fabric that doesn't fray.
Determine the points at which you want the el wire to run over the front of the fabric, and where it will dip back underneath. This gives you crisp edges and produces a better finish than if you were to overlap the wire and tape off the parts that you don't want glowing.
If you are using a fabric that frays, make sure to dot these places with fray check or white glue.
Make small slits in the fabric at these point. Feed the wire through the fabric, and secure with invisible thread by hand. The last image shows you what the back side of this piece looks like. Not a bad idea to secure the loops on the back with your invisible thread or glue.
Step 4: Grommets
I wanted to try another option using grommets. I thought it would provide more protection to the fabric to help it resist tearing. In the end, I quite liked the different look it gave the finished product.
Again, determine at what points your wire will ride on the front of the fabric and mark these spots on your pattern. Where the wire was only passing through the fabric once, I used small eyelets. When the wire passed through the same spot twice, I needed to use a larger grommet.
You can also purchase rubber grommets for this purpose, but I was using what I had on hand.
Since my grommets were not black, I decided to ink them so they would disappear into the fabric.
Thread the wire through your grommets and secure by hand with invisible thread.
Step 5: Embroidery
This technique was a great chance to utilize our Singer embroidery machine. Several experiments taught me that even the heavy pleather I was using needed to have a stabilizer behind it! Follow the instructions for your embroidery machine, as I'm assuming you have one if you're attempting this technique.
Choose the points at which the wire will poke through the front, and use fray check or white glue to secure the embroidery threads at this point. Once the glue is dry, make little slits through the fabric to run your wire through.
Secure wire over the embroidery with either matching or invisible thread.
Step 6: Light It Up!
There you have it! Three simple techniques (given the materials) to apply el wire to your next awesome project. They each have a different look to them both when illuminated and when not.
I hope this helps, and I can't wait to see what you make!