Using a mesh tubing to house the wire allows you to remove it to wash the article of clothing, replace el wire that happens to break, or change out the colors as you see fit.
In this tutorial I will show you how to make a triangle design on a tank top, but there is a lot of freedom with this technique as far as what clothing you'd like to work on and what design you choose. Similarly, I'll be using a sewing machine to attach the mesh to the cloth, but you could also hand sew or glue it with success. I prefer machine sewing because I find it to be the most durable method and faster than doing it by hand. If you want a project that can hold up to a few wash cycles, then glue may be the fastest and most viable option for you.
Article of clothing:
Most types of clothing will do, though stiffer material always supports el wire better. The tank top I use here is quite light and soft, however, and still works just fine. Remember to pre-wash your item before you begin to prevent shrinking and distortion of your design after it's attached.
Soldered el wire:
Unless you're up for an additional challenge or plan on using a LOT of el wire, it's easiest and cheapest to buy soldered el wire (available on amazon for under $10 in almost any color) with a battery pack already connected.
Sewing machine, needle and thread, or glue:
Whatever you choose to use, see above description for advice on how to select your method.
Mesh or tulle in the color of your choosing:
I use black mesh because I like the look of it and it matches the shirt well. In the dark, the color will have little to no impact on the appearance of your wire, but it will be visible in the light.
Step 1: Choose Your Design
Lay out your design or sketch it to scale to make sure the lengths are correct. When you know how much mesh tubing you will need (it will be equal to the length of wire you need), measure out your mesh or tulle and sew your tubing closed.
How wide should the tubing be?
The thicker the tubing is, the easier it will be to get the el wire in and out. A thin tube will require a good amount of effort to change the wire out, while a thicker tube will make the process much quicker. It also allows more give in the wire, placing less stress on it. The advantage to using a thinner tube, however, is that it holds the wire more firmly in place. This preserves the integrity of more complex designs by essentially minimizing the wiggle room. The design I use here is somewhat complex, but doesn't have a lot of fine detail, so my mesh tubing is about 1/2 inch across.
Leave a small hem or margin on the tubing to attach it to the cloth.
Step 2: Attach the Tubing
Make sure that if your design has any overlapping lines you don't stitch the tube closed, or you won't be able to get the wire through. In this design, I left the corners of the triangles unattached because of how tight the angles ended up. I would recommend using wider angles if possible, but this is certainly doable. Not attaching the corners allows the wire a little more wiggle room to get through these areas, which can otherwise be very challenging to maneuver.
Step 3: Insert Your El Wire
I've masochistically included a bunch of twists and turns just to make sure it takes me a long time to switch out. If you would really like to switch out the colors often, or run several wires through the same tube for a rainbow effect, make your design fairly simple and your tubing fairly wide for ease.
Remember that if your design doesn't look exactly like you wanted it (likely due to the freedom of movement associated with the tubing) you can still shape it. Bending the el wire will cause it to retain that shape and produce more desirable results.