I love electroluminescent wire (el wire), and I think it is a highly misunderstood material. It often gets a bad rap in the wearable tech world because it can be fussy to work with and can look messy if not placed precisely. But when used in the right ways, it creates an effect that is both elegant and mesmerizing. A lot of my costume work has involved trying to find new and interesting ways to use el wire. To create this glowing necklace design, I simply wove two colors of wire through laser cut slits in a strip of thick leather, and attached them to a battery pack at the back of the neck.
I was excited when I came up with this relatively simple leather weaving technique because I think it gives a completely new dimension to the wire, making it look almost like beads or film strip, and I can see the potential for a creating lot of interesting design variations using this method. It also eliminates tedious hand sewing and nit-picky el wire placement. Threading the wire through the leather still takes longer than I would like, but it is certainly faster, more secure, and more durable than sewing.
I also love this look because I think it takes the el wire out of the realm of costume and turns it into an elegant statement accessory that could be worn to a variety of occasions. There’s no reason that illuminated fashion should be confined to raves and costume parties, and with this necklace, it doesn’t have to be.
- One piece of relatively thick yet flexible leather for the strands, about 1/8" thick and at least 30" long by 6" wide. I used aniline dyed black cow hide, which means the dye penetrates all the way through the leather. I think this looks best with this design because you will see both the cut edge and the back side of the leather.
-One piece of stiffer black leather for the battery box, at least 7" by 8". I used a leather that had been stamped with a reptile pattern, which adds interest to the shape, but you could use a plain leather, or even the same leather as you use for the strands.
-El wire, at least 60” - I get all my el wire and supplies from Cool Neon in Oakland, but there are certainly other suppliers. I used about 30" of pink 3.2mm wire (called "phat" in the Cool Neon catalog), and 30" of aqua 5mm wire (called "hella phat" because Cool Neon has ridiculous product names :). I think the variation in color and diameter gives the design a dynamic quality especially with contrasting colors, but you could use just one color if you wanted.
-An el wire driver that will drive about 8-10 feet of wire - I used Cool Neon’s Peacock driver
-A wire-side el wire connector and copper tape
-1/2” and 1/4” heat shrink tubing
-A 9V battery
-Snaps - Three, 1/2” wide rivet snaps that match your leather
-A snap riveting kit
-Rivets - Eight, 1/8” rivets that match your leather
-Thread to match your leather - I used embroidery thread, but any thick thread will work
-Hand sewing needles
-A leather groover
-A leather punch
-Scissors and/or a cutting wheel
-An exacto knife
-An automatic wire stripper - stripping el wire is tricky and I seriously suggest only using this kind of wire stripper if you don’t want to get frustrated and waste a lot of wire.
-A soldering iron and solder
-A soldering helping hands
-A hot glue gun
-Access to a laser cutter (if you don’t have access to your own laser cutter you can send your file to an online laser cutting service like: https://www.ponoko.com/, or look up local laser cutter in your area). This design could probably also be cut out with a lot of patience and a sharp exacto knife and chisel.
-A computer with a vector design program like Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw.