Introduction: Embroidered Fabric Speaker

Picture of Embroidered Fabric Speaker
Embroider highly conductive thread to make a fabric speaker coil. Then run an amplified sound source through it and hold a magnet close to hear it play. Sewing the coil takes longer than you might think!

Here some videos of what the speaker sounds like:

Here some links to further documentation and variations of the fabric/paper speaker coil and membrane:
>> Fabric speakers
>> Paper speakers
>> Embroidered speaker kit
>> Embroidered speaker kit page



A speaker makes sound because an electromagnet (the embroidered coil) is mounted to a membrane (the fabric) with a permanent magnet close by.  When an audio signal is connected to either end of the electromagnet (coil) a fluctuating magnetic field forms around the coil, repelling and attracting the membrane from the permanent magnet. These vibrations happen so fast that we can barely see them, but the membrane moves the air around it, translating electrical frequencies into audible waves that we can hear.
Take a good look at the diagram and stencil on the other side of this sheet so that you understand what variables will influence the efficiency (volume) of your speaker coil before designing your own.




* solderable conductive thread:

* neodymium magnet(s):

* fusible interfacing:

* regular fabric

* regular thread


* scissors

* iron

* sewing needle



Iron a square of fusible interfacing to the back of the piece of fabric that you plan to embroider your speaker coil on. Peel the paper backing from fusible interfacing and trace the outline and mark the center point of your coil on the front of the fabric.

Fusible interfacing is a heat glue that bonds two pieces of fabric together, adding stiffness to the material. The reason it makes sense to stitch your speaker coil onto stiffer fabric is because it will help keep the fabric taut as you sew so that the coil will not start to collapse the fabric back on itself.

Either before or after sewing your speaker coil, use an iron to fuse your membrane to another piece of fabric, or an item of clothing, or your project - wherever you want the fabric speaker to go. Having multiple layers of fabric fused together does make it harder to sew, but it also makes for a stiffer membrane that is better at moving air.



With a sewing needle pull the end of your conductive thread through the center of your coil so that the needle ends up on the back side (with the fusible interfacing). Pull as much thread through as you will need to connect the center of your coil to your circuit. Generally 10-20 cm is good. Then remove the thread from the needle.


Picture of COUCHING
Thread the needle with regular thread and tie a knot in one end. Insert from the reverse side through the center point of your coil design. Stitch over the conductive thread and back into the fabric, then come back through the fabric a few mm further along your coil path. This embroidery technique is called "couching".


Picture of KEEP SEWING

As you are sewing your coil from center to edge, you want the conductive thread to come as close as possible to the previous turn without touching it. If one turn of the conductive thread touches another then the electricity will not be forced to flow around in circles, which is what increases the strength of the magnetic field.


Picture of ADD MAGNETS

For a quick first test of your speaker simply clip on two magnets one on either side of your coil, so that they hold each other in place. If you have a smaller magnet, then place this one on the front side, since the magnet is conductive it will otherwise short out your speaker's coils. You can also put a piece of fabric in between the magnet and the coil to isolate it. For your final design you will want to mount your magnet(s) in the center of the coil without having them directly connected to the membrane.



Connect both ends of your speaker coil to your amplified audio signal. If you can not hear your speaker, try holding it very close to your ear. If it is very quiet then it is working, but you might need to increase your power source or reconsider your coil design to make it more efficient at moving air, which is what makes it louder.

>> Some simple ways for amplifying various audio signals


AmiraI1 (author)2015-09-30

I made mine using stainless steel conductive thread. I commented then threads to the output from an already amplified signal from some speakers, but it did not work :/

Help! Plz!

AmiraI1 (author)2015-09-30

I made mine using stainless steel conductive thread. I commented then threads to the output from an already amplified signal from some speakers, but it did not work :/

Help! Plz!

AmiraI1 (author)2015-09-30

I made mine using stainless steel conductive thread. I commented then threads to the output from an already amplified signal from some speakers, but it did not work :/

Help! Plz!

revealinghourcreations (author)2015-08-26

absolutely loved the idea, I can now wear my speakers this is HOT

T0BY (author)2015-06-19

Genius! You can build them into clothes/hats/socks!

kaycstevens (author)2013-12-30

what size magnets do you recommend? i am on the website now, but not sure which magnets to select... awesome project!

WeAreMakeshop (author)2013-03-21

Hi can you explain why I must be solderable conductive thread, would this sort of thread work either?

Plusea (author)WeAreMakeshop2013-03-29

it doesn't have to be solderable. but it should be highly conductive. the thread you linked to has a relatively high resistance to it, for making a speaker coil. meaning your speaker will be quieter because the electromagnet will be weaker.

TCBTC (author)2013-01-12

Isn't it also possible to use lightly insulated wire so they wont touch?

boygenuis32 (author)2012-12-09

So I made two of these and embedded them in my hoodie! The sound quality isn't great, but it's still cool!

Plusea (author)boygenuis322012-12-10

Oh cool!!! Thanks for the photos! It looks great.

dee4402 (author)2012-12-06

This is super cool! How do you think of all this stuff?!

boygenuis32 (author)2012-12-05

Made a version with magnet wire on felt. Waiting on some magnets to test it out.

agis68 (author)2012-12-02

very nice instructable for experiments. What if you place bigger magnet. I think the better sound quality was the speaker in a black fabric. Was really understood every single word of the song.....very neat.....keep rolling

Plusea (author)agis682012-12-04

you're right the black speaker sounds best, but it's not just the speaker it is also the audio source. for the black speaker the audio is coming from an mp3 player and being amplified by a commercial amplifier, but in the other videos the audio is coming from a cheap sound circuit found inside greeting cards and i am amplifying it with a transistor.

Justin Tyler Tate (author)2012-12-03

This project would make for good ear-muff-headphones, for the winter months.

Justin Tyler Tate (author)2012-12-03

Couldn't you stretch the fabric on a frame or use embroidery rings, before sewing the speaker coil, in order to keep the fabric taught?

DIY-Guy (author)2012-12-02

Plusea you wowed us again! Would you happen to be related to Thomas Edison by chance? :)
On another note, will this speaker resonate a little better with a firm frame of reference such as stretching the floppy fabric coil over a more solid hoop of some kind? Anchor the edges so to speak.

Arghus (author)2012-12-02

Sound quality seems awful.. A speaker like that will only be cool when it offers audio fidelity. Still cool project to show ppl how a speaker works

woz.artur (author)2012-12-02

Very nice, continue your R&D! :D

shazni (author)2012-11-29

Please may i know if i hook up both ends to a socket and then plug it in to a mp3 will it work? sort of like a earphone? or does it need more power?

Plusea (author)shazni2012-11-30

it should "work" but it might be so quiet that you can not hear it at all. at best you will hear it very quietly.

shazni (author)Plusea2012-11-30

Thanks...i guess the idea i had is i don't have much experience with amplifying and all those electronics... I haven't come to my electronic phase yet :-)

Plusea (author)shazni2012-12-02

no need to know much about electronics. just buy a cheap amplified speaker unit like this one:
take it apart and connect it as shown here:
this will amplify your mp3 player audio sufficiently to be heard through an embroidered fabric speaker.
hope this helps.

Ian01 (author)2012-11-30

This would be great on a running jacket or armband! I may try that sometime, and maybe even add a Bluetooth interface to connect to my phone.

ehudwill (author)2012-11-30

Fantastic job! Very creative! Thanks for sharing.

RningOnFumes (author)2012-11-30

I can definitely see a lot of applications with this. Awesome idea! Do you suppose if the diameter were larger, multiple magnets would work?

SelkeyMoonbeam (author)2012-11-30

This is awesome! You are an inspiration.

yoyology (author)2012-11-29

To solve the problem of needing to have the coils close, but not touching, could you work with a second non-conductive thread, spiraling both out from the center together, and couching over both at intervals?

Plusea (author)yoyology2012-11-30

yes, this is a good idea that should work. i did something similar, but didn't make use of the isolation coil to make the conductive coil tighter/closer together. you could also at first stitch the conductive coil super close to itself and then go back over it with a non-conductive thread to isolate it using an embroidery stitch that completely covers it.

Penolopy Bulnick (author)2012-11-29

Very cool! You should enter it into the A/V contest!

Plusea (author)Penolopy Bulnick2012-11-30

thanks for the tip!

nickmccullough (author)2012-11-29

thats sooo sweet!

agm88 (author)2012-11-29

i can now put a speaker in my jacket and not worry about the bulkyness

snotty (author)2012-11-29

Very nice! Now someone make a hat or hoodie or soft headphones and post them here please.

randofo (author)2012-11-29

This is really cool. This is a great idea. You can do some awesome things with this.

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