Instructables
Picture of Knit a Working Circuit Board
2014-04-18 12.49.36.jpg

For this instructable, I'll demonstrate how to knit circuitry, using a simple LED circuit as an example. The instructions assume you already know how to knit, solder, and wire up LEDs. (If you need to brush up on those skills, there are great tutorials all over the web.)

Introduction

After discovering e-textiles through websites like Kobakant's How To Get What You Want, I became fascinated with textile methods for electronics, and started experimenting with the circuit possibilities in knitting and knitting machines.

Eventually I developed a method to "print" circuit boards on my knitting machine, with materials that are inexpensive, easily available, and solderable. The method works with both traditional electronic components and with e-textile components. And while I use a knitting machine for rapid production, the materials should work fine for hand knitters.

Disclaimer #1: Wearables made with this method are not intended for rough handling. Prom, yes. Soccer, no.

Disclaimer #2: Solder is toxic. Don't wear the circuit against bare skin. Wash your hands after handling. Wear goggles when working.

Disclaimer #3: Some readers have expressed concern about lead from the solder leaching through fabric. I'm not an expert, but I suspect this would be an issue with wet fabric, not dry fabric. So keep your circuits dry -- avoid rain, spills, and contact with sweat. [Added 7/14/14]


Materials

knitting:

2-3 spools of bus wire (1/4lb size)

4-ply cotton yarn (fingering weight)

circuit:

one battery with case

LEDs

Tools

Your regular toolkits for knitting and for soldering

Plus....

Wire Dispensing Rack - A horizontal dowel that can hold the spools of wire. I use a craft paper dispenser. Whatever it is, the dowel should fit through the holes in the wire spools.

Nylon Stocking - a spare you can cut-up. Child-sized fits the wire spools well.

 
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nodcah2 months ago

Woah, grand prize! Great job!! =D

jseay (author)  nodcah2 months ago

Thanks! I'm so completely thrilled about this! Yaaaaaay!!!

nodcah4 months ago

This is awesome!! It looks fantastically nerdy! =D

jseay (author)  nodcah4 months ago

Thanks! I love the idea of knitted circuits as a way to advertise nerd
status. (I've been writing about it on my blog, too.)

Great blog post (or not so great...)! What an interesting coincidence that the Amelia Erhart quote talked about a yellow sundress...! I'm also a female artist (primarily fiber arts) and work in tech. Check out my blog (http://constantsunrise.blogspot.com/). Props and fun instructable!

jseay (author)  haloweenparty100004 months ago

Actually.... it didn't say anything about a yellow sundress. I was dabbling with what I hoped would read as a bit of "magical realism" because it was so improbable.... apparently it didn't work! Perhaps the quote should read "Don't wear yellow sundresses at a Maker Faire" because that would be anachronistic for Amelia Earhart. Or maybe I need to add a footnote.... This is the problem with blogs-- no editors to fix the writing! Love the t-shirt mods, btw. (I turned a Modest Mouse shirt into a tank top once, but it didn't look nearly as good as yours.) :-)

Yeah, I had a feeling that it didn't actually say that. I'd rather believe that it actually did, so I think I'll pretend. ;)

Glad you like my shirts! I'm hoping to get more active with my blog again, so maybe you'll be seeing more posts soon. :)

nodcah jseay4 months ago

Great idea! I just read the story on the link and that stinks... But that only makes it more awesome that you're doing this!

jseay (author)  nodcah4 months ago

Aw, thanks dude! Warm fuzzies!

nodcah jseay4 months ago

Great idea!!

Echucai4 months ago
Pfffffffffff
stanfk544 months ago

I wish i can knit.......

Amazing !!!!!!!!

Drone04 months ago

interesting.

I think silver paste(or copper paste, little toxic) can replace lead solder.

spease14 months ago

Awesome! You ought to look into the Arduino Lilypad, you would prolly get some neat ideas for it...

jseay (author)  spease14 months ago

The red LED collar pictured at the end uses Arduino-- an ATtiny 85 in a chip socket designed to fit the knitting. :-)

2014-05-31 11.33.17Chip.jpg
kewpiedoll994 months ago

Great instructable. I'd like to try it. I'm having a hard time figuring out which is the right bus wire from the site you linked to. You mention using 34-36 AWG bus wire, but on the site, even with poring over the wire gauge conversion chart, it's really unclear which products those are. Could you specify which product numbers would fall within those parameters? Thanks!

jseay (author)  kewpiedoll994 months ago

The tin-coated .005 diameter #8871K56 should work. Have fun!

tovey4 months ago

Hi Jesse,

Add more LEDs so that they can be seen on both sides of your wrist, facing front and facing back, and you will have a really good way of letting motorists see you at night while you're walking down the side of the street or crossing the road.

Of course you will need two of these, one on each wrist.

Scott

smahbub4 months ago

This is actually really creative idea! wow!Well Done!

Paulbacca4 months ago

That's is great. I don't think I would have the patience to knit a circuit. I think I'll stick to drawing and painting my circuits. Well done!

rothmobot4 months ago

Awesome!

jseay (author)  rothmobot4 months ago

Thanks, Patrick!

TexanPirate4 months ago
Being a fan of both crocheting and DIY projects, this really stands out to me. I still hand stitch my projects, but this could be something new to connect my two pastimes
jseay (author)  TexanPirate4 months ago

Crochet, awesome -- that's a great idea! I would love to see what you could do with a crocheted circuit -- please do!