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.)


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]



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

4-ply cotton yarn (fingering weight)


one battery with case



Your regular toolkits for knitting and for soldering


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.

Step 1: About the Materials

Bus Wire

I had experimented with magnet wire, but soldering once it's knitted is difficult (even the "solderable" kind). Then I realized I could get bus wire in a knittable gauge-- perfect!

Bus wire is what makes circuit knitting fast and easy. It's uninsulated copper wire that is tin-coated and ready to solder. A 1/4 spool of 36AWG holds several thousand feet and costs about $11. Bus wire is designed for use in circuits, so it's an ideal conductor- it has negligible resistance and soaks up solder like a sponge. Knitting multiple strands adds strength and means that even if one strand does break, the other strands will conduct around the break. For knitting, 1/4 lb spools are preferable. Larger spools are heavy; it's hard to pull the wire off without breaking it. I suggest knitting with 2-3 strands held-together-as-one of 34-36 AWG bus wire.

Cotton Yarn

Knitted circuits require a yarn that can tolerate soldering heat (over 300C). I tested a variety of fibers and found 100% cotton works well. Synthetic yarns like acrylic will simply melt. (And soldering wool creates the smell of burning hair.) Soldering may leave scorch marks on light-colored yarns. If this happens, try wetting the yarn before soldering, then wait for the yarn to dry completely before powering the circuit.

I use fingering-weight mercerized cotton yarn, with a gauge of 8+ stitches per inch.

<p>Wonderful work</p>
<p>Just some &quot;sketches&quot; to learn and test out technique. Hopefully more to come.</p>
<p>Aw, sweet!</p>
<p>Nailed It........!!!!!!!!!</p>
<p>Woah, grand prize! Great job!! =D</p>
<p>Thanks! I'm so completely thrilled about this! Yaaaaaay!!!</p>
<p>This is awesome!! It looks fantastically nerdy! =D</p>
<p>Thanks! I love the idea of knitted circuits as a way to advertise nerd <br>status. (I've been writing about it <a href="http://blog.jesseseay.com/looking-like-an-engineer-part-1" rel="nofollow">on my blog</a>, too.)</p>
<p>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!</p>
<p>Actually.... it didn't say anything about a yellow sundress. I was dabbling with what I hoped would read as a bit of &quot;magical realism&quot; because it was so improbable.... apparently it didn't work! Perhaps the quote should read &quot;Don't wear yellow sundresses at a Maker Faire&quot; 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.) :-)</p>
<p>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. ;)</p><p>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. :)</p>
<p>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!</p>
<p>Aw, thanks dude! Warm fuzzies!</p>
<p>Great idea!!</p>
<p>I wish i can knit.......</p><p>Amazing !!!!!!!!</p>
<p>interesting.</p><p>I think silver paste(or copper paste, little toxic) can replace lead solder.</p>
<p>Awesome! You ought to look into the Arduino Lilypad, you would prolly get some neat ideas for it...</p>
<p>The red LED collar pictured at the end uses Arduino-- an ATtiny 85 in a chip socket designed to fit the knitting. :-)</p>
<p>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!</p>
<p>The tin-coated .005 diameter #8871K56 should work. Have fun!</p>
<p>Hi Jesse, </p><p>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.</p><p>Of course you will need two of these, one on each wrist.</p><p>Scott</p>
<p>This is actually really creative idea! wow!Well Done!</p>
<p>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!</p>
<p>Thanks, Patrick!</p>
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
<p>Crochet, awesome -- that's a great idea! I would love to see what you could do with a crocheted circuit -- please do!</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I'm an artist and associate professor at Columbia College Chicago, where I teach audio and electronic art. I make sound art, kinetic sculpture, and ... More »
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