Introduction: Light-up Pillows! ~ Learn to Sew With EL Wire

Picture of Light-up Pillows! ~ Learn to Sew With EL Wire

A good pillow should be large, touchable, durable, and heck, shouldn't it light up, too? Totally!

In this here Instructable I shall present a trio of pillow styles, all using EL wire(Electroluminescent wire). In the making of several EL wire tutorials on my youtube channel, I have had the pleasure of experimenting with different ways it can be used. Let's go play!

Step 1: First, a Little About EL Wire

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Electroluminescent wire (often abbreviated as EL wire) is a thin copper
wire coated in a phosphor which glows when an alternating current is applied to it.

You can buy just the EL wire, or EL wire tape(think maxi piping) or EL panels. Both wires can be purchased as a stand-alone in a wide variety of colors, or already hooked up to an inverter, which takes 2 or 4 AA batteries. Even those still come with copper and heatshrink tubing if you need to cut/adjust your wire(s). They are usually sold in 2.5 and 5 meter lengths. I've used both for clothing, home decor, etc. The EL tape is more rigid than just the EL wire as it also has a clear jacket wrapped over and extending out approximately 1/2" to allow machine stitching on top of it, or buried within a seam allowance, just as you would sew decorative piping onto a pillow.

After being disappointed with it's rigidity as not practical for clothing or even most home decor items(it is great for rigid surfaces where you can actually glue or staple it on) I decided on only purchasing a good amount of the EL wire for all future projects. Well, I have quite the inventory at this point and want to turn it into some exciting pillows!

Step 2: Fabric Stash

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A proper Fabric Stash is capitalized. It is a Proper Noun. If you shove fabric scraps in a large drawer or bin specifically for that and it is already stuffed to capacity, you are on your way to Fabric Stashdom, but not quite. If you have multiple drawers, cubbies, bags, etc. with this same situation then you may have achieved a proper Fabric Stash.

Mine has it's own zip code.

Let me go rummage through it to find suitable fabric for pillows......

Step 3: Assembling the Fabrics, Designing, and Sewing

Picture of Assembling the Fabrics, Designing, and Sewing

Gawd I have a lot! Most of it either too small, too slinky, or too nice and not usable for these pillows... but I did find enough to play around with. The first picture above is the pile I've come up with. Let me parse it for combinations.

Picture 2: Oh, yes.. this will be good. Racy, Red Velvet paired with Bucolic French Toile, gussied up with glow-white Neon.

:D :D

The Toile is leftover from a valance curtain project, the panne velvet.... none of your business, and I think the bright white for the EL wire is the best choice; I don't want to introduce another color and the red EL wire is too different in color from the velvet. This one will be a 20" pillow. Hopefully I have enough of the velvet.

1. First step is to stabilize the velvet. It is stretchy and thin and needs to be more similar to the Toile piece, which is also lined so has pretty heavy hand. Stabilizing means, for this, to iron on some medium weight interfacing. I then stitch the two pieces together at the sides and bottom, right sides together.

2. Next I connect the ends of the valance to create a continuous piece. The picture shows the back, where I stitched the two ends together. I could use it as one of the side seams, but I'd really like gal on the other side to be at the front center. She's my Lady Liberty. : D

3. Now I need to connect the Toile and velvet to create the pillow form. I flip the Toile and velvet pocket piece inside out, and pin the velvet to the Toile at the bottom and stitch on. I need 3 more inches of red to frame the top to complete the 20" square, so piece out what I have left and stabilize that.(I'm working with scraps so I have to get creative) No prob, I have enough(yay!) I basically create another pocket like the bottom and stitch it to the Toile at the top on the front. I need the back open so that I can have access inside the pillow to stitch on the EL wire.(the fun part!)

Step 4: Paint With Light!

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Now comes the fun part - tacking down the EL where you want it. I know I want the EL wire along the bottom scallops and somewhere along the top, but I also want it interspersed throughout the picture of the lady. So that is where I poke some holes, feed it though, seal those up with fray check, and begin sewing the EL wire down.

Black tape: Where I have slashed and fed the wire through and behind, you can put black tape around the EL to completely block it out, so that it doesn't show from the outside. It doesn't bother me much so I didn't, but I may if someone wants to buy it and requests that.

The scalloped edges and detail work on the Toile print were all sewn by hand. I think this was the best method for control, for sure. The EL is slightly rigid, so you do have to manipulate the soft curves and hard turns. You certainly don't want to bend one area back and forth too much as the wire would eventually snap, but once or twice is fine, and it can handle pretty sharp bends. Overall it is very nice to work with.

Step 5: Some by Hand, Some by Machine

Picture of Some by Hand, Some by Machine

Where I need to transition the wire from the inside to the outside and vise versa, I either use a seam opening or create one with a seam ripper and stitch it back up and use fray check.

I wanted to use a piping foot to do the zigzag stitch; it was a bit tricky feeding it through the small opening. You really don't need to use a special foot. I just wanted to experiment and see how nicely it sewed over the wire, as it has a nice groove under the foot.

I pinned the EL Wire along the top by trapping it under a pin, as shown. Be sure to remove them as you approach to sew.

I cut out the holes where there were windows in the tower and tacked the wire to keep it right where I wanted it. More fray check. Lighted windows!

Step 6: Close It Up and Check It Out!

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I pinned some velcro on for the enclosure and sewed that on.

Plug the EL wire into the inverter and , Voila!!


Step 7: How LOVEly!

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I like the contrast between the pink and dark sage. I thought an abstract heart would be cool.

I created a strip of pink by serging the edges. It was about 2 meters long.

Now for the pillow front. This will be a 20", so I cut a 21.5" square.

I laid it on loosely to get the shape.

I stitched it on using a zipper foot, though this really isn't necessary.

I stopped when I came to the loops. I hand-sewed those later. Be careful about not piercing the EL wire. It probably doesn't matter much, and if you do can can just touch it up with Bondic or something similar.

With the remaining .5 meter, I created an arrow to go through the heart. Then I sewed it on by hand and with a zigzag stitch.

The finished stitching!

Now let's create the envelope back...

Step 8: Envelope Back Methods

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I cut the piece at 21.5 x 26", then folded the center to create an overlap. This is an easy way to create the opening.

Cut at the edge, pin and iron. Serge or finish off each raw edge in some other manner.

Interface and sew on buttonhole/button.

Pin finished back to decorative front, right sides together, all along edges.

Sew, and then turn out. This one I wanted a bit snug to really make the design lay smoothly. The finished pillow was more like 19.5" square.

Step 9: Black Velvet Pillow W/red El Wire

This is a full video tutorial. It is a playlist that contains four parts.

I was experimenting with a method to diffuse the EL wire, so I wrapped it with a jacket of tulle while I sewed it into the pillow seam allowance. I basically created EL wire piping! It's pretty detailed.

Step 10: The Finished Trio!!


These are sure to add wonder to your party!!