These things are real attention getters, and can make the difference between being just another dude/dudette with glowsticks, or being considered a real light-dancer.Even a simple belt of star panels gets loads of compliments.
Why this is a good idea: One of the major drawbacks to EL is that it is a bit weak, and doesn’t stand up to being flexed about in vigorous activity. But it is still stiff enough that it will really distort any cloth you try to attach it to if you use much of it, or try to bend it in smaller curves.
Electronics also make any garment they are attached to tricky to wash- and the more you have of it, the harder it gets to wash without kinking or soaking anything.
And the big problem: your awesome shiny art is only on –that- jacket. Which means that a) that jacket isn’t good for day-to-day wear anymore and b) you’ll be wearing that jacket an awful lot. Which is potentially very smelly if you are using EL as a safety feature on your bike, or as part of a costume for performing in (poi are more sweat-inducing than they look...)
These problems can be combated by making an easily detached panel, with some attachment points, so that it can be placed wherever you want it to be. The panel can be printed, painted, or made of coloured cloth, to further enhance it’s appeal.
-Enough EL wire for your design, plus soldering room - I picked up 2 7 foot lengths with already- wired –up inverters (battery packs) for $7 australian each (including post) off ebay.
The thinner the wire, the easier it is to shape. So, big bold designs are right with 5mm, but my fiddly wings can’t use more than 2.3mm (1mm would have been easier, but not bright enough for my liking)
-Clear thread, el cheapo sewing kit ($2 at a dollar store)
-Tape for thimble. Any sort, though a masking, duct, or electrical have better grip.
-Cloth- (thriftstore shirt $1, otherwise anywhere from $3 to $14 per meter)
-Soft plastic (I use the bottom out of green bags, bits of food or drink containers, etc- black is best for most colours (except white) , it makes them look more vibrant. White can make things look washed out, and clear might let your wires show if backlit)
-Glue ( $5) I recommend the tacky, alcohol based fabric glue is good for the back, and spray glue for getting the front cloth on smoothly.
- scissors and other sundries. An air fading or easy-remove fabric pencil is good for marking lines. Sand paper can help to rough up the plastic in preparation for the glue
If you will be joining wires:
-Solder, spare wire for joining, etc (I use a $5 soldering iron, but this design didn’t require soldering)
-copper tape ( nan gave me some, I don’t know what it costs.)
-wire strippers The cheap automatic ones (pictured. $2.50 ) are not that great for EL. I recommend buying a proper set.
Attachment methods: I like pins on ribbons, but Velcro or double sided costome tape (if the garment isn’t pinnable, you want it over bare skin, or you’re lazy) are good too.
-paints and related paraphanalia
-large eyelets . They need to be big enough to fit your connectors though (hardware stores sell them for a couple of cents each, dressmaking stores charge a lot more.
the wire I bough came with connectors pre-attached, which were bigger than standard, so I will not be using the eyelets, but explain where they would go if I did.
normal wire to strengthen long sticky-out bits, should you want them stiff
-A sewing machine with a zipper foot can be used to make an easy sew-through-able casing from extra-sheer ribbon
picture: finished item on and off, tools, EL
Step 1: Planning your design
I did some wings in illustrator, so i could test different wire colours before starting work, but chalk on a blackboard could also work.
Plan out where your EL will be, what your layers are, and where your connectors will be- you might be able to skip planning for very simple designs.
Remember not to attempt any too-sharp bends- either use two meeting pieces to make a point or hide a looser bed under another layer. Refer to the diagrams in the later step for the methods used to attach the wires, to help you plan ahead.
Note that smaller loops will need to be sewn down or bound to prevent them from trying to escape. Because there is a backing to prevent flex, you can bend the wires more than normal without breaking them, but it’s best to keep that to a minimum. Anything much tighter than if you were wrapping it around a pencil is going to be a bit risky.
Over-bending ( or bad joins) in EL cause dim spots- for this reason, I recommend plugging the wire in once in a while as you work to check for them. In general, slightly dim bits will ‘heal’ if left overnight, nearly-dead bits will usually perk up to nearly-as-bright if you avoid bending them and let them heal, but actual sharp kinks may be permanently dead, or at least noticeably dim no matter how gently you treat them afterwards.
See http://www.neonstring.com/index.php?tasket=solder for how the wiring works, to give you a better idea of how much room to set aside for joins. Note that the EL wire makes its own circuit internally, you don’t have to have a ‘loop’ set- up, you can just nip off the free end with scissors when you’re done.
Run a piece of string along the lines you’ve decided are for EL wire, to measure how much you will need. Buy a little extra EL on top of this- it prevents having to use bits from 2 different batches, which may not have the exact same tint. You can always use left over snippets for smaller projects.
Generally, line-dense designs like my wing will require multiple wires if you are using the small battery packs as power- trying to solder too much extra onto the end can result in a dim design from over-working the battery.
picture: line drawing, EL plan, attach methods