Sew together various soft electronic components to turn your favorite clothing item into a wearable waste of energy!

These step-by-step instructions will show you how to combine fabric buttons, fabric pressure sensors, and conductive fabric traces as well as some funny elements, all in the name of wasting energy for no particular reason.

There are 7 different components to this wearable. And below is a list of the materials and tools you will need to complete them. The following 7 steps will explain how to make each of these components. And the idea is that you come up with your own design and layout for the components, and maybe even add some new elements.


Step 1) Conductive fabric traces
Step 2) 9V battery, battery snaps and little pocket
Step 3) Fabric switch
Step 4) Fabric pressure sensor
Step 5) Vibration motor embedded in Shapelock
Step 6) LED
Step 7) Decorative elements: the doll and the sun

- Old clothing item to modify!
- Fabric leftovers
- Stretch conductive fabric from
- Conductive thread from
- Fusible interfacing from local fabric store
- Velostat by 3M from
- Thread
- 3mm thick foam
- Vibration motor
- 9V batterys
- Rainbow wire
- Shapelock from

- Hole maker
- Scissors
- Iron
- Sewing needle
- Popper/snap machine (handheld or hammer and simple version)
- Hot water

Step 1: Conductive Fabric Traces

Picture of Conductive Fabric Traces

So that the electricity can flow from the battery through the button or the pressure sensor to the component it needs a conductive connection. Since we are working with clothing, it makes sense to use conductive fabric to make these traces. Iron on some fusible interfacing to your conductive fabric before cutting it into thin strips. Then iron these strips onto the clothing item where you need them to complete the circuit.

Step 2: 9V Battery, Battery Snaps and Little Pocket

Picture of 9V Battery, Battery Snaps and Little Pocket

Once you have decided on the layout and design of your wearable you will have to plan in one 9V battery for almost every component you integrate. This is because the conductive fabric traces have quite a bit of resistance, thus suck quite a lot of energy, which contributes to the whole “waste of energy” idea.

To connect the 9V battery snaps to the conductive traces, strip the ends of the wires that come out of the battery snaps and make a little loop. Solder this so that it does not unravel. Use conductive thread to sew the loop onto the end of the fused conductive trace.

You will want to make a pocket for your battery. Best to use stretchy fabric and cut it a bit smaller than the actual size of the battery so that the stretch will keep it in place. Also, make the pocket 2 or 3 cm longer than the battery, this way it stays in nicely, even when upside-down.

Step 3: Fabric Switch

Picture of Fabric Switch

For this component you will want to follow the detailed instructions posted in this Instructable>> (coming soon...)

Step 4: Fabric Pressure Sensor

Picture of Fabric Pressure Sensor

For this component you will want to follow the detailed instructions posted in this Instructable>>

Step 5: Vibration Motor Embedded in Shapelock

Picture of Vibration Motor Embedded in Shapelock

Strip the ends of the short wires coming out of a small vibration motor (the kind you find in cell phones) make loops in the wire and solder them just like the ends of the 9V battery snap wires.

Shapelock is a very cool thermoplast. It comes in small pellets and when you pour a handful of them into hot water they will melt and stick together. They are ready to mould when transparent. Take out the cluster of hot plastic pellets and shake off the hot water. Mould into solid form and then form around the small vibration motor, leaving the two soldered loops sticking out. In this example I simply soldered to these rings in order to connect them to the conductive trace, but the idea of embedding the motor in Shapelock is to make it washable (not in hot water though!) and so that the rings can also be stitched to the conductive traces with conductive thread. Getting rid of the wire, which is a good thing, in terms of wearability. I guess.

Step 6: LED

Picture of LED

With a pair of small pliers curl the legs of the LED into little loops and sew these loops, using conductive thread, straight to the conductive fabric traces. Make sure that the LED's plus goes to the battery's plus!

Step 7: Decorative Elements: the Doll and the Sun

Picture of Decorative Elements: the Doll and the Sun

For the sun I simply cut a small circle of foam and then cut out a circle the size of the LED in the middle of that and then placed it over the LED, to create some 3D-ness. Then I ironed-on some fusible interfacing to some white cotton jersey and cut out a piece in the shape of a sun. I also cut a hole in this the size of the LED and placed it on top of the led and the foam. Then I ironed on the sun to the sweater, being careful of the LED and the foam underneath.

Step 8: And That Was That.

Picture of And That Was That.

And that was that.

I attached the batteries to their snaps and slipped them into the pockets and put on the sweater and pressed the button and the pressure sensor and watched them work and wasted energy all the while I wore it.



ElJefeUno (author)2008-10-28

Idea: Buy 3 of these Solar panels and tape them to the fabric with double sided tape. Wire each panel in series with each other (positive end of one with negative end of the other). Buy 6 1.5V rechargeable nicad batteries (might be a bit heavy), and wire them together in series as well. Put on a 3 position switch to switch the batteries between charging off the solar panels and running your stuff. Voila! Now your shirt generates no dead batteries.

Ph3nomin0n (author)ElJefeUno2008-11-17

Well then it would not be a waste of energy if its solar powered lol

Ph3nomin0n (author)Ph3nomin0n2008-11-17

It would be a waste of energy if it ran on coal or gas

ElJefeUno (author)Ph3nomin0n2008-11-17

Well they probably charged that battery using energy from a coal or a gas power plant. And she mentioned that she felt bad wasting energy, so I gave her and alternative :)

Derin (author)ElJefeUno2009-04-03

No,it's not charged,it generates by chemicals ;)

Nisalotaco (author)Derin2011-08-24

therefore you waste chemicals. Even better! Save the oil and stuff for muscle cars.

Colonel88 (author)Ph3nomin0n2009-06-19

yeah... By the way you wasted energy on this Instructables that is on wasting.LOL

NeonLime (author)2008-07-15

"Wearable Waste Of Energy" ...? One word... No. Energy should be conserved. Not wasted?

Plusea (author)NeonLime2008-07-15

Of course! In a way it is just the title of the project, because.... what it the use of lighting up an LED on my sweatshirt or running a vibration motor? But of course in a further development sense, there are uses for these things.

shooby (author)Plusea2008-07-15

Still, the word is NO. That 9V is going to end up in a landfill, where it will slowly ruin my world. Thanks for wasting.

corey_caffeine (author)shooby2009-06-19

when did it become your world?

shooby (author)corey_caffeine2009-06-19

It's your world too kid. Stay focused.

antennas (author)shooby2008-08-10

Oh grow up.

shammallamaman (author)antennas2008-08-10

you grow up

Wow. The bickering can not stop.

jackcday (author)puzzlefreak2009-03-19

Loool, people on this website moan about everything! Be happy, it's cute!!

programedfiles (author)jackcday2009-05-27

technically yes it is a waste of energy but is that 1 9volt gonna be the cause of the end of the world?? its a L.E.D (a light emitting diode) they do NOT use a lot of energy sure after a while it will add up but its still not gonna destroy the world because of 1 9volt

Derin (author)shooby2009-04-03


Karnivore (author)shooby2008-08-02

So, wait... Your world's a landfill? Probably isn't the best analysis, but it also raises a lot of questions... And answers.

Plusea (author)shooby2008-07-22

Exactly. So the point is to NOt follow this Instructable but come up with better things. Solar cells are an option.

agis68 (author)NeonLime2008-11-29

I agree...bytheway where you get that golden fabric u use as connector lines?

Plusea (author)agis682008-11-29

It is stretch conductive fabric from LessEMF. Check the first step for the list of materials and links.

agis68 (author)Plusea2008-12-07


rachel (author)NeonLime2008-07-15

The waste of energy is small, especially compared with the experience gained from working with these tools and materials. This is a stepping stone to Greater Things!

Plusea (author)rachel2008-07-15

I guess. But still. I felt bad having to use a 9V battery to power an LED and another 9V battery to power a 3V vibration motor, just because the conductive fabric sucks so much power. But conductive fabric is cool and you are right, it will surely lead to greater things!

rachel (author)Plusea2008-07-15

Have you tried using conductive thread? I think I recall testing and determining that the thread has a lower resistance than Zelt, at least; but I could be remembering that wrong. The stuff I use is intended for repairing fencing outfits, I get it from Lame Lifesaver at

Plusea (author)rachel2008-07-22

Actually the strips of stretch conductive fabric have less resistance than the thread. Especially since the fabric is stretchy and the stretchy stitch goes zig-zag as well as doubles back on itself, using more thread - more resistance. But in the future, maybe, yes. And thanks for the suggestion! Sparkfun now also sells spools of conductive thread >>

killerjackalope (author)Plusea2008-10-15

One tip, if you put multiple threads as one line it'll lower the resistance, like have five threads to each leg of the LED instead of one, it'll help to some extent though at the cost of either flexibility or subtlety...

bustedit (author)Plusea2008-07-16

Plusea, you so crazee! I think it's a great USE of energy. Shooby needs to take a re-cycled pill n chill. Perhaps epaulettes of solar panels would be in order, or one of those pith helmets with a built in solar powered fan, with Faraday enhanced shoes that absorb the energy of each step, and link em up?

Geosync (author)NeonLime2008-08-15

Einstein theorized that energy can be be neither created nor destroyed. Energy resources are a different story. I'm pretty sure Al Gore got a Nobel Peace Prize, though. Also, I think it's a responsible attitude to understand what pollution is, and then not do it. I also think this is a cute project.

shammallamaman (author)NeonLime2008-08-10

Amen Brother

blugyblug (author)NeonLime2008-08-02

Its a joke against all that Global Warming stuff

puffyfluff (author)2008-11-17

Personally, I think this would pass as extremely fashionable.

thinkdunson (author)puffyfluff2008-11-20

i agree. and i think your name is awesome.

puffyfluff (author)thinkdunson2008-11-21

Thank you! All my friends say that, too.

Turpis (author)puffyfluff2008-11-21

the fashion industry doesnt make a lot of clothes that actively use electricity though.

thinkdunson (author)Turpis2008-11-21

almost everything you do uses electricity. i meant that the energy they "waste" just doing business. and most of their products probably never see production. i'm sure it takes a lot of time and energy to make people look good. there are aspects of industry that most people couldn't fathom. and all of that takes energy to run. so if making your own clothes look a certain way is a waste... just imagine how much the fashion industry wastes.

puffyfluff (author)thinkdunson2008-11-21

True. A monstrous amount of energy going to waste. Such a shame.

Shut Up Now (author)puffyfluff2008-11-24

cool project. end of story.

Unit042 (author)2008-07-16

Forget the landfill, this thing will only be on, wasting power, while this person is showing the sweater off to others(not long). It's not like it's going to be on 24/7. This is simply an experiment with wearable circuits. Efficiency can come later, experience starts now. Great ible! I wonder... what about that really thin "enameled" wire used for making incuctors and transformers?(more than meets the eye) Granted, it'll wear out after a bunch of bends, will short out against whatever it can, and is more intrusive to wear than conductive fabric, but it can carry much more power at lower resistance. Speaking of resistance, maybe, during wintertime, this idea can be taken further with a resistive element T shirt that warms you up! It was my idea first! But go ahead and build it, and make ibles! Bwahahahahahaaa! Screw the planet, I wanna wear an LED! Speaking of LED's, maybe you could do that invisible face IR hat idea and expand it to make your whole body invisible to cameras! Speaking of cameras....

thinkdunson (author)Unit0422008-11-20

just a small side note... the enamel wire won't short out against whatever it touches... it's covered in insulative enamel. and running two from a battery to an led wouldn't be enough to become intrusive, i don't think. and i bet it would last a very long time. long enough that by the time it does wear out and break somewhere, you can just sew in a new run. i think, when i do this, i'll do it with enamel wire and see how it works.

Unit042 (author)thinkdunson2008-11-21

Good point.

thinkdunson (author)2008-11-20

i like it. and i don't think it's a waste of anything. if this is wasting energy, then the entire fashion industry is wasting tons and tons of energy. but it's not a waste because people want their clothes to look good. if you like it, it's not a waste! and if you learned anything, or if anyone else did, then it's the opposite of waste!

kwe (author)2008-07-19

what's interesting in this project???? seriously we could do the same with a battery a led and a sofa and make a "energy waster sofa" !!!!

thinkdunson (author)kwe2008-11-20

dude, you're a genius! i don't think i would have ever thought to do this to furniture, for some reason. you have transformed my living room. thank you!

Karnivore (author)kwe2008-08-02

I actually kinda like that idea. Thanks!

gloflyer (author)2008-09-26

I really like your creativity! and the sense of fun!!!

chocolaterobot (author)2008-08-13

I love it Hannah! and the discussion about conservation of energy haha... Waste MORE energy.

greenwing hero (author)2008-08-13

a battery or two here or there isnt going to make a huge difference.
stop complaining and enjoy live.
in 10, possibly 20 years we're going to have started using hydrogen fuel cell cars and stuff like that.

get over it =]

hammer9876 (author)2008-08-09

Forget the landfill cracks. This is inspiration. I really love the conductive fabric idea. This explodes the possibilities. Thanks!

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