Introduction: Flexible LED ETextile Ribbon Array

Picture of Flexible LED ETextile Ribbon Array

Yet another method to create eTextiles and wearable computers: an easy sew flexible ribbon array for LEDs.

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Step 1: Gather Parts

Picture of Gather Parts

Sewing Machine
Power Source

Step 2: Sew Conductive Thread to Ribbons

Picture of Sew Conductive Thread to Ribbons

With a zig zag stitch sew conductive thread to ribbons.

Step 3: Tailor Tack Ribbon Array Together

Picture of Tailor Tack Ribbon Array Together

Form an array by tailor tacking the conductive thread ribbons together.

Negative ribbon with conductive thread facing down.
Positive ribbon with conductive thread facing up.
Loosely sew the ribbons together at crossing points.

Step 4: Slide LED Legs Into the Array

Picture of Slide LED Legs Into the Array

Gently bend the legs of the LEDs.
Slide negative leg into negative trace zig-zag by puncturing thru the ribbon to reach the conductive thread zig-zag channel.  Feed the negative leg thru the channel making contact with the conductive thread.
Slide positive leg into positive trace zig-zag channel making contact with the conductive thread.
Gentle snug the LED into their zag-zag channels.

Step 5: Connect to Power Source

Picture of Connect to Power Source

Make a master positive ribbon trace and a master negative ribbon trace.
Lay the master negative trace on the negative array ribbons with conductive thread touching.
Using conductive thread sew the negative traces together.
Lay the master positive trace on the positive array ribbons with conductive thread touching.
Using conductive thread sew the positive traces together.

Connect master ribbon traces to power source.

Let there be light!

Step 6: Make Something!

Picture of Make Something!

I used this eTextile method to create a UV LED illumination system inside a lobster bustle for Mrs. Mary Atkins-Holls' evening gown.

More about this Victorian raver black light ball gown - Mrs. Mary Atkins-Holl.
To learn more about wearable tech and eTextiles please visit my website.


antling (author)2010-07-16

Great! the dress looks brillant!!

Lynne Bruning (author)antling2010-07-16


wachi (author)2010-06-17


Lynne Bruning (author)wachi2010-06-18

Thanks! I hope it inspires you to make something fabulous.

Luziviech (author)2010-03-12

 Hm. In the end iike the idea behind.
But i was obly round here, cos i had sumthin maybe same, but more simple in mind, which, i thought, could maybe be topped. My idea is called "LED stripes", a stripe of an endless circuit of LEDs which can be cut every 4cms and i would have shaped it into organza (if i don't glue it).
And, i thought, it could be great to mix it with other glowin techs, but when i saw this, i just wondered, why you're doin it this way, cos this way is much more expensive, not really washable and even more difficult to manage.

Lynne Bruning (author)Luziviech2010-03-13

My reasons were:

1.  This ribbon array was a for a fashion project that fused old and new technology.  Having the ribbon array supported the overall design aesthetic of this specific dress.
2.  I could not find the LED strips with UV LEDs
3.  I was using up product in my studio

Luziviech (author)Lynne Bruning2010-03-13

sorry. i was not intendin to piss you off, though i knew you could be interprete it that way. And i'm not sure yet, if there are UV LED stripes, which maybe would be my next "problem", when i think bout "Fluorescine" in concerns of illumination, but i don't want to bother you. Sorry, if i did anyways. 

kitschykat (author)2009-12-17

Where do you get the ribbon?

Lynne Bruning (author)kitschykat2009-12-18

your local fabric or craft store.

I chose ribbons that were blacklight reactive to support the design of the dress as well as indicate the positive and negative traces.

ShortedOut (author)2009-12-14

I think the LEDs probably are the same brightness. The problem with LEDs is that they have a very narrow viewing angle. Most LEDs have something like a 30-degree viewing angle, and so are brightest when viewed from the top, and much less bright when viewed from the side. I think in this photo the array itself curves, and that is just enough that some of the LEDs are viewed from the side.

Lynne Bruning (author)ShortedOut2009-12-16

Actually in this array the LEDs do diminish in brightness the further from the power source.

As with any design you have a balancing act between the end user, the purpose of the design and how to power it. 

I choose to only have one power source. This array was made for a wearable art runway competition.  I could not be backstage to 'power' up the model, so I streamlined the array with one switch and minimal wiring.

Another factor figuring into my design was that I was creating a light well within the lobster bustle where the UV LED light would be diffused.  In this case the viewing angle was not critical.

ShortedOut (author)2009-12-14

Thinking about the viewing angle problem a little more, I remembered seeing an instructable wherein the author filed down the LEDs and put them sideways inside translucent buttons (see Light for Life: Glowing Button Cycling Jacket, which should come up on the top line of instructables if you type "LED jacket" into the search). The result was a glow that is very uniform. I did a double-take when I saw the jacket, because I couldn't figure out how she got the LEDs to glow like that! Of course, it sounds like real work to make the buttons with embedded LEDs, but maybe buttons of the sort (containing LEDs) could be attached to the ribbon array instead of the plain LEDs?

Lynne Bruning (author)ShortedOut2009-12-16

Now that you have refreshed my memory, I remember that example.
It was sweet solution.
see it here in step 5.

brokengun (author)2009-12-02

 That is pretty neat, I like the idea. It would be cool to see some really crazy display stuff on it though. You could have a light up dress that has a crazy light show on it. You should try to get all the LEDs to be the same brightness though. 

fungus amungus (author)2009-11-19

Great stuff! Those last pics are awesome.

DId you get an office with a view yet?
The things I do for fashion have lead me down the electronics rabbit hole.
Just wait till I post the next one!!!!

We don't have a great view, but our new office is in a sweet location in Downtown SF. So many food options! It's so cool.

your office is all about the food!
I'll have to do a special eatable I'ble for the i'bles!

Our new office has a kitchen! Having a stove at work is a beautiful thing. Expect even more recipes from us soon.

Lynne Bruning (author)2009-11-19

Thank you!  I'm happy to have this opportunity to share her with you.

and macgeek800 - I enjoyed Zoltar at the Mermaid Parade.  Thanks for bringing your fabulous project out in the rain!

macgeek (author)2009-11-18

This is Brilliant and BRILLIANT!!!


Kaiven (author)2009-11-18

That outfit is astonishing! Great work!

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