As a lighted costume designer, I get a lot of questions from people who want to know how to make their own EL wire costumes. I don't have time to help everyone individually, so I thought I'd consolidate my advice into one instructable. Hopefully this will help you understand the steps involved in this labor-intensive process, and get you started with your own lighted clothing projects.

Rather than describe how to make a single specific design, I am trying to make these instructions fairly general so you can create your own EL wire layout for almost any type of clothing, although many of my example photos refer to lighted coats. Also, since EL wire is very fragile in situations where it is flexed repeatedly, a lot of these tips will focus on methods for improving durability and getting the longest possible life out of the garment.

UPDATE: I never intended this to be a tutorial for copying other people's work, but it seems that some clarification might be useful. It's great to be inspired, but I'd like to encourage this community to take things a step further and use these techniques to create their own original designs.

Step 1: List of Materials

piece of clothing to light up (see guidelines in that step)

sewing supplies:
needle, clear thread, scissors

EL wire (can be a single color or a mix of colors)
EL wire driver/inverter matched to the total length of glowing wire used in the design
battery holder and switch (if not included with driver)

If you are soldering:
soldering iron
wire strippers
wire cutters
heat-shrink tubing, heat gun

glue, pins, clamps
<p>Do you have a course on how to do LED lights in clothing?</p>
How do I get in touch with the writer of this article?
hi - Please contact me though my main website, enlighted.com
This is a Great tutorial. I use clear thread in my sewing machine and use a wide zig-zag stitch on top of the el-wire to hold it down. This works AWESOME! <br> <br>You have to go a little slowly until you get the hang of it. I use a foot for my singer which is designed for &quot;Piping&quot; so it has a thin side (for the el-wire) and a wide side to hold the material down. I have done dozens of garments this way, and it is really great! <br> <br> <br> <br>
<p>I know some of those words.</p>
<p>I'm familiar with the method! Now I must sound like a jerk in my previous comment lol XD</p>
How loud is the high pitch noise you mention please?
It's not loud but noticeable, at first I thought mine was defect I'm glad the author mentioned it now I know it's normal
<p>If I could get a reply from either the author, or other readers who've had experience with this, that would be great. I'm just wondering how you get separate objects or shapes to light up together. I'm having trouble explaining what I mean. I'm trying to make a glowing skeleton costume for my son this Halloween. I have a suit that already has the bones printed on it, and a rope of EL wire that's already put together and connected to a battery pack. I want to outline the bones with the wire, but how do I trace the separate bones and get them to all light together at the end? I read that you can cut the wire and add a connector to it? I'm kind of lost on all of this...</p>
I was wondering the same thing but after reading this article I think I know how the author did it. Poke/cut a hole and run the EL wire inside the costume to have a &quot;disconnected look&quot; from the wire to separate the bones, if the light show thru from the inside, I would wrap it with something maybe tape but that might leave a sticky residue. I hope this answer your question. I'm glad I found this instrucable because I have 9ft wire and I want to do stick person costume for my son but I haven't worked on the costume yet because I'm trying to figure out how to 'separate' the wire where I don't want to see the EL wire lights up. Thanks author!
<p>I used hand needle and it works great. Thank you very much!</p>
<p>Hello very helpful but can i ask....If you sew it with needle or sewing machine it may be ruin or damage the el wire?</p>
<p>Oops just kidding. Check out Cody Steed's reply in the lower comments, he has a solution :P</p>
<p>You cannot sew the wire itself onto the piece of fabric. A hand-sewn overcast stitch is the best way, as demonstrated.</p>
<p>nice ??</p>
<p>awsome work thank you for shareing with us</p>
<p>this would look amazing with it concealed in the fur on a Santa suit might have to try this next year if I can find a sound activated module</p>
<p>Thanks, you helped with a lot of great details in this.</p>
<p>This stuff would look great on motorcycle suit and helmet. </p>
<p>Awesome idea to add wire to coat. Now I really want to add wire to my sweatshirt as well. I think I'll look cool if I make it something different than regular stuff I used to wear. Do you know many people are used to add wire to clothes specially in middle east Asia where women where women add lighter wire to the scarf to look beautiful.</p>
<p>When you plan on using multiple wires, is it better to connect them in series or in parallel? More specifically if you connect too many wires in parallel, would &quot;bad&quot; things happen?</p>
<p>Nice work. </p>
<p>Cosplay is a HUGE hobby that takes a lot of work, so you have to expect that people would be looking up this tutorial for it. And here, it kind of feels like you're attacking it.</p>
<p>You say not to use thin material, but could I use these with Lame? And with the fabric being pleated and moving very flowingly. </p><p>Example: </p><p>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3AwlSKcRGUg</p>
how much does eL wire cost, or the whole project?
<p>EL wire is $2.95 for one meter and a 3V driver circuit on Ebay.</p><p>it's free shipping but will take two to three weeks to arrive.</p><p><a href="http://www.ebay.ca/itm/EL-Wire-Rope-Car-Party-Dance-Decor-Flexible-Neon-Light-Glow-with-Controller-/171151841541?pt=US_String_Lights_Fairy_Lights&var=470296534681&hash=item27d971d905" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.ca/itm/EL-Wire-Rope-Car-Party-Danc...</a></p><p>Hope this helps! :)</p>
<p>how did you attach the wires to the bike helmet?</p>
<p>Inside the jacket did you leave the EL wire until the next arrangement outside the jacket, or did you use another wire to save EL? and if so how did you solder those wires?</p>
I'm making a dance costume. The lights will not be out. It will be bright. We need words on the costume to &quot;glow&quot;. I have had no experience with this process. Your comments have been very helpful. One question, will these lights show up under regular lighting? Any advice will be helpful. Thanks
<p>Hello,</p><p>We also use elwire in our dance costumes. Consider using a black light on stage.</p>
<p>Best instructable, I made it and it looks awesome. I spent $10 on sweatshirt, $20 for wire and $10 for the converter, both at Radioshack,. $5 on thread and needles. $5 on batteries. Totaling $50 in all. </p>
This is really cool, but how do you connect the wires to the battery pack? And where would a good place to find a cheap one be?<br><br>Any help would be much appreciated :)
The battery pack has a female connection to it and the wires usually have a male clip which makes it super easy to work with. <br>And IDK if this is cheap for you but check out http://www.elwireonline.com/ they have everything
Please answer fast!......... <br> <br>i want to create some costumes but do i need some sort of battery or charger or can you wash the cloth please answer fast <br>
You need an inverter which runs a specific amount of EL wire. Although to wash it I think you may need to take the whole light out. <br> <br>I found that these people helped me when I was making my costume <br>http://glowauthority.com/
Just curious...who exactly owns the patent for what?
though this is really cool. you cant sell it with out aquiring a licesnce from the patent holder or you are liable to get suied. trust me just got in a lot of troble recently. DO NOT PLAN TO SELL THIS CLOTHING!
and trust me to that it is highly expesnsive court cost then all the other crap thats involved. got forced into a stick licensing agreement and royalties are high.
Thanks Janet. Great stuff. Exciting to see how many performers wear your creations. <br> <br>Let me add my $0.05 worth: <br> <br>Most vendors sell a small elwire inverter that drives up to 30 ft. of wire. It has a 9 volt battery inside its enclosure. In my opinion, this is by far the best inverter for costumes. <br> <br>Unless you enjoy doing it, I recommend you have the vendor solder your elwire for you. I believe it costs like $2.50 or $5 per wire. Two vendors who do this are www.coolight.com and www.coolneon.com They provide good telephone customer support. <br> <br>This instructable mentions wire management and battery pockets AFTER attaching the wire. I recommend STARTING with finding a home for the inverter &amp; battery, and laying out your elwire from there. At this point I cut some yarn the length of the elwire, and lay out some drafts to figure out my design. I keep the yarn in place with masking tape - thats the blue stuff for painting. <br> <br>This instructable shows a whip stitch is used to attach elwire to clothing. In my experience, a blanket stitch ties elwire tighter to the garment. That is more secure and makes the elwire less vulnerable. What I'm saying is loop back around each stitch to really tie down. This demonstrates a blanket stitch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eXkSE2TTF4s Also, for a light weight garment, invisible thread is strong enough. <br> <br>It can be hard to tie down elwire's slippery end. If you secure it by its heat shrink or vinyl cap, it may pop out. Also, you may not want to poke a hole in the garment for the elwire end. I have solved this by glueing on a jewelry &quot;finding&quot;. I get these from the Toho Shoji bead store in New York City's Garment District. Its a bit tricky because you have to avoid an electrical &quot;short&quot; with the metal finding. Super glue is strong enough in a few minutes, but not waterproof. E6000 is best but has to dry overnight. Hot glue, fabric glue and epoxy don't adhere well enough to elwire's vinyl jacket. They may work on a solid object, but not a flexing costume, or keep the wire in a finding.
do u have a video to follow of making the motorcycle jacket with el wire <br> <br>
Where would you suggest to put the inverter on a bra?
This instructable is very helpful, thank you for posting it! One question, how do you clean garments with EL installed, or do you just remove the wire for washing?
I typically recommend spot cleaning only for garments with permanently installed EL wire. If you disconnect the batteries, and the ends of the wire are very well sealed, you may be able to submerge it briefly to hand wash it. When water leaks into the internal portion of the wire it will damage the phosphor and it won't glow anymore. I've heard stories of people throwing it in the washing machine, and having it work afterwards, but you risk mechanical damage from the tumbling, too.
What about dry cleaning?<br>
Thank you so much! I thought that would be the case.
where can you get EL wire for around $.50 per foot or cheaper?<br>please send links thx.
<br><br>9.8 Feet for 5 bucks (60cent shipping) assorted colors, best deal I've seen around yet---------------------------&gt; http://stores.ebay.com/xiao2huan/_i.html?_nkw=el+wire&amp;submit=Search&amp;_sid=242004751
I'm trying to make a jacket with around 200 ft of 3 different colors of el wire and I was wondering what kind of driver or sequencer you used on your leather motorcycle jacket with el wires? I'm trying to make the wires on the jacket have a similar chasing effect as yours did. And would it be possible to find a sound activated driver for around that that length as well? Thanks =]<br/>

About This Instructable




Bio: Founder / Chief Fashion Engineer of Enlighted Designs, Inc., specializing in custom illuminated clothing and costumes for performers. 10+ years experience with fabric-mounted LEDs, EL, and ... More »
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