ETextile Glove With Conductive Fabric




Introduction: ETextile Glove With Conductive Fabric

About: designer, leather ninja, tech explorer, ruiner of manicures

This glove is made using bonded conductive stretch fabrics and functions as a continuity tester. It also just lights up the LED! A continuity tester is used to check points along a circuit to make sure current is flowing.

The glove has conductive points on the index and middle finger so you can touch a circuit to see if electricity is being conducted. When the two fingers touch the conductive patch on the thumb, the circuit also closes. When the circuit completes, a small LED on the back of the hand lights up.

The design is an experiment with stretch circuits and uses only fabric, sewing and bonding - including the battery holder - so there is no soldering required.

The sewing and electronics involved are very simple. The layering of the fabrics may be a little confusing! Please comment if the explanation if it's not clear.

This is a simple way to make and test a heat-bonded eTextile circuit for a functioning object. It was designed for stretch materials, though you could make a similar glove using non-stretch fabrics if you don't have stretch bonding material. You could also replace the conductive stretch material with zig-zag conductive thread.

This is part of a larger project to create a whole modular suit using eTextile circuits.

Here is another Instructable for a stretch circuit:

As more experiments are added, they will be put in my album Second Skin on Flickr:

Step 1: Materials and Tools

You will need:

1. Fabric:

-Lycra or any two-way stretch fabric. I am using Eurojersey Sensitive Touch as it is a super fine knit so very flat and good for layering with bonding materials -->

2. Bonding material:

You can use any 'bondaweb' fabric or film. I am using Sewfree fusing as it is a stretch bonding film but is annoyingly expensive to buy in small quantities -->

3. Electronics:

-sewable LED

-coin cell battery CR-2032

4. Conductive Materials

-conductive copper rip-stop fabric (non-stretch for battery holder)

-stretch conductive lycra -->

-conductive thread

5. Tools:

-sewing machine

-dressmakers scissors

-tiny sharp scissors

-rotary cutter (optional)


-hand sewing needle

-strong thread. I am using Mara 70, which is usually used for denim and is great for sewing gloves -->


-fabric pen, gel pen or chalk

Step 2: Preparing the Pattern and Fabrics

For this glove I have made the simplest kind of pattern, by drawing around my hand. This works well when using stretch fabric.

I then add my circuit diagram: two lines of conductive fabric down the fingers, which lead to the battery on the back of the hand. There is a small gap for the LED. You can see the placement of the circuit in the first two photos.

All of the electronics will be hidden inside the glove.

The pattern is a half glove, similar to an archers glove: only the first two fingers and thumb.

The glove I will make here for the left hand.

There are three pattern pieces:
1. Mirrored pattern piece: The upper and lower hand (top of the hand and palm) are mirrored at the outside wrist.
2. Single pattern piece: The reverse of the upper hand. This single piece is for the circuit. Choose which way to cut the single piece depending on whether you want a left or right glove. The single pattern piece will sit underneath the double pattern piece with the circuit facing upwards.
3: Bonding pattern: This is the same as the single glove piece, but with channels cut out for the circuit. Cut it with the glue facing down.

Draw around the glove pattern onto the lycra fabric, one mirror and one single. Do not cut them out yet. I find drawing onto lycra easier than pinning as it is more accurate. I use gel pen or chalk pen.

Glove pattern notes:
Most glove patterns look more like this: The front and back of the glove are joined at the front of the hand and the thumb is separate. If you are making a non stretch glove you could use a pattern like this. The glove I am using has the thumb attached to hand, which is known as a wing thumb.

Step 3: Bonding the Circuit

This design uses layers super thin bonded fabric. it has channels missing where the circuit is placed. This isolates and protects the circuit. I do not bond the fabric where there is a circuit to minimise stiffness from too many layers.

Prepare and cut your bonding material. This pattern piece is the mirror image of the single pattern piece.

Bonding for the glove:

Place the bonding pattern piece onto the bonding material, glue side down, draw around it and and cut it out. This will be fused to the wrong side of the single glove pattern piece. In the finished glove it will sit underneath the mirrored glove pattern. I will make the circuit on the wrong side of the fabric and sandwich in underneath the mirrored upper glove.

Iron the bonding on to the fabric, lining it up to the drawing of the single pattern piece. Do not remove the backing paper yet!

Bonding for the circuit:

Take a piece of conductive lycra which is as long as the conductive strips on the fingers. Measure the length on your pattern. Iron some bonding material to the conductive lycra. It will be cut into 5mm strips to make the traces for the circuit. On the back of the bonding paper, draw 5mm lines and cut along them with sharp scissors or a rotary cutter.

Peel the backing from the bonding material and apply the strips along the channels in glove. Make sure to leave a gap in one of the channels for the LED!

Because I am using stretch bonding, the strips bend nicely around the curves in the material. If you are not using stretch bonding, make a little folded dart in the conductive material as you iron it on.

Step 4: ETextile Battery Pouch

You will need some highly conductive non-stretch fabric. I am using copper rip-stop as it does not fray.

Iron some bonding material to the conductive fabric. You will need cut two square patches of copper. Each patch will have a smaller square protruding from one side, this extends past the battery and is how it will attach to the conductive traces. These two pieces should be cut as exactly the same shape, so when they are rotated and laid on top of each other, you can line them up to the rest of the circuit.

Iron one copper patch to the glove pattern, making sure the protruding line overlaps with the conductive lycra. Iron this really well, and to make sure the materials touch*.

For the pouch, cut a small rectangle of lycra fabric. It will need to be just a few millimetres wider than the coin battery, but longer on the open edge so you can make a fold which will hold the battery in place. Iron the second copper patch to this small square, which will be sewn on in the next stage.

This battery design will only work when there is a correctly sized coin battery inside. If the battery is too small, or the pouch is too big, the two conductive patches might touch and short the circuit.

Zigzag stitch the pouch in place.

*If you use fine bonding material - such as the stretch film I have used here - you can iron two conductive pieces together and the bonding melts right into the fibres of the fabric. This allows the two materials to touch and conduct through the bond. Test this first to check the bond works and is stable. If you are not sure, secure it with a few stitches of conductive thread. Once the glove is finished the circuit will be bonded inside the fabric and you cant go back to make changes.

Step 5: Bonding and Sewing the Glove

You have two pieces of glove fabric: one mirrored glove and one single glove with a circuit.

Using the pattern, cut six pieces of conductive fabric which match the shape of the fingertips. you will bond these onto the end of the index, middle finger and thumb.

Peel the backing and bond the conductive pieces on to the side of the glove which matches the glove circuit. Flip the pattern and bond onto the other side as well (the opposite fingertips on the other side of the fabric). This means one set of conductive pieces will be on the inside of your glove, and one set on the outside. These bonded fingertips will also make the tips of your glove pattern more stable.

Snip a small hole for the LED or sew small X's in the spots where you are going to attach the LED. This is to mark the spot as you will insert your LED after the glove is bonded together.

Peel the backing from your single glove (which has the circuit) and lay it face down on the wrong side/inside of your fabric. The lines of the circuit should be touching the conductive patches at the fingertips. Once it is in the correct place, lay a cloth* over the fabric and iron, applying pressure, to sure you has made a strong bond.

Cut out the glove and fold it in half, right sides together. Pin all the way around the edge and sew with a straight stitch. If your machine has a stretch stitch, this works well too.

*Pressing cloth: I use a piece of muslin or organza as a pressing cloth. You will need a hot iron to heat and fix the bonding. Usually too much heat will melt synthetic fibres - especially with bonding as you have to hold it for a few seconds and apply pressure - so use a piece of natural fibre cloth to protect your work when you are ironing.

Step 6: Finishing the Fingertips and Inserting the LED

Turn your glove so you can see the back of the circuit. You should be able to see where the LED will go by either a slit in the fabric or a stitched X's to mark the spot.

Slide the LED into place. Make sure you have the plus and minus in the correct direction and the LED faces outwards. Secure the LED with a few stitches on each side, being careful to only sew the bottom layer of the glove.

To make sure there is a strong bond at the fingertips, add some stitches across the top of the fingertips, through the conductive material.

Turn the glove right side out and check the fit!

Step 7: Yay! You've Made a Glove. Add the Battery and Test

Snip a hole on the back of the glove in the pouch where there is no bonding. You may want to do this without your glove on. It only needs to be big enough for the battery to fit through. slide the battery inside the glove and make sure it is tucked under the little fold you made in the battery case. This will keep it securely in place.

Put on your glove. If you place your fingertips together with your thumb, the circuit should connect and light the LED. Test your continuity tester, then try it on a circuit!

Step 8: Review, and Finger and Thumb Hack

This glove design works well in it's use of materials but is far from ideal as a practical object. It was made as a fun way of testing a functioning stretch circuit. The finger design could definitely be simplified. I will link any new findings in this instructable.

After making the glove I realised the very limited reach of using the index and middle fingers as the points of contact. Gesturally it's really nice but practically it's very limited.

I took a sample eTextile connector from my wearable eTextile breadboard to hack the glove and lengthen the reach to finger and thumb. This was interesting because it shows you can insert a dressmakers pin through bonded lycra and into the stretch conductive material and instantly re-route the circuit.

The connector is really simple: a piece of highly conductive thread (Karl Grimm High Flex 3981 7X1 Silver 14/000) with a dressmakers pin tied at either end. The thread was sewn inside a tiny leather tube and the point where the thread was tied to the pin is secured and stabilised with shapelock.

I used the connector to pierce the conductive lycra through the exposed thumb patch. Then I pierced the second pin through the conductive lycra on the index finger

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    5 years ago

    This is very helpful for another idea I had - I am trying to make a wearable laser pointer that turns on when I point.


    5 years ago

    I love how detailed you made this part of the instructable. I can clearly see how to create a good connection without shorting out the circuit and using the fold over to secure the battery. Great job!


    Reply 5 years ago

    excellent! I was worried it was too much information

    This method was a little messy as it was a test, but i figured the more info the better. Thank you for the feedback, it's much appreciated :D