Introduction: Illuminated Party Blazer (EL Wire)

About: Just a guy who likes making stuff and loves chocolate.

Oh snap! I forgot about the Halloween party I wanted to visit tomorrow, but didn't have a costume or the money to buy one! So there is only one solution: make one yourself.

I always wanted to make a illuminated wearable, and therefor I had some EL-wire lying around. Just in one day I sewed it on a blazer and made this super awesome glowing/blinking/flickering partly blazer.

It was super fun to wear, since I received a lot of compliments form others! Most wanted to know where I bought it ^^ (That's a compliment!) and after the stoped jaw-dropping when I told them I made it myself, they wanted to know how I did it. That made me writing this instructable.

I was too late to enter the Halloween costume contest... But If you like it, would you please vote for me in the wearable and glow contest? That would make my day! Thank you so much in advance!


Step 1: Items You'll Need

Okay, first gather the things you need. This is what I used to make this awesome Blazer!

First I needed a peace of clothing. After some brainstorming I thought a blazer would look slick. I did't want to experiment on my good one since it is the first time I'm doing this and it was fairly expensive. So that meant a trip to the secondhand shop! In the gentleman department everything was way to big for me. The rule of a secondhand show: always look further. So at the women's I found a black jacked witch fit me perfect! Only for 9 euro's, that's a bargain!

Also, wanted a tie. But not one I have to bow since that would make the sewing (and later bowing) part really complicated (I want it to look good). Therefor I fount in the party department of the second hand shop a tie with an elastic band (pre bown!). Perfect!

  • Blazer (9,-)
  • Tie (1,-)
  • Sewing set [needles and wire] (1,-)
  • EL wire I had lying around (originally bought 5 meter for 10 euro's inc controller. <2 euro for 1 meter is cheap, more is normal. The 5 euro for 1 meter Adafruit asks is in my opinion expensive. )
  • Some extra wire I salvaged from something else (only needed for the tie).
  • Wire with JST connector (if its not included)
  • wire strippers
  • measuring lint
  • wire cutters
  • soldering iron
  • solder
  • third hand tool (ProTip: or just use tape as I did ^^)
  • heat shrink (small and medium) You can't do without!
  • cookies :)

Step 2: Small Intro in EL Wire

All you need to know about EL wire is: It is awesome!

For the people who want to know more; I will elaborate the things you need to know.

EL wire is like a glow stick but long and (fairly) flexible. It wont dim but it can flicker (depending on your controller) and is available in a lot of colors! It is like a thick wire with inside (from inner to outer shell): copper wire, phosphor coating, 2 incredible small wires, plastic, colored coating.

Things you need to know:

  • It uses a high frequency alternating current. That means that you really need a controller; you can't just connect a normal power source. (and no, also not PWM'ed)
  • It generate now heat! Super safe!
  • It is water resistant (provided that the soldering points are insulated well)
  • You can (hand)wash it, but remove the controller!
  • sadly, it has only a limited life span. (~3000 hours when it is half the original brightness)
  • The more wire you connect to the controller, the dimmer it will be. (For an AA pocket driver the minimum is 1/2 meter, 5 meter the max; 3 meter is best)

Where to buy: Sparkfun, adafruit, ebay, Chinese webshops like DX or Alibaba.

Step 3: Layout & Measuring

Determine the layout of the EL wire - where do you want it to light up? At first it was only running among the edges of my blazer. Later I added small pieces to the pockets and inside the sleeves to give it a more balanced look. It was kind of dark in those areas.

ProTip: Try to avoid 'movable joints' (like hinges). Although EL-wire is flexible; it is node been made for repeatedly bending. Also, you need to take in account that it takes more EL-wire when you, for example, your arm is bend than when it is stretched. My advise: just avoid it because It will look ugly (I tried it, no success).

I wanted to use only one converted, so the amount of EL wire needed to stay under that 5 meter maximum (see step 2). My tie contained one meter if I wanted to let the EL-wire run among the edges.

With a measuring lint I measured from among the edges of my blazer.... 3 meters! Total of 4, yes!

Step 4: Sewing

The sewing par tis the most time consuming part. But the good thing is, you can do it anywhere any time!

As you can see in the picture, you can entwine the wire completely. Although this must be very sturdy it's pretty ugly.

I changed this approach when I sew the blazer. Every 10 cm I entwine 3 times:

So that is: in the fabric (upside > bottom side), underneath the EL wire to the outside of the edge and go in the fabric from upside again - and so on. (see the pictures)

To secure it, I lied a knot and covered the threat with some transparent nail polish (protip!). Of course I used black threat witch you can not see from a normal distance.

ProTip: You can also use a sewing machine. I tested tested this and the EL wire will survive this. At the time of making my blazer, I didn't have the opportunity to use a sewing machine so I did it by hand. However; if you have one you can safely use one. Just make sure the needle swings enough to the sides so it doesn't puncture the EL wire.

Step 5: Bending

The blazer has a few tight corners; four 90 degree ones and two ~30 degrees. It is possible to bend EL-wire and it says fairly in shape thanks to its copper core. I wanted the EL wire to follow the edged as tight as possible in oder to achieve the best looks.

ProTip: the best you could bend/crimp(a little bit more than the corner it has to make) in the right way and hold it with one hand into place. Than sew it tight. When you let it loose it will 'expand' a little bit; resulting in the shape you want!

Make sure you don't bend it too tight, since this could make the phosphor coating to rupture!

Step 6: Soldering

You need only one thing to solder: the JST connector to the EL wire (when this is not already done for you).

I will be honest; soldering EL wire is a bit a pain. But not impossible. If it is your first time, practice first!

ProTip: Remove not to little the insulation; this will only make things hard for you when solder.

  1. Start by remove the outer plastic coating (1 - 1.5cm). This is fairly though so you may have to try a few times.
  2. If necessary; remove the clear coating of the bared wire.
  3. Now you should see two super small wires. If you see none or only one; cut the core off and try again. Otherwise you should see three wires.
  4. Cut down the phosphor coated (gray) wire to half it's size (~5mm).
  5. take your utility knife and scrape off the phosphor coating until you see the copper shining. You don't have to remove it all.
  6. Solder one of the wires from your JST connector to the core copper wire. Don't forget to add a small heat-shrink tube before soldering!!
  7. Solder the small wire to the remaining wire of the JST connector. Again; don't forget to add a heat-shrink tube before soldering, but now the bigger one over the two wires (or the complete EL wire).
  8. Use that heat-shrink tube to cover up everything nicely. :)

Adafruit has a nice tutorial. They use copper tape - but you can ignore that. The principle remains the same.

ProTip: Those two wires are the most fragile thing. Mine broke of 3 times... had to strip the EL-wire again and again. I desired to strip a fairly a large end of the EL wire so I had about 1,5cm of those two little wires. Made a firm solder connection, added the heat-shrink tube and covert everything with a glue gun. It looks ugly, but no-one will see it.

You don't wan't your blazer to stop glowing when you are on the dance floor, right? ;-)

Step 7: Wiring

It depends on your layout how many wires you have running through your blazer.

Inonder to reach from my pocket "flap" to the controller, I needed to go through the pocked and inner side of the blazer. That meant that I had to make two holes.

You can not just stick the wires through the holes; they just won't 'go'.

Therefore I taped them to a piece of steel wire - as shown on the pictures.

Step 8: Some Extra Pictures

Because pictures say more than a thousand words :).

Step 9: Partying

EL wire is not rocket science and nothing can go really wrong (just prevent electrical shortage, as you always have to when using electricity).

My controller had differed modes (on, off, blink, flicker). I put the controller in my pocked, so I could change the modes discreetly :). Just two AA's lasted the whole night!

Just put your blazer on and let's dance!

Happy making! (and partying :3 )

I was too late to enter the Halloween costume contest... But If you like it, would you please vote for me in the wearable and glow contest? That would make my day! Thank you so much in advance!


Make It Glow! Contest

Runner Up in the
Make It Glow! Contest

Wearable Tech Contest

Second Prize in the
Wearable Tech Contest