3 Ways to Use El Wire




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Fact: El wire makes everything aweseomer.  Here are three different techniques you can use to apply el wire to your stuff and increase your own awesomeness.  All three produce beautiful results, but each does require some amount of patience and time. 

While this certainly doesn't represent every method possible, it's a good way to introduce you to some options.  And never forget the power of super glue - you just have to make sure you get it right the first time!

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Step 1: Materials

To do these samples, I chose a pattern to use, appropriate colors of el wire in the thinnest gauge, fabric, invisible thread, embroidery thread, and grommets.

El wire from thatscoolwire.com

Step 2: Trace Your Pattern

Trace your pattern onto your fabric.  If using a dark fabric like this one, I suggest the following method:

Rub a light colored chalk over the back of the pattern. 
Position the pattern over your fabric, chalk side down.
Trace over the pattern with a blunt tipped object.
Voila!  Pattern traced and easily erased once you're done with it.

Step 3: Basic Application

This is probably the simplest technique for adding el wire to a fabric that doesn't fray. 

Determine the points at which you want the el wire to run over the front of the fabric, and where it will dip back underneath.  This gives you crisp edges and produces a better finish than if you were to overlap the wire and tape off the parts that you don't want glowing.

If you are using a fabric that frays, make sure to dot these places with fray check or white glue.

Make small slits in the fabric at these point.  Feed the wire through the fabric, and secure with invisible thread by hand.  The last image shows you what the back side of this piece looks like.  Not a bad idea to secure the loops on the back with your invisible thread or glue.


Step 4: Grommets

I wanted to try another option using grommets.  I thought it would provide more protection to the fabric to help it resist tearing.  In the end, I quite liked the different look it gave the finished product.

Again, determine at what points your wire will ride on the front of the fabric and mark these spots on your pattern.   Where the wire was only passing through the fabric once, I used small eyelets.  When the wire passed through the same spot twice, I needed to use a larger grommet.  

You can  also purchase rubber grommets for this purpose, but I was using what I had on hand.

Since my grommets were not black, I decided to ink them so they would disappear into the fabric.

Thread the wire through your grommets and secure by hand with invisible thread.

Step 5: Embroidery

This technique was a great chance to utilize our Singer embroidery machine.  Several experiments taught me that even the heavy pleather I was using needed to have a stabilizer behind it!  Follow the instructions for your embroidery machine, as I'm assuming you have one if you're attempting this technique.

Choose the points at which the wire will poke through the front, and use fray check or white glue to secure the embroidery threads at this point.  Once the glue is dry, make little slits through the fabric to run your wire through.

Secure wire over the embroidery with either matching or invisible thread.

Step 6: Light It Up!

There you have it!  Three simple techniques (given the materials) to apply el wire to your next awesome project.  They each have a different look to them both when illuminated and when not. 

I hope this helps, and I can't wait to see what you make!

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    10 Discussions


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Fry's Electronics now carries el wire, battery packs, and connectors in all of its store locations!!!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I was doing homework when the perfect idea for senior year Halloween costume hit me. Then I saw this :D Oooohhh man, adding elwire to a techno robot costume with surround sound torso would make the idea even better. I better start drawing something before I loose the idea!

    2 replies

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Me neither xD I had to ditch the idea of building a net-book into the torso, but it's still going to have a stereo system built in.


    9 years ago on Step 1

    when you say "thinnest gauge", is EL wire measured the same as regular wire (higher gauge=thinner)?


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I had some success with a buttonneer. http://www.buttonfastener.net/ but might be better if i just learn how to work a thread and needle.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not the most creative person online, so I need more motivation before I feel there is anything awesome about this. First of all I had to look it up. Now I know that EL stands for electroluminescent. That means it glows when you plug it in. I still don't have a good idea where or why I would use it but apparently people put it on pieces of black fabric. Can you give some examples of the use of EL wire so I can share in the feeling of awesome that you feel?

    2 replies
    ACCURATE LEDdchall8

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    At Disney World in Orlando, there's the coolest application of EL wire that I've seen. On the Winnie the Pooh ride, there's a part where it rains. They use el wire to simulate raindrops splashing on the surface of water. On both sides of the track where the ride moves through the room, there's a horizontal surface painted flat black, with white el wire arranged in concentric rings all over it. The largest ring on this pattern is maybe 6 inches across. The individual rings are on separate circuits, controlled by a sequencer. As the drop hits the surface, the innermost ring lights up, then the next ring, then the next. As each outer ring lights, the one on the inside goes dark- so you have the effect of an expanding circle. There are maybe a hundred of these patterns all over the surface, all expanding at different times. It's very very awesome. Those Disney guys have great ideas!


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    I would love to!

    Here's a little costume I made: https://www.instructables.com/id/Light-Up-Costume/

    And here is an awesome jacket from enlighted: https://www.instructables.com/id/how-to-add-EL-wire-to-a-coat-or-other-garment/

    This is a groovy fire skirt by la (though maybe not your style) https://www.instructables.com/id/Fire-Skirt!/

    And here's some awesome wall art by GlowWireGuy: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-make-EL-Wire-Art/

    I hope this helps spark your imagination!