Making a Glove Work With a Touch Screen

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Introduction: Making a Glove Work With a Touch Screen

About: Creative swashbuckler. Writer for MAKE Magazine, presenter of inventions on TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. Professional problem solver. Annoyingly curious. Hacker of all things from computers to clot...
You can do this in just a few minutes without a lot of know-how. 

Winter's coming up (if you're in the Northern Hemisphere) and with winter comes cold  weather, and with cold weather comes gloves.  But even in the cold your phone probably still rings.  And while I love my touch screen phone, I hate that I can't use it with gloves on.

There are gloves out there that allow you do use your touch screen, but why buy special gloves when, with just a few stitches you can convert the gloves you already have?

Update: Here's a video that runs you through the steps:

Step 1: What You Need

Most modern touch screens use "capacitive touchscreen" which you can read about at length here, but in short it means that for a glove to work with a touch screen it needs to complete a circuit with your finger.  So that's what we're going to do by putting some conductive thread between the screen and our finger.

Skills
You need to be able to sew a few stitches without killing yourself.

Supplies
You will need:
  • A glove.
  • A needle.
  • 12" (30cm) of conductive thread. (TIP: If you don't want to buy a whole spool, you can buy a few feet much more affordably from SparkFun,  Adafruit, or Sternalb.  
A warning about conductive thread scammers
Unfortunately there are people on Etsy and eBay selling sparkly thread as "conductive thread". It's not and will not work with this project.  I've purchased from the sellers linked above and can vouch that it's the real stuff.  If you buy it elsewhere be sure that the seller lists conductivity data (ohms per foot or similar).  Also conductive thread is not super sparkly, it has a color and finish more like brushed stainless steel.

What's conductive thread?  This great article over at Fashioning Technology will tell you everything you need to know and where to get some.  And when you get some, you'll find there are tons of interesting things you can do with it.  Just look!

(Thanks to the good people at reMake Lounge for introducing me to conductive thread at the last Instructables Build Night)

That's it, lets get to it!





Step 2: Sew

#1 Thread your needle
You don't need a whole lot of thread, just a foot or so.

#2: Sew a few stitches in the finger of your glove.
On the outside try to make the stitches pretty close so it only touches the screen in a smallish area (about 1/4" or 6mm in diameter.)  This will help your finger touches be more accurate.

Tip: Don't make it too small!  The iPhone, for example, will ignore small touch areas.  If it doesn't seem to work very well, try increasing the size of the stitches on the outside.

On the inside of the finger, it's actually good for it to be messy (See #3). 

3-5 stitches should be enough.

#3: Leave some extra inside the glove.
You want to make sure the thread touches your finger or your hand on the inside, so leave some extra.  Leave danging thread on your knots, etc.  You might even tack a bit to the lining of the glove

#4: Repeat on other fingers (optional)
If you use other fingers or thumbs to use your screen repeat the step on them too.

That's it!

Step 3: Use

Go ahead and give it a try!  Put on your glove and see what you can do with your phone.

No, it won't be as accurate as using your bare hands but it is good enough that I was still able to type on the iPhone keyboard without too many errors.  And now I don't have to take off my glove just to answer a call or read an email. 

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    198 Discussions

    I cut a slit on the inside of the glove index finger tip, and when I want to type I slide my finger tip out of the glove.

    ahhhhh, conductive thread! thanks so much for this

    I used metallic embroidery thread from Maderia, I'm sure other brands would work, with great success but it was silver, so if color is important you'll need to try another color of metallic thread to see if it works

    can i use copper wire from old headphone? can't get conductive thread on my local shop

    1 reply

    I was able to use metallic embroidery thread and yes, it DID work!

    Would you happen to know if this works with laptops, (not touch screen) with the "touch pad mouse"? My hands really benefit from wearing certain gloves that help with nerve damage/pain, but I can no longer use that part when wearing them. Granted, there are some gloves without fingertips, but it helps a great deal to have the tips on the gloves.

    Thanks!! =^..^=

    Best wishes!

    1 reply

    It's hard to say. If it uses capacitive touch-sensing then it will probably work. (Most devices that have multitouch are capacitive.)

    However it will be much less accurate than bare finger touches. This is intended for when you need to use basic functions of your phone without freezing your hands off.

    If you're in Canada, you can check out conductivethread.ca which sells 10 yards for $10 w/ free shipping anywhere in the world.

    2 replies

    great video, thanks for the info

    @touchtec Sounds like you're a little bitter... If they managed to get you, the inventor, posting on this site and attacking their product then they must be doing something right haha

    I'm gonna try nanotips just because you have a vendetta against their company.

    Hopefully you're not right haha. Let you know how it works! :)

    If you want your leather gloves to work with a touchscreen device and last, I would recommend using AnyGlove and steer clear of nanotips for several reasons.

    1. NT is a nasty smelling, flammable, toxic chemical that is essentially like putting nail polish on your gloves.

    3. NT is a coating and will need to be reapplied. It smells strong because it contains solvents. Those solvents will dry out the leather and weaken it, which may lead to cracking or tearing, especially along the finger's seams, effectively reducing the useful life of your glove.

    AnyGlove, which is a water based formula, specifically made for leather, can be reapplied and will not harm the leather.

    AnyGlove is as close to non-toxic as gets. I wouldn't advise drinking it, but if you did, it may, at worst, give you a bad case of diarrhea. Other than that, it would just flush right through your system...by design.

    AnyGlove was approved for use by the DLA for all US Armed Forces for treating combat gloves.

    Who am I? The inventor AnyGlove. I am also the inventor of TouchTec, have issued patents worldwide and my technologies are used by some of the largest glove brands/companies in the world.

    Thats only with apple but with the samsung u can use ur phone with gloves

    Thanks for the heads up wotai139.

    Got my bottle a couple days ago and it works great. Applied it to my leather gloves and snowboarding gloves. Worth checking it out http://www.nanotips.com if you're not into threading needles into gloves.

    Touchscreen glove.jpgTouchscreen gloves.jpg

    I'll send this to my boss, he's always having problems with using his ipad when he has gloves on, thanks

    This will be a great thing since I use my iPhone as a GPS/Music Player on my motorcycle...I always wear gloves and have to pull over to do anything on the screen..

    3 replies

    plz don't tell me ur gonna text and drive on a bike lol

    its a temp soultion but 1 bottle would last a winter thx for the link.