About: My work combines conductive materials and craft techniques to develop new styles of building electronics that emphasize materiality and process. I create working prototypes to demonstrate the kinds of electr...

Sew together various soft electronic components to turn your favorite clothing item into a wearable waste of energy!

These step-by-step instructions will show you how to combine fabric buttons, fabric pressure sensors, and conductive fabric traces as well as some funny elements, all in the name of wasting energy for no particular reason.

There are 7 different components to this wearable. And below is a list of the materials and tools you will need to complete them. The following 7 steps will explain how to make each of these components. And the idea is that you come up with your own design and layout for the components, and maybe even add some new elements.


Step 1) Conductive fabric traces
Step 2) 9V battery, battery snaps and little pocket
Step 3) Fabric switch
Step 4) Fabric pressure sensor
Step 5) Vibration motor embedded in Shapelock
Step 6) LED
Step 7) Decorative elements: the doll and the sun

- Old clothing item to modify!
- Fabric leftovers
- Stretch conductive fabric from http://www.lessemf.com
- Conductive thread from http://www.sparkfun.com
- Fusible interfacing from local fabric store
- Velostat by 3M from http://www.lessemf.com
- Thread
- 3mm thick foam
- Vibration motor
- 9V batterys
- Rainbow wire
- Shapelock from http://www.shapelock.com

- Hole maker
- Scissors
- Iron
- Sewing needle
- Popper/snap machine (handheld or hammer and simple version)
- Hot water

Step 1: Conductive Fabric Traces

So that the electricity can flow from the battery through the button or the pressure sensor to the component it needs a conductive connection. Since we are working with clothing, it makes sense to use conductive fabric to make these traces. Iron on some fusible interfacing to your conductive fabric before cutting it into thin strips. Then iron these strips onto the clothing item where you need them to complete the circuit.

Step 2: 9V Battery, Battery Snaps and Little Pocket

Once you have decided on the layout and design of your wearable you will have to plan in one 9V battery for almost every component you integrate. This is because the conductive fabric traces have quite a bit of resistance, thus suck quite a lot of energy, which contributes to the whole “waste of energy” idea.

To connect the 9V battery snaps to the conductive traces, strip the ends of the wires that come out of the battery snaps and make a little loop. Solder this so that it does not unravel. Use conductive thread to sew the loop onto the end of the fused conductive trace.

You will want to make a pocket for your battery. Best to use stretchy fabric and cut it a bit smaller than the actual size of the battery so that the stretch will keep it in place. Also, make the pocket 2 or 3 cm longer than the battery, this way it stays in nicely, even when upside-down.

Step 3: Fabric Switch

For this component you will want to follow the detailed instructions posted in this Instructable>>
https://www.instructables.com/id/Fabric-Switch/ (coming soon...)

Step 4: Fabric Pressure Sensor

For this component you will want to follow the detailed instructions posted in this Instructable>>

Step 5: Vibration Motor Embedded in Shapelock

Strip the ends of the short wires coming out of a small vibration motor (the kind you find in cell phones) make loops in the wire and solder them just like the ends of the 9V battery snap wires.

Shapelock is a very cool thermoplast. It comes in small pellets and when you pour a handful of them into hot water they will melt and stick together. They are ready to mould when transparent. Take out the cluster of hot plastic pellets and shake off the hot water. Mould into solid form and then form around the small vibration motor, leaving the two soldered loops sticking out. In this example I simply soldered to these rings in order to connect them to the conductive trace, but the idea of embedding the motor in Shapelock is to make it washable (not in hot water though!) and so that the rings can also be stitched to the conductive traces with conductive thread. Getting rid of the wire, which is a good thing, in terms of wearability. I guess.

Step 6: LED

With a pair of small pliers curl the legs of the LED into little loops and sew these loops, using conductive thread, straight to the conductive fabric traces. Make sure that the LED's plus goes to the battery's plus!

Step 7: Decorative Elements: the Doll and the Sun

For the sun I simply cut a small circle of foam and then cut out a circle the size of the LED in the middle of that and then placed it over the LED, to create some 3D-ness. Then I ironed-on some fusible interfacing to some white cotton jersey and cut out a piece in the shape of a sun. I also cut a hole in this the size of the LED and placed it on top of the led and the foam. Then I ironed on the sun to the sweater, being careful of the LED and the foam underneath.

Step 8: And That Was That.

And that was that.

I attached the batteries to their snaps and slipped them into the pockets and put on the sweater and pressed the button and the pressure sensor and watched them work and wasted energy all the while I wore it.




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    52 Discussions


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Idea: Buy 3 of these Solar panels and tape them to the fabric with double sided tape. Wire each panel in series with each other (positive end of one with negative end of the other). Buy 6 1.5V rechargeable nicad batteries (might be a bit heavy), and wire them together in series as well. Put on a 3 position switch to switch the batteries between charging off the solar panels and running your stuff. Voila! Now your shirt generates no dead batteries.

    6 replies

    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Well they probably charged that battery using energy from a coal or a gas power plant. And she mentioned that she felt bad wasting energy, so I gave her and alternative :)


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    therefore you waste chemicals. Even better! Save the oil and stuff for muscle cars.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Of course! In a way it is just the title of the project, because.... what it the use of lighting up an LED on my sweatshirt or running a vibration motor? But of course in a further development sense, there are uses for these things.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Still, the word is NO. That 9V is going to end up in a landfill, where it will slowly ruin my world. Thanks for wasting.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    technically yes it is a waste of energy but is that 1 9volt gonna be the cause of the end of the world?? its a L.E.D (a light emitting diode) they do NOT use a lot of energy sure after a while it will add up but its still not gonna destroy the world because of 1 9volt


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    So, wait... Your world's a landfill? Probably isn't the best analysis, but it also raises a lot of questions... And answers.


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Exactly. So the point is to NOt follow this Instructable but come up with better things. Solar cells are an option.