Introduction: Weave Your Own Conductive Fabric
Conductive fabrics are always useful for wearable projects. If you're ever in need of one but only have conductive thread, it's not that hard to weave one of your very own.
Weaving with conductive thread also opens up opportunities to create bespoke conductive fabrics in different shapes, sizes and you can even mix in different materials!
Step 1: Gather Your Materials and Prepare the Warp
Weaving is a fabric-making process that interlocks threads by shuttling back and forth weft yarns (thread that goes left and right on a fabric) across warp yarns (thread that goes up and down on a fabric).
The materials you'll need:
- Conductive Thread
- A hand loom
And the tools:
- A pair of scissors
- A multimeter
For this instructable, I laser cut a hand loom using a template that I provided on github. You can also make your own by cutting out notches on a piece of cardboard.
Prepare your loom by:
- Start by knotting one end of the conductive thread to the top left notch on the loom.
- Carry the thread down to the bottom of the loom and slip it through the lower left notch.
- Then bring the thread back to the front of the loom through the notch directly to the right of the lower left notch.
- Continue lacing the thread up and down the loom. The front should have threads parallel to the sides of the loom and nothing across the notches. The back should show threads looping across the notches.
- Finish by knotting at the lower right notch and leave a tail end for later.
I like to wrap my yarn first around the loom to make sure it will make it all the way around. Conductive thread can be expensive! You definitely don't waste any.
Step 2: Start Weaving
In this next step you can see your conductive fabric begin forming before your eyes.
Cut about 36" of conductive thread and tie one end to the leftmost warp yarn on your loom. Tie the other end to the shuttle that comes with the laser cut loom template. Wrap it around the shuttle making sure you can comfortably pass it through the warp threads while unwrapping it when needed.
To do a basic weave, send the shuttle across the warp yarns in this pattern:
- Over the first yarn
- Under the next yarn
- Over the next yarn
- Under the next yarn....
- And so on.
Push the first row of thread down the loom and start on the next row. This time, you have to do the opposite pattern of the row underneath it. If the first row you went over, you'll go under. And so on. Keep shuttling your weft yarns across the warp yarns, pushing down the weft when necessary. Make sure the sides are all even, and not to pull too hard or too loose on the weft yarns. It might take practice, but after about six or seven rows you'll begin to see your conductive fabric take shape.
Step 3: Remove Your Fabric and Knot the Ends
Once you finish weaving your fabric, untie the weft yarn from the shuttle and tie it to the final warp yarn of your weaving. Your fabric is almost ready! You just have to make sure the loops are closed up.
Remove the loops from the top and bottom notches of the loom. Hold the fabric steady and pull up on the middle loop until one of the bottom loops come right against the bottom of the fabric. Pull down on the next loop to make the top loops flush. Keep doing so until there are no loops left and you can pull on the solitary warp strings on the top left and bottom right of your weaving. This step is hard to explain, so I attached a video to this instructable.
After all the loops are flush to the top and bottom of your weaving, tie them to the weaving and cut the loose ends.
Step 4: Test Your Fabric
You should now have a fully conductive piece of fabric!
Depending on the density, your fabric may have some resistance. Check with a multimeter to see if it's fully conductive. I also like to use the fabric on a touchscreen device, just to double check that it works.
Weaving your own conductive fabric is a great way to make bespoke textiles specific to your project. If you use this method on any of them, perhaps for conductive gloves, sensors or electronic traces, please let me know!