Flexible LED ETextile Ribbon Array




Yet another method to create eTextiles and wearable computers: an easy sew flexible ribbon array for LEDs.

Want more eTextile How-To DIY eTextile videos, tutorials and projects?
Then visit The eTextile Lounge!

Step 1: Gather Parts

Sewing Machine
Power Source

Step 2: Sew Conductive Thread to Ribbons

With a zig zag stitch sew conductive thread to ribbons.

Step 3: Tailor Tack Ribbon Array Together

Form an array by tailor tacking the conductive thread ribbons together.

Negative ribbon with conductive thread facing down.
Positive ribbon with conductive thread facing up.
Loosely sew the ribbons together at crossing points.

Step 4: Slide LED Legs Into the Array

Gently bend the legs of the LEDs.
Slide negative leg into negative trace zig-zag by puncturing thru the ribbon to reach the conductive thread zig-zag channel.  Feed the negative leg thru the channel making contact with the conductive thread.
Slide positive leg into positive trace zig-zag channel making contact with the conductive thread.
Gentle snug the LED into their zag-zag channels.

Step 5: Connect to Power Source

Make a master positive ribbon trace and a master negative ribbon trace.
Lay the master negative trace on the negative array ribbons with conductive thread touching.
Using conductive thread sew the negative traces together.
Lay the master positive trace on the positive array ribbons with conductive thread touching.
Using conductive thread sew the positive traces together.

Connect master ribbon traces to power source.

Let there be light!

Step 6: Make Something!

I used this eTextile method to create a UV LED illumination system inside a lobster bustle for Mrs. Mary Atkins-Holls' evening gown.

More about this Victorian raver black light ball gown - Mrs. Mary Atkins-Holl.
To learn more about wearable tech and eTextiles please visit my website.

Runner Up in the
Light Up the Night! Contest



    • Barbecue Challenge

      Barbecue Challenge
    • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

      Stone Concrete and Cement Contest
    • Planter Challenge

      Planter Challenge

    22 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

     Hm. In the end iike the idea behind.
    But i was obly round here, cos i had sumthin maybe same, but more simple in mind, which, i thought, could maybe be topped. My idea is called "LED stripes", a stripe of an endless circuit of LEDs which can be cut every 4cms and i would have shaped it into organza (if i don't glue it).
    And, i thought, it could be great to mix it with other glowin techs, but when i saw this, i just wondered, why you're doin it this way, cos this way is much more expensive, not really washable and even more difficult to manage.

    2 replies

    My reasons were:

    1.  This ribbon array was a for a fashion project that fused old and new technology.  Having the ribbon array supported the overall design aesthetic of this specific dress.
    2.  I could not find the LED strips with UV LEDs
    3.  I was using up product in my studio


    sorry. i was not intendin to piss you off, though i knew you could be interprete it that way. And i'm not sure yet, if there are UV LED stripes, which maybe would be my next "problem", when i think bout "Fluorescine" in concerns of illumination, but i don't want to bother you. Sorry, if i did anyways. 

    your local fabric or craft store.

    I chose ribbons that were blacklight reactive to support the design of the dress as well as indicate the positive and negative traces.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I think the LEDs probably are the same brightness. The problem with LEDs is that they have a very narrow viewing angle. Most LEDs have something like a 30-degree viewing angle, and so are brightest when viewed from the top, and much less bright when viewed from the side. I think in this photo the array itself curves, and that is just enough that some of the LEDs are viewed from the side.

    1 reply

    Actually in this array the LEDs do diminish in brightness the further from the power source.

    As with any design you have a balancing act between the end user, the purpose of the design and how to power it. 

    I choose to only have one power source. This array was made for a wearable art runway competition.  I could not be backstage to 'power' up the model, so I streamlined the array with one switch and minimal wiring.

    Another factor figuring into my design was that I was creating a light well within the lobster bustle where the UV LED light would be diffused.  In this case the viewing angle was not critical.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Thinking about the viewing angle problem a little more, I remembered seeing an instructable wherein the author filed down the LEDs and put them sideways inside translucent buttons (see Light for Life: Glowing Button Cycling Jacket, which should come up on the top line of instructables if you type "LED jacket" into the search). The result was a glow that is very uniform. I did a double-take when I saw the jacket, because I couldn't figure out how she got the LEDs to glow like that! Of course, it sounds like real work to make the buttons with embedded LEDs, but maybe buttons of the sort (containing LEDs) could be attached to the ribbon array instead of the plain LEDs?

    1 reply

    9 years ago on Introduction

     That is pretty neat, I like the idea. It would be cool to see some really crazy display stuff on it though. You could have a light up dress that has a crazy light show on it. You should try to get all the LEDs to be the same brightness though. 

    DId you get an office with a view yet?
    The things I do for fashion have lead me down the electronics rabbit hole.
    Just wait till I post the next one!!!!


    Thank you!  I'm happy to have this opportunity to share her with you.

    and macgeek800 - I enjoyed Zoltar at the Mermaid Parade.  Thanks for bringing your fabulous project out in the rain!