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The Soft Electric is an exploration in wearable fashion technology, designed by Grace Kim for her final thesis project at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program. Grace knit and felted the caplet by hand and embroidered the piece with conductive thread. The thread carries electric current to LEDs that are beaded into the embroidery. The LED beads flicker, acting like a sequin in the light. Link.

Gkim Tutorials

To help you get started in creating wearables yourself, Grace was nice enough write up an idea for a smaller project and she also posted up 2 of her tutorials on her flickr. Thanks Grace!

Tips from Grace:
One could make a simple LED bracelet using one LED, some wire, and a 3V coin cell battery. Twist each leg of the LED with a length of wire (make sure each leg is wrapped with a different piece of wire, so you don’t short the LED out), wrap the wires around your wrist, then tape the wires to the corresponding sides of the battery. Instant, though somewhat crude, bracelet!

However, if you wanted to make a little softer and more wearable, you could substitute the wire for conductive thread. Curve the legs of the LED with roundnose pliers so they form loops. Whip a length of conductive thread around each loop a few times, then knot, leaving long tails. From here, you can do several things: you can sew the thread to a length of ribbon, felt, or leather to make wristband, make a soft battery holder for a more secure power connection, and make a power switch by using a metal snap to connect the line to ground. You could also get a little fancy and embroider the conductive thread on the surface of the band or use an LED sequin instead of the standard, round-top LED.

The most important thing is to start with a simple circuit. Get the technical aspects working, no matter how crude it looks, then slowly substitute hard components in the circuit with soft materials. Once you’ve done that, go back and rethink your circuit, shrinking the number of electronic components or rethinking the placement of elements on your board. Then rethink some of your soft materials. The hard electronics will inform the soft components and vice versa.

It took about a month for me to finish the capelet. It took 3 days to knit and felt the capelet and about forever to embroider it and incorporate the electronic components.

Tutorials:

  • How to make an LED bead (left) – Link.
  • How to create a soft battery holder (right)- Link.


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