Triggered by a question from one of our dear readers about possible technologies usable to add light-up elements to clothing designs, I have been looking around if there is anything else next to Photochromic yarns or the glow-in-the-dark yarns which both need light to trigger the color change.
EL-foil technology is another option providing a very thin design solution but it is rather challenging to get custom made design in small quantities.
Using low profile LEDs could be used as well but needs many LEDs to get a continuous line of light. On the other hand, LEDs can be switched on/off or otherwise manipulated for their light output.
My search for more options came up with EL-wires or very thin EL strings which come very close to be used as illuminating yarn. Offered by a company called NeonString, their ‘Angel hair’ EL string is just 1.2mm thick, can be bend up to 180 degrees and come in a variety of colors: Aqua, Blue, Lime Green, Red, White, Yellow, Green and Purple with a price of $1.05 per foot.
To have a functional EL wire solution you need to have a driver electronic as well. Here comes the second very pleasant surprise from this company: their smallest driver which will work perfectly with the Angel hair EL string is very, very tiny, weights only 0.2 oz (less than 6 gram) and runs on 1.5V DC so you can use a small battery as well. This tiny driver can light up a string of up to 1.5 feet and is selling for $5.50
If you need longer light elements, there are bigger but still very small driver option available at the same store.
For people with little or no knowledge about electronics, NeonString offers to solder the driver to the string when indicated during ordering.
One word of caution: this very thing EL string does not have the usual PVC coating protection and outdoor use is not recommended but if you take care in your design and add some protective layer on top of it, I guess it should be fine to use in clothing projects.
If you are looking for a way to light up your next fashion design project, this is certainly an option to look at during your design stage.