I'm wondering what conductive thread you would most recommend. The kind I got from sparkfun is very hairy and causes a lot of shorting-out and headaches. The one pictured on page 59 looks more like a fine tape. Can you recommend something that might be easier to work with?

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Hello Sarah,

The Conductive Thread - 117/17 2ply from Sparkfun is must easier to work with. Here's the link:

Is this the thread you purchased?

Avoid the thicker threads (4ply) as they can tangle (and certainly fray) in your sewing machine.

Personally, I like to work with a silverized thread that isn't yet commercially available. It's more expensive because of the silver. I am working with the folks at Craft to get a "Smart Materials" kit made commercially available that has all the inks, threads and fabrics that are difficult to get at small quantities. So please stay tuned for this starter kit! We should have it available soon (I hope)!
Hi Syuzi,

I love the material qualities of the 2ply, but I'm troubled by the high resistance (82ohms/ft). Is this ever an issue for you, or do you have any good work-around techniques?

Hi Kate,

Can you be more specific as to exactly what you are trying to do and where you are having problems? If you don't want to share your project publicly yet, please feel free to email me.

But for the benefit of everyone here, some tips when dealing with conductive thread:

Working with Lilypad Arduino

If you are working with the Lilypad, I would use a thin of piece conductive fabric with low-resistivity to connect the battery source to the Lilypad (you will have to use conductive thread to sew the connection). Otherwise, you MUST keep the battery right next to the Lilypad. Why? Since the conductive thread is resistive, you will have problems with the voltage dropping below the 3.3-3.6V that your Lilypad requires in order for it to function properly.

Creating an LED Matrix

If you are having problems wiring a matrix of LEDs,
1. Make sure you are wiring everything in parallel; and
2. Make sure you have an adequate enough power source to drive the circuit. For example, if your circuit traces are very long, you will have voltage drop issues. This means you have to use a battery with higher voltage or reconsider your circuit design. The latter also may require you to be more flexible with the materials you use.

I typically use a combination of conductive fabric and thread. If I need to make long traces, I will almost always use thin strips of conductive fabric instead of the thread. Although the 4ply thread is thick and hairy, it is MUCH less resistive than the 2ply.

When working with the Lilypad, you can sew the Lilypad onto the fabric using the 2ply thread and then substitute the 2ply thread with the 4ply thread to continue onto the rest of your circuit. (Using the 2ply will prevent any shorting because of the hairiness of the thread).

I will try to piece together a nice compact tutorial on this soon to make it more transparent for everyone.

But as you can see, without me knowing your exact issue, it is difficult for me to make appropriate suggestions.

Hope this helped!
Another tip:

I'm assuming most of the fraying is occurring when you sew on the electronic components. What I suggest is to use a dab of fray check, clear puffy paint, or any other type of clear adhesive to prevent the thread from fraying and shorting the circuit. Just don't put too much on otherwise it will effect the resistance of the thread.
It does fray when I sew on components. My worry is that I will seal off the connection (say to an arduino board) without being sure it's a good one. I'm not sure how to use my multimeter just yet to check that. If I have an arduino connected to a dozen leds, at what point do I seal the threads? Sometimes the contacts are too close together and I can't sew them both without the threads touching, and then it's too late! I'd seal a hair of one in with the other! I'm a bit baffled.

I've ordered the 2-ply thread, so hopefully that will ease some of my anxiety. The paths I sew with the thread are not the problem, of course, just the connections. If not, I may have to scale up to something more pricey.

Is fine stainless steel wire machine washable?
I believe you will find the 2-ply thread much easier to work with. And, yes, don't seal off your connections UNTIL you are sure that everything is working properly. Start playing around with your multimeter. It's really an indispensable tool that can save you hours of guesswork. The book has a hands-on tutorial and I have also uploaded a video (see video section) that explains how to use one.

As for your comment:
Sometimes the contacts are too close together and I can't sew them both without the threads touching, and then it's too late!

Do you mean the contacts on the arduino or your LED layout? What types of LEDs are using? Can you upload a photo so I can make better suggestions? A visual will help.
yes, I'm very familiar with the Lilypad. I was just curious if you meant that the contacts from the lilypad are too close together or the contacts of the LEDs you are connecting.

I'm not sure how to address your stainless steel wire question. I know that stainless steel is less resistant to corrosion than other metal alloys and it is used in some knitting yarns. But I don't personally have experience with it. I wouldn't machine-sewn it though bc it can mess up your machine if it gets jammed.
oh right, absolutely. I think I would make either a casing to feed it though or do a satin stitch over it. My problem lies mostly with the petals being so close together. Also I'm using surface mount leds with jewelry bead tube type things soldered to the ends. Not sure what they're called, but that's probably the technical term.
Just saw this, I want to weave LEDs into my fabrics, and am just getting familiar with all this. I see the thread from Lame lifesaver and also the two from Sparkfun. Any idea what might be best to use??
if you are weaving your own textiles than I would use conductive yarn. You can purchase conductive yarn from Shieldex although it is quite costly because you have to purchase a 2.5 lb cone.
I looked at their website (I think it was theirs, I wen to a lot of them yesterday), but I don't know enough to figure out what I needed. I ended up getting some tread from them, though. I tend to weave with fairly fine threads and I like the idea of the conductive one melting into the background. I'll go back and see though.
Hi Inga,

Did you happen to purchase the sample pack from them? I wish I could offer you a specific thread to purchase but I am not a weaver and unfortunatley don't know too much about the subject. I highly reccommend you purchasing the sample pack and testing out the threads. They're also very very helpful so if you have questions just give them a call. Also please give me an update on which you thread you eventually use so in the future I can reccommend it someone else in the community that may be interested in weaving. Good Luck!


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