10th 2005f October, 2005

Make your own wearable LED display

by @ 10:16. Filed under
Make your own wearable LED display

By Leah Buechley


Click on an image for a movie of the shirt animating the Game of Life (1.7 MB).
Click here for more information about the shirt I made.

what you will need

  • conductive thread
    (You can purchase spun stainless steel thread from Lame Lifesaver. Check out my materials link page for more information on conductive threads.)
  • surface mount LEDs, as many as you want to include in your display
    (I used a super intensity red LED from digikey. part #: 67-1695-1-ND )
  • a microcontroller of your choice.
    (Chose one with an internal oscillator. I used the AVRmega16. digikey part #: ATMEGA16L-8PC-ND)
  • an IC socket for your microcontroller.
    (You want be able to sew through the socket’s holes after minimal modifications. For a 40 pin micorcontroller, digikey part #: A9440-ND will work after you drill out the holes. I found the perfect socket, one that required no drilling, browsing my local electroics store, so try that first.)
  • a battery and holder.
    (I used a standard 6 volt camera battery. part#: A544.
    You can purchase the holder for this battery from digikey part #: 108KK-ND)
  • an on/off switch
    (Check out these slide switches and toggle switches from digikey.)
  • a 30 watt soldering iron and lead-free solder
    (You’re going to wear this so keep health hazards like lead in mind!)
  • a multimeter
  • a T-square or a ruler
  • an assortment of silver and brass crimping beads, at least twice as many as you have LEDs
    (These are available from your local bead shop, or from Michaels)
  • a garment or a piece of fabric and a pattern you can use to make your own garment.
  • a needle or two, a fabric marker, and a bottle of fabric glue
    (Needles, fabric markers, and Liquid Stitch, Sew-No-More, and similar products are available at your local fabric shop or Joann Stores)
  • a pair of scissors
  • a sewing machine

Some of the supplies you’ll need.

34 Responses to “Make your own wearable LED display”

  1. -:: sometimes bored in ottawa ::- Says:

    I want a shirt like this

    GRYNX Make your own wearable LED display Can someone make this for me? :-)…

  2. raphael Says:

    this is the most well conceived and executed tutorial on this subject i have ever seen. Good work!

  3. Sarah Says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive detail. I’m making scifi underwear as soon as possible.

  4. Glen Says:

    I’m glad to see that an actual girl was willing to associate with whoever made this thing and wear it. Kudos to the blurred hotty, and wtf is the game Life?

  5. Glen Says:

    OMG, “you iz a lady.” Waaaay too hot. (inserting foot in mouth) I’m sorry for automagically assuming male gender. A thousand apologees. I’m glad to see girl tinkerers do exist, outside of my dreams. Maybe you (and your electronic junk pile) and me (and my electronic junk pile) can get together, if we can put aside our differences, like say me being a PIC guy and you being a Atsmell girl. =)

  6. srt Says:

    This is great work. Try googling for e-textiles (the old Darpa project) and take a look at:,WO,TTL-EN&RESULT=1&TOTAL=5&START=1&DISP=25&FORM=SEP-0/HITNUM,B-ENG,DP,MC,PA,ABSUM-ENG&QUERY=in%2ftrotz


    I only mention this because I’m curious what you think about the relative manufacturability of woven e-textiles as opposed
    to post-embroidery essentially of an existing woven or knitted

  7. Elephant Says:

    That is SO damn cool!


  8. MAKE: Blog Says:

    Make your own wearable LED display

    Chris writes “In a 7 page article Leah Buechley will show you from a-z how she put together a wearable led display perfect for club hopping! (Or maybe NOT!) The purpose of the whole display is to show off the “Game of life” which is a mathematical …

  9. Pork Says:

    cool project, just in time for Halloween!

    To play a java Game of Life online go here:

    The game/demo demonstrates some aspects of “cellular automata”,
    how simple rules can lead to complex behavior.

  10. Remmelt Says:

    I see you didn’t use any resistors. The part you used does not have R’s built-in. I am puzzled. Is the resistance of the conductive wire so high that you can go without current-limiting ones?

  11. ���記 Says:

    Make your own wearable LED display

    Link: GRYNX � Make your own wearable LED

  12. metamanda>>weblog Says:

    winter break project

    GRYNX � Make your own wearable LED display (thanks, marc)…

  13. leah Says:

    about resistors – the short answer is yes, the conductive thread has enough resistance so that you don’t need to worry. But, if you’re attaching both LED leads directly to a microcontroller you often don’t have to worry about resistors anyway because the controllers can’t produce that much current.

    about weaving – this is something I haven’t tried yet, but there’s lots of cool work being done in this area. see for example “international fashion machines”:

    (thank you glen for giving me a good laugh!)

  14. Claire Says:

    I was wondering how you go about washing this garment. Can u take out the socket and wash it? Can the LED’s be washed?

  15. leah Says:

    you can wash it. I haven’t washed the shirt yet, but have washed trial patches (in standard washing & drying machines) with the same LEDs sewn in and they wash fine. The microcontroller can be popped out of its socket & this probably should be done before washing…

  16. LED Display Says:

    Looks like a flowerier.

  17. LED Display Says:

    It may the new style for fahsion designer.

  18. Simon Says:

    Its not often I get too see an original use for LEDs, especially when used in conjunction with fabrics, who would of thought it, top job.
    Fancy having them bracelets manufactured?

  19. Neil in Seattle Says:

    I just came acrossed this site… (grin–love it!)

    I started doing similar things a few years ago.

    I prefer to use acrylic/LEDs together and have come up with methods to fasten them to clothing or make them entirely out of a different material. I’ve attended the local events wearing a tuxedo with approx 55 leds that will cycle through colors… I don’t really sell my stuff or post pictures… The easiest place to see my creations is to find Rustycon or Norwescon…

  20. Kris Says:

    That’s great! Thanks for putting this online! Now your next challenge is to figure out how Phillips makes their LED “Lumalight” product check it out:

    and a video of it here on

    cool, eh?

  21. Ed Says:

    This is a great idea. However, for me (male) it might look kind of strange…

  22. snulli Says:

    test dje ek2 djd 23dk32kjd 2kjdkdjk d

  23. chuck Says:

    (ha ha ha…..!!)

    sure. What the world needed more.

    Ingenuitiy. And fun.

    Keep the good work. Young lady…

    (aha ha ha ha..!!)

    Be the force with you…

  24. Neil from Seattle Says:

    Comment to Ed (posted on 10/17/06):

    When would you wear this sort of thing?

    I’m thinking almost any place that has a dance floor (“club-wear”). It wouldn’t matter, guy or gal could wear this sort of thing. I love the fact that you can turn into your own light-show. If you need/want any help catching some extra attention, this is definately one more way to do it!

    Then again, I’m much more formal (tux). Everything I do “blends” with what I’m already wearing–You can’t see the display until I turn it on.


  25. Stephanie in SF Says:

    Thanks so much for all the detailed instructions.
    I want to incorporate LEDs into a costume.
    How much do I need to learn about electronics before attempting this project? Currently, I have zero knowledge.
    Is there anyone in the Bay Area that may be able to provide some instructions?

  26. Christopher and Tansy Says:

    Woo Woo! We got a 8×10 array working on a shirt (sort of). We still need to track down some loose ends, but the darn thing works!
    Stephanie, the programming part is fairly straightforward but it does require some programming experience. For us, most of the effort was in getting the shirt made. The sewing of the traces was very time consuming and delicate. We might be interested in helping you out, we could certainly provide you with a chip that was preprogrammed. Tansy and I live in Oakland part time, send me mail at cxbrooks at gmail dot com if you are interested.

  27. Gregory Says:

    Dear madim why not sew one trace onto one sheet of material and the other trace into another sheet of material and use a layer of cotton in-between the two layers so stopping short circuits and making shure that nothing starts smoaking while your waring it. Also you might find Electro-Coat will work instead of soldering altough you will have to heat the electro-coat joints up so that the connection goes low resistence….yours faithfully greg.

  28. Neil from Seattle Says:

    LED’s and stuff in a costume… =)

    Some cheap steps for the untrained in electronics…
    1) Buy a soldering iron
    2) Practice using it on a scrap piece of circuit board, likely from an electronic appliance that no longer works… =)
    X) *** Please Note: Extremely dangerous to heat batteries! ***
    3) Try to solder some of those components back on… =)
    4) Realizing–most LED’s can be run on a “2016” or “2032” 3v battery. Make a cheap battery holder, switch, and wire up a cheap make-shift flashlight or hijack other “pre-made” circuits!
    5) Try buying a simple electronics kit (such as
    * Try smaller/simpler first!!!! *

    Here’s what I did (I finally made a picture and put it on the internet):

    6)… Have fun.


  29. darlington Says:

    pls i’ll like you to assist me in the design of a project on led scrolling display, i want to display and
    sroll “welcome to electrical engineering” pls kindly assist and advice

  30. Carrie Says:


  31. eden Says:

    i am afraid to solder a battery..
    can u give me a tips on long can you let the soldering iron touch the battery?
    or how can i make it safe..

  32. eden Says:

    i am afraid to solder a battery..
    can u give me a tip on long can you let the soldering iron touch the battery?
    or how can i make it safe..

  33. umamahesh Says:

    Can i run the avr micro controller programs on any linux version instead of Mac OS.Will the softwares and C libraries for avr microcontroller you mentioned work on linux of any version also?
    Please send me the details or answer my query.

  34. luke Says:

    Hey, I’m not sure if you were being serious poster 31…. soldering batteries is never okay – that’s why you have a battery holder 😉

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Host your project

    Earn up to $60/€50 by submitting your project! We host and promote your project without any costs and you get all the credit!
    email More info

Write for Grynx:

Do you have what it takes? If you're the right person then email us.


Support Grynx:

Help us continue our work with a donation

Website promotion SEO Managed Advertising
    Grynx writes about DIY's and hacks from our own authors as well from around the web.
    More about Grynx
    Tell us - ask us!
    Send us your article or link tip or ask for help in the forum.

5 Most popular articles:

    Forum {beta}
    Hatch ideas and help others with their ideas.

    Technology Blog Top Sites


Do it yourself - DIY
Our projects collection

23 queries. 0.355 seconds