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How-Tuesday: Nightlife Necklace with Diana Eng

Jun 30, 2009

by objecked

Welcome to another How-Tuesday. This week’s project, “NightLife Necklace,” is a fun LED jewelry project from our friend Diana Eng‘s new book, Fashion Geek. Etsy members receive 10% off their purchase from North Light Books. (Use promotional code: ETSY10 at checkout.)


Diana has been on the cover of ID magazine (check out the inflatable dress!), a contestant on Project Runway, a winner of Yahoo! Hackday, and is a founding member of NYC Resistor

How did you get your start as a designer?
My grandmother taught me to sew when I was eight. I started sewing little skirts and stuffed animals for myself, and one of my favorite make-believe games was dress shop.

What got you into working with technology as a medium?
I always liked math, science, and computer programming. In fact, in grade school I was a big science fair nerd. One day I just thought it would be neat to combine my two interests, technology and fashion.

Other than your book, can you name some references for getting started learning how to use and work with electronics?
For electronics I constantly reference Forrest Mims’ Getting Started in Electronics book. It really taught me a lot about how electronics work.

There are some great tutorials on Instructables for using conductive thread.

Can you name any designers that you find really inspiring that work with both fashion/design and technology/geekery?
Issey Miyake
was the designer I first learned of who experimented with new technology and fashion. Though he never dabbled in electronics, he did work with computer programmers for his APOC project. Hussein Chalayan currently does runway fashion with electronics and collaborates with geeky folk such as Moritz Waldemeyer.

What else inspires you to design the types of things that you typically design?
I am fascinated by science and always find myself looking into things out of curiosity (such as biomimetics or ferrofluid). These curiosities inspire my designs.

Outside of the latest “technology” in fabrics and materials that outdoor apparel companies boast about using, does experimental technology/electronics have a place in high fashion or the future of clothing design?
Yes, I think that experimental tech/electronics have a place in creating different aesthetic effects. There are certainly new looks that can only be created with electronics. A lot of designers are looking to bring new looks to customers through technology. For example, Prada created a special oil slick looking two toned leather through new technology a few seasons back. Versace reinvented Versus as an R&D department.

Do you think of fashion as an art form? Do you think of technology as an artform?
I think that couture fashion is an art form. The materials used to create couture are so precious and the techniques are so difficult that couture pieces are one of a kind works of art.

I think that technology is a new medium for creating art. Artists will still need to know how to draw or sculpt, but they will be using technology as the new medium to create their art. Maybe one day there will be fashion created with technology that is so expensive and so difficult to make that only a one of a kind peice can be created.

And now for Diana’s How-Tuesday project! The Nightlife Necklace uses LEDs as luminescent gemstones to create a necklace that glimmers at night. Perhaps this is something that people will think about in future tech couture.

Download the PDF of this project from Diana’s book. (This file may take a while to load.)

Materials Needed: Tools for the Job:
  • 1 set of alligator clip jumper wires
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Needle-nose pliers
  • Wire cutter
  • Soldering iron
  • Craft and fabric glue
  • Rotary tool (optional)
  • Domed abrasive point or drill bit (optional)
  • Sewing needle
  • Scissors

Note: Use six or fewer LEDs in your design. The battery is strong enough to power six LEDs, but more than six lights will result in lights that won’t be very bright.



Step 1: Test Fit Step 2: Sand Beads
Test to make sure each LED will fit snugly in a
pony bead. I used white LEDs and white beads,
but feel free to add color and mix it up.
Use fine-grit sandpaper to sand the outside edges
of the pony beads and the large bead to create a
matte finish.





Step 3: Insert Photoresistor

Insert the photoresistor into the large bead. If necessary, use the rotary tool and a drill bit or domed abrasive point to widen the opening so the photoresistor will fit. Use a wire cutter to trim ½” (1cm) off 1 of the leads on the photoresistor. Use needle-nose pliers to create a loop on the end of
this lead.





Step 4: Create, Design, and Add LED’s

Create a design with the pony beads. Insert an LED into each pony bead. Use a wire cutter to cut ½” (1cm) off the short lead of 1 of the LEDs. (For this design, I chose the middle LED on the left, as shown in the photo at left.) Use needle-nose pliers to then create a loop in this shortened lead.






Step 5: Solder LED Leads and Photoresistor

Bend all of the LED leads so that each short lead is touching another short lead and each long lead is touching at least one other long lead. (Make sure no short lead is touching a long lead) Trim the leads with wire cutters if needed. Use a soldering iron to solder the leads where they touch. Test each connection after you solder it. Add the photoresistor bead and solder the long photoresistor lead to the long lead of the closest LED.




Step 6: Attatch Chain and Add Conductive Thread

Cut 2 lengths of chain to the desired length (I cut mine to 7″ [18cm] each) using wire cutters. Cut 2 lengths of conductive thread, each of which is double the length from the LEDs to the chain’s clasp (in this case about 14″ [36cm] each). Tie a knot with 1 length of conductive thread onto the LED lead loop you created in step 4. Secure the knot with a dab of fabric glue, and cut the excess short thread. Test the connection. Attach 1 jump ring to the chain and then to the loop. Thread a sewing needle with the long strand of tied conductive thread, and use the needle to feed the conductive thread through each of the chain’s links. Repeat with the second length of conductive thread (threading it through the second chain) and the photoresistor loop you created in step 3.



Step 7: Fold Ribbon

Use scissors to cut a length of ribbon that when attached to the ends of the necklace will be long enough for you to slide the necklace over your head (I cut mine to 18″ [46cm]). Trim the ends at a 45-degree angle to prevent the ribbon from fraying. At 3″ (8cm) from 1 end, fold in the sides of the ribbon toward the middle. Fold the ribbon on itself and attach a ribbon crimp end. Make sure a bit of the fold sticks out at the edges of the crimp; you will use this later. Repeat at the other end of the ribbon.




Step 8: Attatch Ribbon

Use needle-nose pliers to open 2 jump rings and insert 1 in the loop of each ribbon crimp end. Attach 1 end of each chain onto each jump ring. Insert the needle with the thread from the photoresistor through the fold of ribbon that sticks out of the edge of the ribbon crimp end on that side of the necklace.





Step 9: Attatch Battery Holder

Continuing with the thread from the photoresistor, sew the conductive thread around the positive contact of the battery holder (BS7), being careful to not sew on the extra portion of ribbon that folds over (this portion will cover the battery holder). Repeat the sewing instructions in step 8 with the conductive thread from the LED loop. Sew the conductive thread from the LED loop across the edge of the ribbon to the battery holder. Use this thread to sew around the negative contact of the battery holder. Knot the thread and cut the excess. Attach a lobster claw clasp to the jump ring on one of the crimps.


To wear the necklace, place the ribbon over your head, as shown on page 44, or for a more elegant look, clasp the chains together and let the ribbon loop in the back.

Note: Put the battery in the holder to turn the necklace on; take the battery out to turn the necklace off.


More crafty project downloads can be found in our How-Tuesday series on the Etsy blog! And did you know that you can buy Supplies on Etsy?

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