Applique with EL Panels
One of our first experiments with with wearable technology was using a traditional garment decorating method called applique. Appliqué is a process where fabric is cut in a specific design and sewed onto a garment. You would typically see this type of decoration on a fraternity or sorority letter sweatshirt. For garments of that type, two pieces of twill are cut for two different colors and then each sewn on separately. In this experiment we’ve used Applique with EL Panels to create a unique effect on the front of a sweat shirt.
In the example letter “E” shown to the right, there are two pieces of fabric being used to create the letter effect. The bottom piece of fabric is a white twill, the top piece of fabric is a patterned blue twill.
The patterns, in this case the letter E is typically laser cut, although it’s possible to cut by hand, and then sewn down in layers.
We decided to experiment with a EL Panel a piece of applique and a sweatshirt. Using the same methodology used for traditional applique decoration, we cut out a smile face from yellow twill, laser cut the eyes and mouth and then sewed an EL panel below the applique. In this case, the applique hid most of the EL panel and where we wanted the EL to show through we cut holes.
EL panels can be cut and punctured without concern that they will stop working. You just need to be careful to not cut the electric leads that power the EL. In our experiment, we didn’t cut the panel, we simply punctured it with our sewing machines to hold it below the applique.
The experiment was a success, but the EL panel was too bright and you can see the panel shining thought the applique itself. Meaning, you can see a square of light below the applique vs. just being able to see the eyes and mouth. So while a success in concept, future experiments using this method would require careful cutting of the EL panel to eliminate the show through and/or using a thicker twill to block the light that we don’t want seen.
Applique with EL Panels is something that you can experiment with at home using any standard EL panel. The ones that we used for this project were ridged panels. Since applique itself is a stiff material, using Applique with EL Panels on any wearable project beneath applique should not result in an uncomfortable garment.