35
years
v2_
 

Embroidering Conductive Thread

For Aram's residency I did an experiment to find out if an embroidery machine can handle conductive thread. This test was performed at Waag Society Fablab, Amsterdam.

I was wondering if the Janome MC 200E embroidery machine would be able to handle conductive thread. Conductive thread is relatively thick compared to embroidery thread, hence my curiosity.  There were two important aspects to this experiment: 

  1.    does the machine work with the thread
  2.    can I create a single-stitched path 

Conductive Thread

In general, it is best to use conductive thread in the bobbin of a sewing/embroidery machine. So first thing is to prepare the spool. Winding a spool is a patient job: the yarn is so slippery that it often refuses to wind. It helps if you put a gentle tension on the thread, guiding it between your fingertips when it winds.
 
Consult the user manual to further prepare the embroidery machine. I used normal embroidery yarn for the upper thread, with the tension set to "3". The machine seemed to have no difficulty with the thick conductive thread in the bobbin. Hurray!
 

Single Stitch

Conductive thread can be used to create an electric circuit. For that purpose, it is really important to stitch a single line. The typical embroidery pattern with all it's zig-zag's would result in too high resistance and you would run the risk of creating a short circuit.
 
Following Rachel's and Meg's excellent tutorials at the Waag Society Fablab website, I prepared a jpg file (originally created in Illustrator), with strokewidth 2. According to Meg's test, this would result in a single stitch.  But alas! The Embird software thought differently. Stitches were generated in all sorts of widths and in seemingly random order. Completely useless to serve as a single electric path. 
 
Messed-up stitches
 
Having tried all sorts of work-arounds in Balarad Painter (change strokewidths in the original file, tweek brightness and contrast, compute stitches using different settings, even manually adjusting stitches), I concluded it should be a vector path.
 
Balarad Painter

Vector Path

 You can create a vector path directly in Embird Digitizing Studio*.  It seems you cannot import a vector file directly, so I simply re-drew my original jpg. Select this icon from the toolbar. That will create an open path:
 
 Button
 
You can move the starting point to any position you want. Follow your example by approximating the shape. It works quite well to draw straight lines and drag the curves after you closed the path. You can edit your path by selecting it with this arrow. It is possible to delete or add single points when editing. The help function is quite OK if you need some hints on drawing and editing in Embird Digitizing Studio.
 
When you are done, you can delete your jpg based template, which will show in the right column as a collection of stitches. 
 
Now select your vector and left-click. A popup appears. Select 'Parameters'. In one of the tabs you can indicate with what stitch the embroidery machine should follow the path. Select 'single stitch'. That will do the trick!
 
Single stitch
 
Follow Meg's tutorial to save and export the file. 
 
Vector path
 
 
* I did not manage to open this program
directly, probably because it is a plug-in. So unfortunately you have to go
through all steps from Embird+ to Balarad painter to Embird editor to Embird
digitizing studio. Quite silly... If anyone finds a work-around, please leave a
comment!
 
 
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