LED fiber optics on Osterkamp's blog



Her pieces will be on display in the Gallery at Oakland Convention Ctr May 18-20  Beautiful.


Posted on Sat, 05/05/2012 - 15:13

Hi  Sara-  I am still trying to find a good supplier of side glow optic fiber.  So far I have purchased bundled end glow fiber, unbundled, abraded or minibends to cause light to leak from the sides of the fibers.  I have then woven those and rebundled for lighting with LED's.  Several commericial companies are weaving w side glow in Europe, but only sell huge spools of the fiber- Very expensive.  If you find a supplier here in US Id love to know. Id contact those Cal Poly folks and see where they got theirs.  

It is fun to experiment with these unusual fibers.  Id love to hear of your experimentation.  Becky aka Pine Tree

Posted on Tue, 05/08/2012 - 13:50

Project Runway had an episode this past winter where the designers used all kinds of lights in their fashion challenge. They showed them shopping at a place in Manhattan or Brooklyn. (Hopefully someone can figure out the source-it might be on their website under show notes/locations.)

Also, there are two different folks teaching this topic at Convergence this summer, Syne Mitchell being one. Might want to go to www.spinweavedye.org, look at the list of classes, then contact those instructors and find out where they get their supplies?

Great question, and please post if you connect the dots to a good source.

Posted on Tue, 05/08/2012 - 15:09

magazine had an issue last year or year before that looks at using lights and electronic with fibers - I think they had a resource page. I will try to remeber to dig out my copy when I get home tonight and get a full reference for any one interested.


Posted on Wed, 05/09/2012 - 01:32

magazine I refer to above is the Spring 2011 issue. I looked on the Interweave site and it is still available both in hard copy and in digital form.


Posted on Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:08

I have just woven my first experiment with optic fiber.

I found mine in UK (starshape.co.uk) - unfortunately the thinnest side-glow available was 3 mm thick, which is a bit much for weaving.

Posted on Wed, 05/09/2012 - 15:43

Certainly the 3mm certainly glows brightly.  Thanks for sharing your experiment.  What's the thinner fiber ?  What type of LED did you use?

litetec ltd  UK  sells   0.75mm side -glow but only in huge spools.  Someone want to purchase and divide up? pine tree aka Becky

Posted on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 00:20

The product I'm familiar with is called "el wire," and I see plenty of shopping options on a quick search.

Posted on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 01:28

EL wire is electroluminescent when electrical power  (electrodes) are powered along the wire to make it phosphoresce. 

Optic fiber lights up when light (often from LEDs) is shown to one end of the fiber.  Fiber does not have electrical current along it.  Most optic fiber is called end-lit as the light travels within the fiber and is emitted at the end.  Optic fiber has to be altered to allow some light to "leak" to be side-emitted.  The side-glow  optic fiber is not as available for purchase.  

If anyone knows of a source for side-glow optic fiber for weaving, please share the link.  Thanks.  Becky

Posted on Thu, 05/10/2012 - 06:19

As I understand it, EL-wire is always solid metal (copper, I think), which makes it stiff. Or at least makes it difficult to use for weaving.

Another problem (for both options) is that the wire/fiber must be continuous, so if it is for clothing, it has to be inlay in the right places. All "circuits" have to have their own source of power/light... which probably means there is a reason this is not already a product on the market.

Becky, the thinner fiber came as a bonus sample (no paperwork...) - I have mailed to ask if it is the "sparkly" variety, or if it is only my less-than-professional mounting of the lighting. For this test, I used a mini-flashlight (say 2" long, one led, no specs): bundled all four fiber ends together with duct tape (making sure thay were as flush as possible), and duct taped the bundle to the led. This means I don't have good control... over anything, really.

I looked at the litetec site, but I can't really understand which are side-glow and which are end-glow... do you think all the "clear" is side-glow? (Maybe I should call them, myself :-)

Anyway, now I have some sort of feeling for how to handle the fiber: probably Peggy is on the right track, making "only decorative" pieces.

Posted on Fri, 05/11/2012 - 07:15

Quotes from the instructable about EL-wire: "The center core of EL wire is made of solid copper, and like any solid
wire it will break due to fatigue damage after repeated bending." "if you bend or fold part of the wire when you wear it or store it, it
will retain some of the bend in that location when you want to
straighten it out. Over time, these areas are more likely to break"

I read this as "will probably not handle well on a bobbin"... and the other "issue" (each cirquit will need it's own sourde of power/light) can, perhaps, be solved with extensive wiring on the inside of a garment, but that will mean *lots* of work if the fabric has to be cut - connecting all open ends...

As for optic fiber, it loses light over the lenght (which is the whole idea, after all), and will therefore benefit from being attached to the light (or two light sources) at both ends. Not to mention it would be awkward to have (say) 3 light sources to switch on when the night gets dark, and you would like your coat to be visible.

Posted on Fri, 05/11/2012 - 14:06

I have been on the fence about trying this. I certinly don't mind sampling, but I want to have a reasonable end use in mind. Based on the limitations of the products available, sounds like this is a novelty project at best. Has anyone done a series or more than a "one of"?


Posted on Fri, 05/11/2012 - 22:46

I wove a series of overshot samples with varying weft and varying diameter optic fiber as the pattern weft.   I wanted a background that blocked the optic in the pw, gave a halftone with the optic and gave nice warm glow in the lit floats.  The darker and more fulling yarns - (eg black and dk purple wool) blocked the lit optic fiber behind it.   The smallest diameter optic fiber 0.25mm got lost in the wool.  The 1 mm was very stiff.  Overshot placemats maybe .  Awaiting better fiber for next try.

I wove a small natural mohair scarf with the small optic fiber as weft alternating with merino and mohair.  The scarf has a soft glow and the looped edges give a lacey look.  Could be brighter with stronger LED probably.   Second scarf has more LEDs that need to be powered.  More to learn.  See photo under My Projects

Posted earlier was a sample tencel twill with 2 diameters of optic fiber as the weft.  My daughter has powered it with light changing LED's.   I have posted one more pic of that sample.  

After futzing with EL wire, I decided to try to modulate the sharp cool color of the bright EL wire.  And use only EL wire that is coated in PVC.  I wove a scarf with EL wire in the warp and a novelty yarn  with lots of texture and white merino wool to cover the wire and hopefully diffuse the harsh glow of the wire.  The wire was just a few strands in the warp.  As you can see in the posted pic- only one warp strand is lit and it shows through harshly unless under lots of fiber.    The powering of EL presents several technical difficulties. 

The latest Handwoven has green EL wire as supplemental decoration on a scarf with a bright result.  Mar/Apr 2012

I'd love to hear about your experimenting, Becky Vanderslice


Posted on Sat, 05/12/2012 - 00:32

that as more people look to use fiber optic and el in woven fabrics the manufacturers will begin to produce products better suited to the purpose. Those of us interested in and those already working with the technology need to put the pressure on to get a product that will fit our needs. This is still a fairly new venture and as with most ideas time will improve the raw materials. I think its really fascinating.


Posted on Sat, 05/12/2012 - 09:51

So how stiff *is* it, in comparison to the scarf idea? Would it work as a scarf? I have neer handled an EL wire...

Posted on Sun, 05/13/2012 - 14:45

Yes both optic and EL are stiff like fishing line.  Some of the products only have turning radius of 1".  If you design a narrower scarf you can handle the stiffness by a few strands in the warp or alternating passes in the weft.  Finer wires or fibers are more fragile, but fabrics have been made commercially- see www.SensingTex.com   for their curtains of optic fiber light.

EL wire requires enough voltage to give you a jolt if shorted in your piece.Take care.  Also the inverter buzzes.    adafruit.com and sparkfun.com have EL wire  and tutorials.  http://www.ladyada.net/learn/el-wire/ is great new tutorial for EL wire.  

Fun!  Becky


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