Light my elbows: a cycling jacket incorporating electronic yarn

There is a need for illuminated cycle clothing that is comfortable and safe when cycling, and stylish to wear during other activities. It is particularly challenging to integrate lighting within textiles without compromising the drape and comfort of the textile structure. A team of electronics, textiles and fashion specialists was formed to design and make an illuminated jacket for use by cyclists. The jacket incorporates bespoke woven panels that integrate electronic yarns within the pattern. These were designed and made for this project, with fluorescent and retroreflective yarns also included in the weave. LEDs integrated within the electronic yarns illuminate the elbows of the jacket, without causing constraint or adding excess volume. The movement of the jacket elbows during cycling widens the body outline and makes the lighting eye-catching. The collaboration between electronics and textiles experts overcame challenges including development of electrical circuitry designed specifically to fit into the jacket unobtrusively, without interfering with movement or rucksack straps. Electrical connections were required between the electronic yarns assimilated within the weave. Standard, rigid solder joints would have been difficult to form without damaging the cloth and would have been liable to breakage within the garment structure, so embroidery techniques were used to create flexible, conductive connections. The illuminated jacket provides a working prototype, demonstrating the potential for further collaborative ventures in which electronics are integrated into garments that are stylish, functional and ‘wearable’. Further interdisciplinary research will include the development of additional wearable prototypes that enhance safety and wellbeing, whilst addressing the recycling of the textiles and garments, including the safe separation and disposal of electronic yarn and other components that provide electrical functionality.