You needn’t lose your shirt to buy touchscreen gloves.
With the boom of the capacitive touchscreen glove market, there are now scores of excellent and affordable products to choose from. That said, if you’re like me, you like knowing how things work and how to do it yourself. Plus, it’s nice to save some money in the process!
There are already a number of instructional resources on the web about how to make your own touchscreen gloves using conductive thread, so for this article I focused on what type of thread you should use. To do this, I spoke with several industry experts to learn where to purchase touchscreen compatible material, how much it costs, and some tips about which one is best for giving ordinary gloves touchscreen superpowers.
Where To Buy Conductive Thread
- Sparkfun: I highly recommend Sparkfun. I have purchased from them on several occasions and, in my experience, they have superb customer support, knowledgeable staff and a good selection of thread. Sparkfun offers, among other threads, a stainless steel bobbin at $2.95/30ft.
- Lame Lifesaver: Owner Robert Smith has been selling conductive thread since 2003 (check out his sale location map on his site to see all the different places in the world he’s sold to). Robert is incredibly responsive, knowledgeable, and friendly. I highly recommend contacting Robert if you have any questions. Lame Lifesaver sells 10-yard cards for $5.00.
- Silverell: Silverell offers a kit with 3 conductive sewing threads for $25.
- Amazon.com: At the time of this article, Amazon listed Sparkfun and CanaKit products.
- Soft Circuit: Soft circuit sells 10-foot samples for about $5.00.
- eBay: While eBay can be a great resource, beware of scammers and only use highly rated, reputable sellers. I have read several accounts of people purchasing thread that turned out not to be conductive.
How Much Does Conductive Thread Cost and How Much Should You Get?
The short answer is not much and just a small amount.
If this is your first time making touchscreen gloves I recommend getting a small amount and seeing how you like it. Most vendors offer sample sizes of several yards (which is plenty) for under $10.00. You can always go big later.
What Makes It Conductive?
There is a wide range of conductive thread on the market, but for DIY touchscreen glove projects plated silver and stainless steel thread are most common. It is the metal which gives the threads their conductivity.
Different threads offer different resistance levels, which make them more or less conductive. A thread with “high resistance” will have a harder time completing the circuit from your finger through to your touchscreen. On the other hand, “Low resistance” means that the charge will pass more easily.
So which Thread Should You Buy?
I spoke with Dia, an E-textile Specialist at Sparkfun, to find out which thread she would recommend for DIY touchscreen glove projects. Dia noted that for most small projects involving standard sewing, the 2-ply silver thread is the best choice as it’s slicker and less inclined to tangle. That same slickness, however, can make it easier for knots or stitches to slide out. Therefore, for DIY touchscreen gloves, where it’s critical that the thread stay in place and low resistance is key, Dia recommended the stainless steel bobbin ($2.95/30ft), whose fiber-based construction also ensures that it integrates well with yarn or wool. I should note that stainless steel thread is used by some major manufacturers in some of the best gloves on the market, so despite the harsh sounding name, it will not harm or scratch your screen!
Special thanks to Dia from SparkFun and Robert from Lame Lifesaver, who were both very generous with their time and expertise.