By Super Awesome Sylvia and her dad, James
I bet you didn’t know that there’s a soft side to the hard edged fiberglass boarded electronics you know and love, and it’s called soft circuitry! The copper clad board in through-the-hole electronics can actually be replaced by cloth, and the traces replaced with conductive thread, allowing your projects to light up, and still be huggable and wear friendly. Today we’ll show you how to make your very own glowey-eyed cuddle monster you can sew together with the threadbare essentials. Lets go!
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For this sewtastic build, we’ll need:
- The LED Sewing Kit from the Maker Shed
- About ¼ yard of scrap or single pieces of fabric or other material
- Some Yarn
- Polyester or cotton stuffing
- Fabric glue
- Chalk, crayon or pencil to temporarily mark the fabric
- Needle-nose pliers
- sewing needle and thread (sewing machine optional)
Find a nice flat work-space, and get creative. Start drawing out the basic shape of your monster on your material. Try to avoid any really thin body parts, and make sure to exaggerate sizes a bit, as everything will shrink in when it’s stuffed. Once you’re happy with the shape, make sure there’s another layer of fabric underneath; pin both together, then carefully cut out your monster, about 6mm (a quarter inch) outside of the line.
With your finished, cut and pinned material, make sure the inside is on the outside, and the outside is on the inside, then take your needle and thread, and start sewing the two pieces together around the edge with a secure backstitch (or just use your sewing machine). Start at one side of the head, and work all the way around till you’re almost at the other side of the head. Making sure to leave the hole big enough to put your hand through.
Now to push your “monster-pocket” inside-out! This hides and protects the seam. Once fully inverted, it’s time to draw out your monster’s face. With the eyes placed, measure the distance between them, then cut two lengths of conductive thread about double that length. Now to prep the LEDs: Carefully curl the leads in towards the top with your pliers, a square for the long positive side, and a circle for ground. Now tie the two cut threads to each lead (square to square, circle to circle).
Next, pinch and cut a single tiny slit through each eye for the LEDs (they should fit snugly). Place the LEDs into your monster, then glue them in. Now take a new length of conductive thread and sew it in, ensuring it makes good contact with the square positive thread underneath. From there, sew your way to the back of the monster, where we’ll place the battery pack. Stitch it in at least three times to make sure the battery stays put. Wire in another thread to the round negative side and make your way back again, but instead of attaching straight to the battery, we sew on one side of the button from the kit on a piece of felt, and the other side to the battery. This becomes a fabric friendly switch for your cuddle monster’s eyes! Once it’s all sewn up, snap the button together, aaand… it lives!! The eyes should light up and you’re ready for the next step.
Try adding some facial features, colorful eyes, clothes, or anything else to make your creature spiffy. Now to stuff! Take little bits of stuffing and poke them into all the corners of your monster, then sew up the top of his head. Add some hair on top, and you’re done! Remember, anytime he needs to wake up, just snap the snap!
You probably have a a bit more thread left, what else can you do with it?
- Sew pads into a jacket connected to a Drawdio for your very own playable coat! (Like this one from Drawdio creator Jay Silver)
- Sew them through your gloves to keep your fingers warm, while still being able to use capacitive touchscreens. (Like Becky’s DIY iPhone Gloves)
- Make a momentary switch by sewing a bit on either side of a metal zipper. Hooked up to an Arduino, you’ve got an awesome backpack alarm! (A bit like Becky’s TV-B-gone Jacket)
Try designing something on your own, or check out what other people have done online. Either way, inspiration is everywhere.
That’s all we’ve got for this episode, remember to experiment with other uses for conductive thread, be crafty, never give up, and get out there and MAKE something!
Check out more episodes of Sylvia’s Mini Maker Show.
In the Maker Shed:
LED Sewing Kit