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Getting Started with Sid - Glowing Patches

June 07, 2021

Getting Started with Sid - Glowing Patches

Hey Elmies!

Sid here, back with another post. Today I’m exploring e-textiles with some conductive thread and sew in LEDs. This is the area of maker tech that I’m actually a little bit more in tune with, I’ve been sewing since I was 12 and something about this version of circuits makes more sense in my mind. 

There’s been some exceptional advancements with e-textiles in the last few years, especially with Lilypad products. We carry a large range of them from LEDs to power supplies to switches. Conductive thread is used to bring it all together, going from the power supply to all the other bits to keep it running. It’s also easy to sew with either by hand or with a machine if you’ve got one and want to do a more complicated project. There’s no extra programs or coding needed for what I’ll be doing today however some people do pair with Arduino or other additional tools for more complicated projects. 

white piece of paper with metal tabs, sewing needles and conductive thread on it as well as fabric in the upper right corner

For today I’m going to focus on some simple patches, this is a pretty fun little project that’s great to try out when delving into e-textiles. Basically it’s creating circuits where the thread is the wire. Here I’ve attached the power supply to the patch base. It has a positive and negative side so the thread is coming off each side. 

back of the felt patch base

The way these specific LED’s work the metal tabs help keep them in place and then I wrap the thread around them to secure them. The benefit of using Lilypad LEDs is that they have larger connecting pads so you don’t need to worry about having metal pins, removing a lot of the bulk if you’re looking for a sleeker look. 

front of the patch base with a white and a blue LED lit up

Once I get everything all the sewing done on the base I just have to flick the switch and just like that the LEDs are good to go! Now that the base is set I’m going to add some flare to make it look a little more interesting.

two circles of jersey fabric on a cutting mat

I chose to use some fabric scraps I have from t-shirts because I have a tendency of cutting sleeves off and ending up with lots of jersey fabric because of it. I decided to sew little covers for the base that can just slip over and be changed whenever I feel like. I like the flexibility of changing the patch without having to reconstruct everything from the start. 

round patch with an black outline of an eye and a red hand outline behind it with the blue and white LEDs lit up

Here I’ve used one version where I used acrylic paint for the design and worked to integrate it with where the LEDs are. 

 embroidered outline of a face in black thread over top of a chaotic mess of red thread with both the white and blue LEDs lit up

In this version I did freeform machine embroidery, this is when you slowly guide the fabric through a sewing machine to create designs when you don’t have a programmable embroidery machine. Alternatively you could do this with hand sewing as well!

white person with purple hair standing in front of a mirror with the camera over their face, they are wearing a black denim jacket with a light up patch pinned to it

As a textile artist e-textiles fascinate me and I’m really excited to figure out more methods and uses. I have a few ideas brewing on some more wearables so keep your eyes peeled because they’ll be on the blog in time.

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