This project shows you how to embellish a skirt with buttons and embroidered flowers enhanced with LEDs in the centre of each flower. It uses a metal zip as an on/off switch so that when the zip is open the LEDs are off and when it is closed they come on.
Each flower is made up of a lazy daisy embroidery stitch with a button centre through which a 3mm LED has been placed. When switched off the LEDs looks like a shiny bead and when switched on each flower lights up to give a pretty effect that allows you to change the mood of the item.
This skirt has a pocket with a zip in it but the zip could be anywhere in the item. It is essential the teeth of the zip are made of metal as other types of zip won't work. A heavier weight fabric also works best as the circuit can be stitched straight onto the back of the fabric. The project is quite complex and requires some knowledge of how circuits are created as well as knowledge of how to do the embroidery stitch.
Learn how to:
- Use a mini cell holder.
- Use 3MM LEDs.
- Create a circuit made up of several LEDs.
- Create a circuit that uses a metal zip as an on/off switch.
Level of difficulty:
In order to add the lazy daisy LEDs to your skirt you will need:
- Skirt with a zip that has metal teeth (skirt fabric should be fairly heavy weight).
Mini cell holder & cell.
- 4 x white LEDs.
- Embroidery thread.
- 4 buttons with 2 holes (check holes will allow LEDs to slot through).
- Ordinary sewing thread to match colour of skirt.
You will also need the following equipment:
Step by Step guide to adding LEDs to a skirt
This is a complex circuit made even more complex by working on the inside of a skirt with a pocket. In addition there are restrictions in how the circuit is laid out because of the position of the pocket.
If you are making a similar item you may need to change how the circuit is laid out. One of the key things to remember is that the zip switch sits on the positive side of the circuit with the opening of the zip breaking the circuit.
It is also important to remember that the positive and negative rows of stitches must never meet or cross over.
These photos and instructions showing the circuit on paper might help you understand how the circuit is made and may help you adapt your circuit to the item you are using.
Use the lazy daisy stitch to create 4 flowers on the skirt.
Place the mini cell holder close to the side seam on the inside of the skirt. It could be placed on top of the side seam if it is visible. Use small oversewing stitches and conductive thread to attach the negative side of the cell holder to the back of the fabric.
Try to only pick up one or two threads from the fabric and avoid going through to the right side to ensure your stitches are invisible.
Use small running stitches to take the thread to the first flower.
Again try to only pick up one or two threads from the back of the fabric to avoid it being seen on the right side.
Thread the legs of the LED through the holes in the button.
Push the LEDs through the weave of the fabric. If the weave is very tight you might need to make a small hole in the fabric to do this.
The button will hide any hole you create in the fabric but if the fabric frays neaten the edge with fabric glue or oversewing stitches.
Use the round nose pliers to twist the negative leg into a small loop and push this flat against the surface of the fabric.
Oversew the loop in the LED to the fabric.
Only pick up a small number of threads from the fabric to avoid the stitches being seen on the right side. Try to use the embroidery stitches to stitch into as then you can avoid stitching into the fabric.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 stitching the negative leg of the LEDs into place until you have stitched down all 4 LEDs.
Keep checking the right side of the fabric to make sure none of your stitches can be seen.
This is what the negative side of your circuit will look like when it is complete.
Note that this side of the circuit is stitched using one length of conductive thread.
Use the round nose pliers to twist the positive legs into a loop and push them flat against the fabric pointing in the opposite direction to the negative legs. Using a new piece of conductive thread oversew each leg into position using a small running stitch to get from LED to LED as before. On the final LED take the thread up towards the position of the top end of the zip.
It is essential the threads from the negative and positive sides of the circuit don’t touch or cross over. Keep your running stitches small so that the loops of thread don’t hang down to touch the row below.
When you reach the end of the zip push the needle through to the right side of the fabric. Oversew around the top two teeth of the zip.
Be careful not to let the thread catch on the teeth as they can snag the thread.
Using a new piece of thread oversew the top of the teeth on the zip in the same way as before.
Note that although you are using a new piece of thread this is still the positive side of the circuit.
When the zip closes the two sets of teeth will touch completing the circuit and lighting up the LEDs.
Take the thread through to the wrong side of the fabric. Use small running stitches as before to take the thread back round to the positive side of the cell holder.
Make sure you keep the thread well away from the negative row of stitches.
Oversew the positive side of the cell holder into position.
Use ordinary sewing thread to stitch the remaining two holes in the cell holder.
These are to stabilise the cell holder and do not form part of the circuit.
Slot the cell into the cell holder with the positive side facing upwards.
When you close the zip the LEDs will switch on and when you open it they will switch off.
Download a pdf version of this page here
This tutorial was produced for Kitronik by Julie Boyd
who is a specialist in e-textiles design.
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