1Collect the materials and tools
The wearables are made out of textile and use LED's, battery and control board to light it up.
Above you can find a picture of the materials used for the following instructions:
- Control board
- Black felt (part of the fabric kit)
- Any color netting (part of the fabric kit)
- White nuFoam (part of the fabric kit)
- Zipper (part of the fabric kit)
- 4 LED strips with 4 LED's
- 1 LED strip with 5 LED's
- LiPo battery (1200mAh)
And this picture above shows the recommended tools:
- Sewing machine (if you do not have any, check with your local makers space, or even the library (here in Stockton, CA does)
- Sewing template (see in the files section) , or follow step#2 to create your own
- USB cable
2Create a sewing template
You can skip this step when you use one of the existing templates.
There are tons of images online which you could use as a template or use one of the templates found above in the files. The "rainbow star" is an easy pattern to start with since it contains straight lines only. Having curves in your design makes it a lot harder.
Determine were to put the zipper or opening. For smaller wearables I usually just use an opening which I will close with a few stitches. For larger wearables I like to add a zipper to make it easier to open and close. Make the is opening big enough for the foam, board and battery which are added later. Also consider easy access to your USB charging connector.
Here is an example of a butterfly I found online and I used as a sewing template:
So my zipper will be as close to the USB port and on/off switch, while a battery pocket will be as close to the bottom as possible. It will be very tight, but it will fit. This also shows how this "heart" shaped board makes it possible to make more different designs. With a regular round board, like my first designs, the board would stick out where the head of the butterfly is located.
3Sew in zipper to the back of the wearable
We will start with the felt which we use for the back of the wearable. Use the template (your own or the a template from the files section) to mark the outer shape and the location of the zipper.
Fold the center line to make a small cut with the scissors, and make the opening wide enough to fit the zipper:
Hold the zipper in place with some pins. Note that the pins on top are inserted from the right to the left, and on the bottom from the left to the right. This makes it easier to remove the pins while we are sewing in the zipper.
Start sewing the zipper as follows:
Just place the foot as close the zipper as possible and have the needle as far to the left as possible as well. Remove any pin that gets too close to the pressure foot. Do not sew over the pins because it might damage the needle. Sew in a straight line till you clear the end of the zipper (metal insert at the end of the zipper):
Make sure the needle is down and lift the pressure foot. Turn the fabric 90 degrees. Make sure you clear that small metal piece on the zipper, sewing over that metal piece will definitely bend or even break your needle:
Do a couple of stitches till you clear the zipper, and rotate the fabric again (with the needle in the fabric) so that you can sew the other side. Make sure that you remove the pins when you get close with the pressure foot.
When you get closer to the slider stop sewing for a second. Make sure the needle is down, bring the pressure foot up, and use the pull tab on the slider to move it down the zipper:
Continue sewing till the end. If you get to the end make sure your clear the end of the zipper, and turn 90 degrees again.
Do a couple of stitches again till it clear the zipper. Turn the fabric 90 degrees on more time and sew to the location where you started. I pull the starting thread to the side as in indicator to my starting and end point:
Knot both ends together on both sides of the fabric, and cut the ends:
4Add a battery pocket
I pocket underneath the zipper is used to hold the battery in place. A small piece of felt is required and we take this small piece out of one of the corners as follows:
Place the piece underneath the zipper as close to the center as possible. Use pins to keep it in place.
For the battery pocket I always use an heavier stitch, like the 02 on the Brother machine. I replace batteries pretty often at festivals and without this heavier stitch the ends might tear apart.
After sewing in the pocket I remove the excessive felt, leaving about 1/8" around. Put a knot in the end of the threads and cut them short.
5Embroidery the front
This step is for experts only!
If you want to do some embroidery to the front, then do it now. It will be very difficult to add some designs later. Take fabric sheets again, put them together and place it on your template.
Make sure you use a new needle in the sewing machine. Older needles tense to pull the fabric into the machine and the results are not as nice. Just sew the fabric with the paper. The paper can be removed later by wetting the fabric.
6Sew it together
Put the two sides together. Make sure the pretty side of the front is facing the inside, and the zipper is facing inside as well. Open the zipper now, because it will be very difficult to get to after you sew it all together.
If you used text on the front, then make sure it is mirrored as well. We are going to fold the entire wearable inside-out after this step.
Use two layers of netting on the top. If you use the fabric kit you will notice that the netting is long (12" x 24"), just fold it (12" x 12") so that is a double layer:
Use the pins to hold all the layers together.
Start sewing on one side and continue till you get to a corner.
You can lift the pressure foot, while the needle is down, to make sure you are actually all the way to the corner, and turn the fabric when you are.
Complete all sides till you get back to the beginning:
Lift the pressure foot and needle. Tie the threads together and cut them short.
Cut out the shape, leaving about 1/8" to the stitch. Do not cut through the stitch or you will end up with a hole.
Trim the ends of harp edges as well, but again, do not cut through the stitch.
7Fold inside out
Fold the entire wearable inside out.
Use the scissors or a pen to get into the narrow ends.
8Cut and insert the foam
The foam works like a diffuser and makes the entire wearable soft and flexible. Cut the foam using the wearable as a template.
Insert the foam inside the wearable.
Use the scissors or pen again to get into the tight ends:
Make sure the foam reaches to each end of the wearable:
9Install the electronics
The LED strips are held to the board using FFC connectors. Pull the tab out and up to open the connector for the LED strip:
Insert the LED strip all the way. The connector pads should be almost entirely inside the connector:
Carefully close the connector tab. While closing the tap support the connector at the other end. Applying pressure to just one end of the connector could do damage to the solder joints.
The connector at the top could be hard to open. Use a sharp object to open the right side first, otherwise it might get stuck behind the legs of the on/off switch:
Make sure that all the tabs on the connectors are closed. Not working LED strips are usually caused by a tab not being closed entirely, or strips being to thin for the connector. Small paper pieces can be added to the end of the strip to make a stronger connection.
Slide the electronics inside the wearable. Make sure the USB connector and the switch are at the top, parallel to the zipper.
Bend the arm when needed.
10Install the battery
Place the battery inside the pocket with the wire coming out closest to the battery connector.
Connect the battery to the board:
Turn it on and make sure it all works.