Young designers will make a light-up bracelet that they can wear.
What’s the goal?
By the end of this activity, young designers will understand how to create a working parallel circuit and incorporate electronics into fashion design.
Each young designer will do this individually.
Prepare the bracelets:
- Cut out fabric into 4.5″ x 11″ rectangles
- Cut out velcro in 1.75″ x 3/8″ strips —8 per bracelet
- Pin them to the bracelet as seen below.
- Sew the Velcro to the bracelet on the front side of the fabric.
- Sew on the edge of the bracelet to keep the fabric from fraying (can use a straight stitch or zig–zag)
- Draw the start of the stitch lines (see next page) with marker. They should be drawn on the back side of the fabric (the side without Velcro)
- Iron a crease in the middle in order to create a fold line.
- Hole punch the fabric (see below) to allow for the LEDs to go through the fabric easily.
Prepare bobbins with conductive thread. Thread the upper part of the machine with regular thread. Set stitch length at 6-8 stitches per inch.
Let’s Get Started!
1. Introduce the activity, the electrical components, and the tools. Refresh designers about the features of a parallel circuit.
Circuit: A path for an electrical current to flow.
Parallel Circuit: A parallel circuit is one in which all components are connected directly to positive and negative battery lead. Electricity flows through all the components in parallel.
2. On the backside of the bracelet, have designers draw their plan using chalk (or pencil if it does not show through to the front), including location of LED’s and battery pack and the positive and negative sewing lines. The young designers must connect the circuit path to the pre–drawn lines on the bracelet.
- Path should be relatively straight
- Positive and negative stitch lines should be marked (to know how to put in the LED and the battery)
- The stitch lines should not overlap when bracelet is folded over
- They should draw on the wrong side of the bracelet (the side the velcro is not on)
3. After they draw out their stitch lines instruct designers to place cuffs into the sewing machine with the wrong side facing up. The conductive thread should be on the right side of the cuff. Stitch along the positive chalk line leaving 8” tails at the finish. Back–tack at the start and end. Stitch along the negative chalk line, back–tacking at the start and the end.
4. On the top side of the bracelet have the young designers insert the negative LED leg under the conductive thread. Have them either push the positive leg through the fabric or stick it through the hole you punched and then stick it through the conductive thread on the bracelet bottom. Curl each leg using needle nosed pliers to secure it.
5. Place the battery in the Velcro square on the bracelet top. It should have the positive side facing upward. Connect the Velcro squares together and watch the LED light up!
- Extra helpers are essential for this activity if you have more than 5 young designers
- Straight lines are easiest to sew
- Loose components (LEDs) may be secured with regular thread
LED: Light-emitting diode
- Remember polarity! Having the young designers keep the positive line always on top and the negative always towards the bottom as they sew can help keep this straight
Polarity: Batteries have a positive and negative terminal. Electricity flows from the positive lead to the negative.
- Don’t squeeze the LED metal tails too hard or bend them back and forth too many times or they will break.
Take It Further
- Try adding other simple components like switches and color changing LEDs!
- Try a more advanced illuminating fashion activity such as the machine applique or LED skirt.
- Check out these cool sites for more inspiration:
For the students
- 4.5” x 11” fabric (duck canvas works well) per young designer
- Velcro—3/4" velcro cut in half; need eight 1.75"x3/8" strips per bracelet
- Sewing Machines (pre-thread the sewing machines with regular thread on top and conductive thread in the bobbin. Stitch length should be 6-8 stitches per inch)
- Ordinary sewing thread
- Conductive thread (200 yard spool wound onto bobbins)
- 3mm LEDs, white or colored, up to 3 per designer
- 1 3V Coin-cell battery (CR2032) per designer
- Marking chalk/ disappearing ink pens
For the instructor
- Extra supplies
- Hot glue (optional)
- Hole punch
- Small thread snips/small scissors
Supplies to share
- Needle nose pliers
- Decoration materials (ribbons, felt, glitter, sequins, fake flowers, fabric paint)
- Fabric glue
- Small scissors/thread snips
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