Soft Circuits Hello World

Ever since I first ran into mentions the lilypad arduino board and conductive thread on some blogs I was reading, I’ve been super excited to try it out. There’s something about thread with electricity running through it — or FABRIC even — that is really exciting.

So, I finally got my hands on some conductive thread and a few LEDs to make what seems to be the unofficial hello world of soft circuits, the LED wrist cuff. It was a super fun little project, and honestly pretty darn easy. The hardest part was all the hand sewing needed to complete my design, but that was my own fault.

white LED cuff with really bad lighting

What I made was very similar to this instructables project. I used a metal snap for the switch, and made my own battery holder because those plastic ones are just too darn big to put in a wrist cuff. The battery holder was based off this pattern.

the insides of the cuff
Not exactly pretty, but it works…

the first time testing the switch
Testing the switch for the first time. More photos in this flickr set.

It’s a really simple project, but I learned a lot putting it together. A few tips worth sharing:

  • The 2ply conductive thread is MUCH easier to work with than the 4ply and it runs through a sewing machine just fine as the bobbin thread. You can always double up the thread if you do need something thicker.
  • Felt doesn’t make for the best battery holder, but it will do. Next time I’m using something with some stretch.
  • EMF offers a handy sample set for pretty cheap if you’re looking to try out conductive fabric. Much cheaper than buying a whole yard of any of it.

Sewing LEDs is pretty darn fun, but I’m super excited to start playing with the lilypad for my next project. Also, I owe Jon and Susan of hackPGH a big thanks for hooking me up with some of their leftover supplies and advice!

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