Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

Iteration Project

When thinking of ideas for this project, I wanted to incorporate sewing or embroidery since I really enjoyed those weeks earlier in the semester. To step up my previous work a bit, I decided to use sewable LEDs. My final work is really a combination of a couple of previous projects. Originally, I was planning to have sewing and wood working combined to make a new name tag that wasn’t laser-engraved but embroidered and lit up with LEDs. When I thought about the usability of this, I was discouraged since it wouldn’t be very easy to use a piece of wood and cloth as a nametag. But the wood gave me the idea to make it a frame instead – that way I could make a larger piece of work and not have to limit myself to a small piece of wood. 

 

 

Since a frame wouldn’t make much sense I thought about making the embroidery part a quote or the name of my club that could be used as art. The first part in making this was the wood frame, which was relatively easy but I had to fiddle with it quite a bit towards the end. Once I had the measures of the frame, I could start the embroidery and make sure the text wasn’t too big or small. My first run with the embroidery machine was a failure since the cloth and thread caught on the machine and I had to cut the whole thing just to remove it from the machine. The frustrating thing was that it was entirely done by that point, it just wouldn’t let go without me completely cutting it off. 

 

I attempted to do a fading effect with the thread to make it switch between multiple colors, but with the stabilizer on the back of the cloth, since didn’t have the same effect that I had hoped. With my second try, I just used one color thread and it thankfully worked. After that was set, I started working with the LEDs. Sewing by hand isn’t my forte and sewing LEDs is a little finicky since you have to wrap the conductive thread around each LED multiple times in order to ensure it connects. I messed up the first time I tried this because I connected the positive side of the battery holder to the negative side of the first LED, so I was extra careful in not making that mistake again. Once I got the hang of it, it went okay but it didn’t look pretty from the right side.

I tried to cover up the messy parts with a bit of trim I found which was good since you can still see through it to see the lights. It still looks a little messy since I didn’t use a sewing machine to sew any part of it, but I thought it went okay since I hadn’t had any experience with sewable LEDs. I checked the connection with a sensor and it was completely connected everywhere. I had two purple LEDs and three blue and that was a bad combination since only the blue will light up. To fit it into the frame, I sanded down the sides of the inside that was cut from the frame a lot so the cloth would fit snugly without being too loose. This worked much better than the idea I previously had about cutting multiple different sizes of wood to see which would fit better. 

before sanding

after sanding



If I had more time, I probably would have figured out how to make a hinge and an easel back so it wouldn’t have to only stand upright, but I didn’t want to attempt this without a hinge because I didn’t want it to be stuck in the same position forever. I also probably won’t be using sewable LEDs in the future even though it is a cool technology, it’s a lot of work if you’re sewing multiple on there and the battery life is very short.

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