So, you know a little about electronics and want to make a light up cuff bracelet. Welcome! This tutorial will tell you how to use conductive thread to sew a simple circuit with an on/off switch.
Gather your materials:
- Non-conductive fabric for the main part of your cuff
- Conductive thread
- Any complementary embellishments
- 1 Through hole LED with a forward voltage of approximately 3v
- Non coated, metal clothing snaps, 1 set
- Complementary non-conductive thread for attaching embellishments
- Sewable CR2032 battery holder*
*If you use this battery holder, you’ll also need a battery retainer, solder, and a soldering iron
Helpful but not necessary:
- You may find a piece of string helpful to accurately measure the material length required to comfortably fit around your wrist.
- A fabric marker to draw your circuit and help line up the snaps on each end of the cuff
- Conductive thread likes to come unknotted. Fray Check will help prevent this.
- Fabric paint or hot glue to insulate the thread and decrease the rate that the thread oxidizes
Gather your tools:
- Hand sewing needle
- Needle threader (may not be absolutely necessary, but I find it very helpful)
- Needle nose pliers
Step 1 Measure your material by wrapping string or material around your wrist to determine desired length.
Things to remember:
- Flex and move your hand around to make sure it’s not too tight!
- If you want to attach the battery holder on the underside of the cuff (against your skin, so it’s not visible), you’ll need to cut the material a bit longer to prevent your cuff from fitting too tightly.
- The ends will need to overlap by a quarter to half of an inch for the snaps.
Step 2 Design your circuit
Step 3 Cut cuff material to desired length and width.
Step 4 Cut out any additional embellishments
Step 5 If using findings or embellishments that are conductive, lay out your design to make certain they won’t accidentally come into contact with your circuit and cause a short
Step 6 Before you can attach the LED to the fabric, you’ll need to spiral the leads. To easily tell the difference between the positive and negative leads, you can spiral them into different shapes.
Step 7 Using approximately 1-2 ft of conductive thread, secure the positive terminal to the fabric. Do not cut the thread! For an example of how to sew components to fabric, click here.
Step 8 Using the same piece of conductive thread from step 7, sew a running stitch to the positive terminal of your battery holder. Tie a knot after the battery holder is secured to the fabric, apply a drop of fray check to the know to prevent it from coming undone, wait a few seconds for it to dry then snip off any excess thread.
Step 9 Using a new length of conductive thread, sew from the battery holder’s negative terminal to the end of the fabric, where you will secure one part of the snap. After securing the snap to the fabric, tie a knot, fray check to the knot to prevent it from coming undone, wait a few seconds for it to dry remove any excess thread.
Step 10 To mark where the second part of the snap should be attached, use the fabric marker to color the secured snap. wrap the cuff around your wrist and press the snap firmly against the fabric.
Step 11 Using conductive thread, sew a running stitch from the negative lead of the LED to the mark for the snap.
Step 12 Using the same conductive thread from step 11, secure the remaining half of the snap covering the mark you made in step 10.
Step 13 Insert your battery, and snap the cuff closed to test the circuit. Did it light? If so, awesome! If not, double check that your battery is inserted properly, and perform a visual inspection to be sure that your positive and negative stitches aren’t touching.
Step 14 If you’re using fabric paint or hot glue to insulate the conductive thread, you may find it helpful to apply that prior to attaching any additional findings or embellishments.
Step 15 Using non-conductive thread, attach any findings, embellishments, or fabric to finish off your cuff’s design.
Step 16 Snap on and enjoy your new accessory!