When I’m cycling (particularly at night) and taking a tricky right turn off a busy main road (we drive on the left in the UK), I’ve often thought I needed a bit more visibility or bling, so I decided to make these ‘indicator gloves’ for those long dark winter nights. The 2 yellow flashing LED’s are powered by a small coin cell battery and have a conductive fabric switch sewn onto the glove between your thumb and forefinger.
I’ve taught a bunch of primary school boys who can’t sew how to make these so they are pretty simple to make but it does help if you know how to thread a needle!
Your could adapt them to other purposes quite easily though... how about glowing red eyes for a halloween puppet, or a simple torch.
Step 1: Materials and Tools
This is what you need to make 1 indicator glove (the right glove is most useful if you live in the UK).
- Small pliers or strong tweezers
- A glove (a lined glove is better if you have one, so the LED’s don’t scratch your hand)
- Ordinary thread (same colour as glove if you have it)
Kitronik.co.uk sell an electro-fashion sewable light kit (£2.64) which contains everything except the conductive fabric. This is the easiest and cheapest option. Proto-pic.co.uk also sell these components.
- Sewable coin cell battery holder (for a CR2032) (costs about £1.20) or a small piece (5cm x 2cm) of stretchy fabric (like spandex or lycra, bought or recycled from an old swimming costume/ladies pants) to make a battery pouch
- Coin cell battery (CR2032) (usually about £1.50 for pack of 5)
- 2 metres of conductive thread (costs about £2)
- 2 flashing yellow LEDs or 2 sewable LEDs (5mm LED’s with a wide viewing angle if possible, Forward voltage drop of between 2 and 3V) (about 30p each)
- A small patch (3cmx 1.5cm) of conductive ripstop fabric (This usually comes in much larger sheets and costs about £9 for a square- Sold by Kitronik.co.uk or proto-pic.co.uk) but you can make do without it (optional)
Step 2: How It Works
You will be sewing flashing yellow LED’s onto a glove using conductive thread which will connect the LED's to a conductive fabric switch and a battery.
The circuit is shown in Fig 1.
The LED’s are in parallel and powered by a 3V coin cell battery. The conductive thread behaves like wires in a circuit so they must NOT cross over (or you will short the circuit)
In practice your stitching will look like Fig 2.
Step 3: Making the Conductive Fabric Switch
Firstly make the contact switch.
If you have conductive fabric, then follow this step. If not, skip it and we will make the switch in a later step (7 and 9) by sewing the conductive thread over and over to make a conductive patch
Sew two patches of conductive fabric to the outside of the glove where you want your contact point (switch) to be. Put your hand into the glove to find the right place. I put one piece on the inside side of my thumb and the other on the side of the knuckle of index finger. Stitch neatly round the edge of the patches using ordinary thread.
Step 4: The Battery Holder
Now make the battery holder and sew it into place. You can either make a battery holder using a little piece of stretchy fabric, or you can buy a sewable battery holder. I prefer to make the holder out of fabric as it is less scratchy.
(if you have a sewable holder, read the last paragraph about placement but you won't be attaching your holder until steps 7 and 8 so ignore most of this step).
If you are making a soft battery holder (more comfy to wear) cut a small rectangle (5cm x 2cm) of stretchy fabric. Fold it in half and using ordinary thread sew up 2 sides to make a pouch that will hold the battery snugly.(leaving one side open).
Check to see that the battery fits in snugly and leave it in while you do the next bit.
Take a piece of conductive thread about 50 cm long and knot the end (the bigger the knot the better) Push your needle into the pouch and out in the centre of one of the sides that is touching the positive side of the battery. The knot should be inside the pouch and touching the positive side of the battery. Sew a + shape several times in the same place.
LEAVE the thread LONG. DON’T cut it, but pull the needle off and using ordinary thread sew the battery holder inside the glove, somewhere close to the wrist with the ‘+’ against the glove fabric and the free end of conductive thread hanging loose in the direction of the inside of the glove.
Step 5: Prepare the LED's
(If you have sewable LED's you can skip this step).
Examine your LED. One metal leg will be longer than the other and the plastic bulb is often flat on this side too. This is the positive leg.
(Check with your coin cell battery if you are not sure by sliding the legs over the corresponding side of the battery and pinching them together with your fingers -you won't get a shock, don't worry. If the positive leg connects to the positive side of the battery, and negative to negative, the LED will light up. If it's the wrong way round it just won't light up).
Use the pliers to bend the positive leg horizontal and then coil it up. Repeat this for the other leg but try to make them square coils so you can tell the difference later.
Step 6: Mark the Spot of the LED's
Poke 2 small holes where the LED’s will be e.g. on the index finger of the glove
Turn the glove inside out (or just the thumb and forefinger).
Step 7: Connect the Battery Holder to the Thumb
Connect the positive side of the battery holder to the conductive patch on the thumb.
If you have a sewable battery holder, use about 50cm of conductive thread to FIRMLY attach the POSITIVE (+ve) terminal of the holder to the inside of the glove, somewhere near the wrist. DON'T cut the thread, leave it long.
If you made a soft holder, use the free hanging bit of conductive thread from step 4.
With a simple running stitch (which looks like a dashed line) sew a line from the battery holder to the conductive patch on the thumb (or the place where you want the contact point to be made (see earlier). Sew lots of stitches right in the middle of the conductive patch, or if you don't have conductive fabric, make a big patch of solid conductive thread by sewing over and over in the same place.
Secure the thread and cut off surplus
Step 8: Connect the LED's
Poke the LED’s into the holes you made in step so that the coils are inside the glove and the bulbs stick out visibly.
Put the battery into the holder and using about 50cm of conductive thread, sew a minus ‘-‘ sign into the uppermost layer of the fabric (having the battery in helps to stop sewing both layers together and make sure this bit of thread doesn’t touch the +ve thread or side of battery) Don't cut the thread.
If you are using a sewable battery holder, firmly sew the negative terminal of the sewable battery holder to the glove using 50 cm of thread. Don't cut the thread.
and continuing with THE SAME bit of thread, i.e. don’t cut the thread whatever type of battery holder you are using, sew a line (running stitch) to the square coils (negative side) of each LED (or sewable LED) in turn. Sew the square coils only, or only the negative side, firmly to the glove using the conductive thread to make a really good connection.
Secure the thread and cut off surplus.
Step 9: Complete the Circuit
Finally, using a neat running stitch use another 40cm piece of conductive thread to sew a line between the conductive patch on the index finger (if you're not using conductive fabric, then just sew the conductive thread over and over in the same place to make a ‘patch’) and the round coils of the LED’s (positive side) in turn. This line of stitching MUST NOT cross or touch the line coming from the negative side of the battery pouch that you sewed in the previous step. Secure the thread and cut off the surplus.
Step 10: Hey Presto You're Done! Testing and Troubleshooting
Turn the glove right way out and test by pressing the conductive patches together.
Check that the battery is in the right way round. Try swopping it over- you can't damage the circuit or LED's by putting the battery in the wrong way round, they just won't light up.
Check that the lines of conductive thread do not cross or touch. This is called a short circuit and could generate a lot of heat and possibly damage the battery too.
Check that the negative battery terminal connects to the negative side of both LEDs.
Check that the positive side of the battery terminal travels to the thumb patch.
Check that the positive side of both LED’s are connected to the index finger patch.