The tiny rainbow cloud pin is made of felt and pillow stuffing or fiberfill, with slow-fade color-changing LEDs and a battery hidden inside it.
This is a quick (under an hour) and cheap-ish project. You need some basic hand sewing and plier-wielding skills, but no special equipment, soldering, or programming is needed.
It's a great way to get started with soft circuits - sewn electronics. Once you discover how easy it is, you will find lots of other projects and inspiration online!
Step 1: Materials and Tools
- White felt
- White polyester fiberfill (Mine came from a stuffed-animal takeapart project - you could use cotton balls.)
- Regular sewing thread (I used black because it was handy - white would have been better!)
- Safety pin
More specialized materials
- CR2032 coin cell battery - (IKEA has cheap 8-packs called PLATTBOJ.)
- Sewable battery holder - Adafruit in the US - Kitronik in UK or Europe
- Conductive thread - Adafruit in the US - Kitronik in UK or Europe (you can buy smaller quantities as well)
- 2 Slow-fade or "slow flash" RGB LEDs - the kind with two legs, not four. These are the trickiest to find in a hurry. If you live near an electronics supply store, you are lucky! Otherwise you will need to order and wait. Digikey carries them. Or you can order them on EBay or from a big dealer like AliExpress.
- Sewing needle
- Needle-nosed or other jewelry pliers
- Pencil or permanent marker (optional)
- Hot glue gun (optional)
Step 2: Prepare Your LEDs
You will need to twist the legs of your LED to make wire loops you can sew through.
As you look at an LED you will notice that one leg is longer than another. The longer leg is the positive one. The shorter leg is the negative one. This matters. - Especially because once you have twisted the legs into tiny loops, it can be hard to tell which one started out longer!
If you are handy with pliers, you can carefully make the negative (shorter) wire into a smaller loop and the positive (longer) wire into a larger loop. If you prefer, mark the positive (longer) wire with a permanent pen, so you can see which loop is which.
Step 3: Cut Your Felt
- Fold a piece of white felt in half. Cut a cloud shape - puffy on top and flat on the bottom like a cumulus cloud. Keep one part of the fold uncut, so you can spend less time sewing later.
- Check to be sure your folded cloud is bigger than your battery holder.
Step 4: Sew the Positive Side
Place the battery holder on the felt with the opening facing down. (This will let you insert or change the battery later.)
With a piece of conductive thread, sew ONLY the positive holes of the battery holder to your felt. Turn the cloud over, and continue to sew through each of the positive (marked or larger) loops. Take 4 or 5 stitches to attach each hole or loop firmly to the felt. Finish with a small knot.
Step 5: Sew the Negative Side
TAKE A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT PIECE OF CONDUCTIVE THREAD. (Did I say that loudly enough? it's really really important.)
Sew ONLY the negative holes of the battery holder to your felt. Turn the cloud over, and continue to sew through each of the negative (unmarked or smaller) loops. Be very careful not to let this new line of stitching touch the first line of stitching, or you will have a short circuit and your lights will not light up. Take 4 or 5 stitches to attach each hole or loop firmly to the felt. Finish with a small knot.
Step 6: Test It!
Slide the battery into the battery holder. If all goes well, you will have lights!
If not, here are some things to check:
- Is the battery in correctly? If not, take it out and turn it around.
- Is any stitching loose or touching another bit of stitching?
- Did you accidentally sew one of the LEDs on backwards? (As in, did you sew to a negative loop when you meant to sew to a positive loop, for example?)
- Did you forget and use a single piece of conductive thread to sew both the negative and the positive parts?
Don't be too sad if it takes a little time to get all this right - the results will be worth it.
You may notice that the lights start out in a matching cycle - pretty soon, however, they will get slightly out of sync with each other, which will give you a lovely random rainbow effect.
Step 7: Finishing
- With ordinary thread, sew a safety pin to the back of your folded cloud.
- Sew around the top edges with ordinary thread, leaving the bottom open.
- Add fiberfill fluff to the front of your pin. I was in a sewing mode, so I tacked the puffy cloud stuff on with my needle and thread. If you love hot glue, that would probably work at this point as well.
Enjoy wearing your cloud! Make an extra for a friend...