This animal nightlight project was designed by Julie Boyd. Julie is a secondary school teacher particularly known for her work using e-textiles, which are electronic components specially designed for textiles products, and which are featured in this project. Find out more at www.julieboyd.co.uk
This cute animal nightlight project is perfect for adding low level light to a child’s room while they go to sleep. Its colour changing LED’s emit a soft light and slowly change across a range of colours adding a comforting glow to a room. During the day the nightlight is a fun addition to a room with brightly coloured animal characters.
The nightlight is approximately 15cm square when finished. It uses hand embroidery stitches but could also be made using a sewing machine. It’s made from pelmet Vilene which is a heavyweight interfacing that feels a little bit like lightweight card. Although quite thick it allows light to shine through with the fabric taking away the harsh glare of the LED’s.
The electronics in the nightlight are an e-textiles circuit, which are specially designed electronics that can be sewn into textiles products. The switch is hidden under one of the characters and the battery can be changed with replacements easily found on the high street. Battery life depends on type of use and typically one will last several weeks if used for 1-2 hours while a child is going to sleep. This will be much shorter if the nightlight is left on all night.
The animal nightlight project requires some textiles skills (hand or machine stitching skills). The fabric requires careful handling in order to remain crisp and without creases so a reasonable amount of dexterity and attention to detail is required. The e-textiles circuit is a basic one but it is made more complicated because it stretches across two panels of the cube. Note this product is not a toy.
You will need:
6 x 16cm squares of pelmet Vilene (S80)
Various colours of felt for animal shapes
Embroidery threads to match fabric
Small buttons for eyes & nose details
E-textiles components: switched cell holder (battery holder), CR2032 cell (battery), 2 colour changing standard 5mm LEDs, 2 metres of conductive thread (visit http://goo.gl/DaPS5s to buy the e-textiles resources)
What are e-textiles?
This project uses e-textiles components. This is the name given to electronic components that are specially designed for use with textiles materials. They are tiny components that don’t get hot and you can’t get electrocuted. You don’t need to know anything about electronics and there is no soldering to do.
There are some basic rules to follow, such as matching up the negative sides of the components to each other, and the positives to the positives, but the components are easy to use. They are simply stitched together, with special conductive thread, using the markings on the components to help you make the correct connections. If you can sew a running stitch and oversewing stitch you can do e-textiles!
Visit the e-textiles pages at www.julieboyd.co.uk to find out more about e-textiles, and to see other e-textiles projects, as well as ‘how to’ tutorials on all of the basics of creating e-textiles circuits, plus trouble shooting tips for when things go wrong. Visit http://goo.gl/DaPS5s to buy the e-textiles resources needed to make this project.
Cut 6 x 16cm squares of pelmet Vilene along with the felt shapes for the animal characters. Take care when handling the pelmet Vilene as it can get damaged easily. Avoid folding it and lie it stored flat or rolled (it can be ironed if rolled to get rid of the curved shape).
Layer the fabric shapes and stitch to make up the monkey, lion, cow and pig. The image shows two of the animal shapes with the faces stitched. Any types of stitches can be used including machine stitches. The example in the photos shows the use of blanket stitches along with back stitches for details such as the mouths.
Stitch the four animal shapes onto four of the pelmet Vilene squares.
Stitch two of the sides of the remaining blank squares together. When stitched carefully fold the edge open to give a sharp crease along the stitching line as this will help the cube have a good shape.
You will now start to stitch the electronic circuit. You might find it useful to look at the trouble shooting tips at http://goo.gl/hmp88T before you start.
Use round-nosed pliers to twist the negative leg into a small loop. Do not twist the positive leg. Push the loop and other leg flat so the LED will sit on a flat surface.
Tie a knot in the bottom of your thread & cut the end of the thread close to the knot so there is no tail (this can short out your circuit). Placing a small blob of clear nail varnish or glue on your knot will prevent it from coming undone as the thread is silky and can unwork itself. Place the loop you have made on the LED in the position on the negative side of LED 1 on your circuit diagram on one of the blank squares of the pelmet Vilene.
Use oversewing stitches to hold the loop of the LED in place. There should be 6 or 7 stitches that are tightly stitched and arranged clumped together rather than being spread apart. Secure the end of the thread on the back of the fabric and blob clear nail varnish or glue on top to prevent it from coming undone. The negative leg of LED 1 is now stitched into place.
Stitch small running stitches to the position of the negative side of LED 2. Do not cut the thread.
Twist the legs of the second LED into a loop and oversew into position. Both negative legs are now sewn in position.
Use small running stitches and follow the stitching line on the circuit diagram to take the stitches towards the side edge that has been stitched together. This is the base of the nightlight and none of these stitches will be seen when it is in use.
Place the second edge of fabric so it sits at right angles to the base. After doing the last stitch on the base take the thread straight up to the position marked on the second side of the cube for the negative side of the cell holder. Take the needle through to the right side of the fabric and oversew the negative side of the cell holder into position (only one of the negative holes is stitched).
Note there are no running stitches on the second side of the cube and the length of thread stretches across the fabric back. The only stitches on the second side of the cube are those that hold the cell holder in place. Also note the base and side are sitting at right angles to each other and will no longer lie flat. The images show both the inside and outside of the circuit. The negative side of the circuit is now complete. Note only one piece of thread has been used with no joins.
Twist the positive legs on the LEDs into loops with the round-nosed pliers.
Oversew the positive leg on LED 1. Stitch small running stitches to get to LED 2 and oversew into place. Stitch running stitches to get to side of the cube.
When you reach the edge of cube take the thread straight up to the position of the positive side of the cell holder. Take the needle through to the right side of the fabric and oversew into place. Note there are no running stitches on the second side of the cube and the length of thread stretches across the fabric back. The only stitches on the second side of the cube are those that hold the cell holder in place. Also note the base and side are sitting at right angles to each other and will no longer lie flat.
The circuit is now complete. The image shows the outside of the cube showing the circuit stitches on the base (the LEDs are on the inside) and the cell holder stitched onto the side panel.
Check your circuit works by sliding the cell into the cell holder with the positive marking on the cell facing towards you. Try to hold the cell by its edges rather than touching the top and bottom of the cell as this can short it out. There is a switch on the board that slides across to switch the LEDs on. This switch is marked on the photo.
If your circuit doesn’t work check that the positive and negative rows of stitches never touch each other and that you have only used one piece of thread for the negative side and a separate piece for the positive side (with no joins). Other trouble shooting tips, as well as tutorials on how to create e-textiles circuits, can be found at http://goo.gl/hmp88T.
Oversew the remaining two holes using ordinary sewing thread. These holes do not form part of the circuit and just hold the cell holder flat.
Stitch the eyes, nose and mouth detail onto the frog face. Stitch the back and front of the frog face together around the lower edge of the face. The upper part of the face is left unstitched as this will be stitched to the cube.
Lay the frog face on top of the cell holder and stitch the top half of the frog face to the fabric. This hides the cell holder whilst still allowing it to be accessed by lifting up the face.
Stitch the sides of the cube together and stitch on the top panel. After stitching each side, carefully flatten the seam to one side create a crisp cube shape.
This project is written by Julie Boyd, a secondary school teacher who has taught textiles for over 30 years. She now works as an education consultant and author training textiles teachers across the country. Julie specialises in textiles projects that use modern high tech fabrics and techniques. Visit www.julieboyd.co.uk to find out more about Julie and her work or email her at email@example.com
For other e-textiles projects why not try Julie’s light up make up bag project next?