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Switchcraft Project #1: Vest with LED Epaulets

I finished my first real switchcraft project tonight: a vest with LED light epaulets.  It seemed deceptively simple and easy, but actually took a lot longer than I thought to complete (about 2.5 hours).


  • Vest with LED epaulets - 22 battery holders with batteries
  • 2 slide switches
  • 8 white LED lights
  • Conductive thread
  • Sewing needle
  • Vest
  • Glue (optional, but helpful)

Not pretty, but it works! 

More about how I did this after the jump...

LED vest diagramFirst I sketched out a diagram of the circuit, from the battery, to the LEDs to the switch and back.  The key is to make sure that the positive path of the circuit / thread does not cross the negative path, or you will have a short circuit.

I thought about getting fancy with the thread pattern, but decided that was too much work for my first project.  I'm glad now, because it already took a long time to sew!

After drawing the diagram, I placed the various components on the vest, trying out different configurations and spacing.  Once I was happy with the layout, I took some glue and glued down all of the LEDs, switches and battery holders.  This greatly assisted in the sewing later.

I'm completely hopeless at threading a needle.  But having size 8 embroidery needles made this task much quicker, since embroidery needles have much larger eyes than normal needles. 

After threading the needle, I carefully did a simple running stitch, starting with the positive path from the battery, to the four LEDs, and finishing at switch.  You need to loop the battery holder, LEDs and switch several times with the thread, to ensure a secure path.  Then I created a new stitch along the negative path, being careful to not cross paths!

switchcraft vest - detail

When you are done, you need to trim the ends off of your knots, or they might cause a short circuit.  A bit of glue or clear nail polish is recommended to keep the knots from fraying.

Finally, put in the battery, flip the switch, and, if you did everything correctly, the lights come on.  I had to futz with both of my sets to get them to work, so don't be surprised if it doesn't light up the first time.

That's really it.  Nothing fancy, but I found this LED vest project challenging and instructive.  For my next project, I'd like to work on my stitching skills, and incorporate different kinds of LEDs.

Head to this site for basic introduction to the Lilypad Arduino switchcraft system. 

More pics of my vest project here.

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