Introduction: Child's Fabric Book (using LilyPad Arduino)

Picture of Child's Fabric Book (using LilyPad Arduino)

As a sewable (soft) circuits project, I created a Broadway themed fabric book.  I was inspired by a personalized fabric book with family member pictures that my young cousin received.  To make the book light up and play songs, I used the Lilypad Arduino technology.  I chose a Broadway theme for my book and designed the pages for several of my childhood favorite musicals.  You can truly choose any theme for your book and design the pages in any way you like, so have FUN with it!  I certainly did.  If you like the Broadway theme, use my designs, choose your own set of shows, or design scenes from your favorite musical and incorporate multiple songs from the same show.  Get creative!


View the full functioning book HERE.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Picture of Materials Needed

Crafting/quilting materials:
paper
drawing supplies/makers
ruler
scissors
fabric scraps/samples (assorted textures, colors, and patterns)
ribbons (assorted colors and kinds)
embroidery floss (assorted colors)
embellishments (buttons, jewels, fringe, tassels, puff paint, etc.)
sewing needles
straight pins 
quilting/all-purpose thread
iron-on adhesive
iron
stuffing/fiberfill
batting
velcro (optional)
disappearing ink marker (optional)
fabric glue/glue stick (optional)

Electronic materials:
ProtoSnap - LilyPad Development Board - found here - includes the following:
  circuitry board
  a variety of electronic components (buzzer and LEDs used for this project)
  connection hardware
  battery
  sewing needles
  conductive thread

*NOTE - I will talk more about the specific materials I used in the following steps, but feel free to explore your local craft store and find materials that excite you and fit your designs.

Step 2: Design Your Book

Picture of Design Your Book

1.  Once you have chosen your theme it's time to design your pages.  I've included the pages I designed for the six shows I chose to highlight.  Designing your own book is really fun and kind of liberating.  Start with some scratch paper and make doodles of what you want to include or the story you'd like to tell.  I started with a list of shows I might want to include and sketched small designs for each.  The designs I liked the best became my book pages.  

2.  Make a mock-book.  I folded paper and looked at different sizes before choosing to make my pages 7 and 1/4 inches by 9 and 1/2 inches.  Using paper sheets this size, I sketched out the designs I'd chosen to scale and numbered the pages.  I used markers to add color to each sketch and the book started to take shape.  

3.  Be purposeful in your sketching.  Ultimately, I cut up my paper designs to use as templates for cutting fabric pieces, so keep that in mind when you're designing.  Give yourself hard and clear edges to follow and think about possible materials you are going to use for each part of your design.  Just remember that your ideas may change once you start seeking materials.  Make sure that you also indicate where you want to include your technology pieces.  Each page that incorporates an LED has a black or green dot to indicate where I want to sew that in later.  When making your marks, it's helpful to let them bleed through the paper so you can see them on the back.

4.   Map out your circuits.  Once you have your designs set, turn your pages over and make sure they stay in the correct order.  Add a back page to your book if you haven't designed one yet.  This is when you plan your circuitry.  Among the images for this  you will find an image of the inside of my book design with the circuitry sketched out.  When you're planning your circuits, make sure you indicate the positive and negative sides of your pieces and differentiate between your positive line and your negative/grounded line.  At no point should your lines touch or come close enough for frayed fibers to touch.  This will short out your circuits.  As you can see in the design, I connected my LEDs across the length of the book and secured them to the board on the back page.  I also planned to use a button and the buzzer for the project.  While I abandoned the plan for the button, the buzzer was eventually connected on the last page as well.  

Step 3: Piecing It All Together

Picture of Piecing It All Together

1.  TIME TO GO SHOPPING!  This is where the fun starts...if you're not having fun already.  Once you have ideas about colors, patterns, textures, and embellishments, raid your own or your friends' fabric bins.  Visit a Walmart or similar chain for cheap, common materials.  Then, visit craft or fabric stores for harder to find/unique crafting materials.  Don't be afraid to change your designs if you're inspired by certain materials you find.  This should feel a bit like a personal treasure hunt for interesting pieces that spark your imagination and engage your senses.

2.  Cut out your pages.  When you cut your background fabric for each page, measure carefully and leave at least a 1/4 inch extra on each side of the page.  For my book, that made the fabric pages 7 and 3/4 inch. by 10 inch.

3.  Cut up your paper designs to use as templates.  Cut up pieces of the iron-on adhesive as well and attach it to the fabric pieces that you'd like to use the templates on.  Follow the instructions included with the adhesive you're using to accomplish this.  Pin the templates to the adhered fabric pieces and cut out the shapes or letters you want to stick to your pages.  As an alternative, you can trace your templates onto the paper side of the adhesive, cut out the shape, iron it onto your applique fabric, recut the shape, and then adhere it to the page.  Examples can be seen in the image on the first step.  

4.  Start ironing on your pieces.  If you'd like to make some of the pieces puffy (Cinderella and Camelot pages are examples), don't use the adhesive.  Sew the pieces onto the pages around the edges.  You can make a slit in the back beneath the applique and insert the desired amount of stuffing.  Stitch up the slit when it's as puffy as you'd like.  

5.  Apply other elements.  I glued and sewed on the lettering for the title page, Camelot page, and Oklahoma page using different kinds of ribbon--metallic velvet ribbon (gold and silver), satin (maroon), and grosgrain (yellow).  I used embroidery stitches to add the lettering to the ironed-on backgrounds of Peter Pan and Cinderella.  This is a helpful link if you're looking for stitches to use.  My Wicked letters were ironed on.  The lettering for Cats was painted with puff paint, and then puffed with steam.  While much of the pages were hand sewn, the ribbons for Excalibur  and the "fringe on top" of Oklahoma were sewn down using a machine.  I also added a fabric flap to the last page that will hide my LilyPad board with it's on/off switch and the battery.  I closed the flap with velcro, but you could use buttons or snaps or ties, etc.

*NOTE - some embellishment, especially those that would go over the circuitry parts or would interfere with the sewing, I waited to add until after the book was complete (Pixie dust and the jewel of Excalibur are the best examples). 

6.  Prepare for circuitry.  Align the pages in order and sew the long sides together to make the strip that you will sew your circuitry into.  It may also be helpful to iron down the seams once the pages are sewn.

Step 4: Sewing in the Circuits

Picture of Sewing in the Circuits

1.  Secure your development board to the back of your book.  All of the LED's I used were connected to the same pin and light up at the same time.  To achieve this, I cut a long piece or conductive thread that would connect every LED to the same pin (5) on the development board.  Begin at your LED pin and secure the board to the outside of the back page using your conductive thread.  This will be discretely hidden under the flap panel.  It may be easier to secure the board in place temporarily with some double sided tape while you are sewing.  

*Note - When securing your pins, you will want to run the thread through the hole several times, to make sure that a sufficient amount of thread is touching the metal of the pin.  This will ensure that you get a strong current and connection.

2.  Attach your LEDs.  Using a running stitch, weave your conductive thread through to the next page and secure the LED to the designated spot at the positive end.  Depending on your design, some of your components will be sewn on the inside of the pages to shine through, others will be sewn onto the front side of the pages and can be disguised later.  Follow your sewing plan until all of your LED's are attached at the positive ends in a single line.  For my specific design, I started with the LED under the sun on the Oklahoma page, moved to the light under the Cinderella shoe, then progressed through Camelot, attached the lights under the eyes of Cats, secured the Tinkerbell light to the front of the Peter Pan page, and then attached the green LED to the back of the Wicked page.  I tied off the conductive thread after securing the positive side of the green LED.

*Note - As you run your stitches through, make the stitches that show on the front of the pages as small as possible.  To help conceal your thread, you can hide some stitches underneath an applique.  You can carefully sew on just the bottom layer.

3.  Ground your LEDs.  Using a new piece of conductive thread, ground the green LED at the green pin of the tri-color component.  Continue your running stitch line through each page attaching the negative ends of each component as you go.  When you reach the development board on the final page, secure your negative line to the negative pin on the board.  Make sure that your negative line never touches or crosses your positive line.  

4.  Attach your Buzzer.  Using another piece of conductive thread, secure the buzzer pin (11) on the development board to the page.  Run your thread to the buzzer component and secure the positive pin on the buzzer to the page.  Tie off the thread.  Using a new piece of thread, secure the negative pin and run the thread back to the negative pin on the board; tie it off to finish.  Both of your negative lines should now be grounded through the negative pin on the development board.  All of your components should now be in place and connected to the board.

5.  Upload your program.  Using the components from the kit and following the software directions from this page, install the necessary software and upload the program posted below (don't forget to include the pitches file in a tab of the code).  This code will play songs from each of the musicals I used with pauses in-between and will light up all the LEDs throughout the book.  It's based on the Arduino example codes for "ToneMelody" and "Blink".  

Songs Played:
"Defying Gravity" - Wicked
"Never Never Land" - Peter Pan
"Memory" - Cats
"Camelot" - Camelot
"In My Own Little Corner" - Cinderella
"Oh What a Beautiful Morning" - Oklahoma!

6.  Test the program.  While the board is connected to your computer with the USB cord and the FTDI board and the battery is charging, make sure the songs play as you would like them and the lights light up.  If there are problems, adjust the code as you'd like or fix your thread lines to make sure all components are connected correctly.  Once any issues are fixed, remove the FTDI board, make sure the battery is plugged in, and use the switch on the board to start the program.  

Step 5: Construct the Book

Picture of Construct the Book

1. Finish sewing the pages together.  Using a sewing machine or by hand, sew the tops and bottoms of the pages together while they are inside out.  Make sure that you do not sew the front cover and the back cover together.   Leave that part open.  The book will look backwards and inside out when this part is complete (pictured above).

2.  Trim the corners.  If you cut the corners of the reverse-sided pages, this will help the right-sided pages lay flat make the corners more crisp.

3.  Pull each page through the open back of the book to turn the book right-side out.  Pulling the pages out will make the book look right, but flat.  

4.  Cut out page-sized pieces of batting.  Depending on the size of batting you choose, you may want to use one or more pieces between each set of the pages.  I used 3/16 inch batting and put two layers between most of my pages.  Because the Camelot and Cinderella pages were already puffy, the space between those pages only needed one sheet of batting.  

5.  Make the Spine. Lastly, cut an extra strip of the cover or back fabric to make the spine.  Sew the strip to the cover piece first.  Sew the top and bottom of the pages to the strip to conceal all the edges and hide any stray thread tails.  Tuck the remaining edge of the spine under the back cover and sew the final seam along the back.  

Step 6: Finishing Touches

Picture of Finishing Touches
1.  Cover any exposed components you want to conceal.  The best example of this in my book was concealing the Tinkerbell LED.  I cut a small piece of the blue fabric, cut a small hole in it, and glued it over the component.  As an alternative, I sewed the green LED to the back of the Wicked page and cut a small hole in the page to allow the green light to shine through.  Either method will give you the desired results.  

2.  Add final embellishments.  Now is the time to add any extras that you left off during construction.  I waited to sew on the jewel of Excalibur until in the end.  My last embellishment was to add puff paint to the Peter Pan page to make the trail of pixie dust and the two stars (to the right).  I liked the shininess of the paint so I chose not to puff up the stars or the dust which makes them more matte.  The last thing I did was to put a couple stitches around the cord and battery to hide it behind the back panel with the board.


Enjoy the final product here. :)  Happy crafting...and reading!  

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