Introduction: Electric(ity) Blanket
Third Prize in the
Winter Wearables Contest
It's Winter. It's getting colder and it's time to assess the blanket situation. I have had this electric project on the back burner and it's time to make it happen.
This is the ultimate blanket for any Electrical Person in your life, whoever that may be. It'd be a unique way to get the New Year off to a glowing start!
Step 1: Gather Fabrics
1. You'll need 72" in length, 4" in width of each color from the chart for the stripes. You want to stick mostly with cotton, or fabrics that all have a similar hand. Stay away from anything stretchy. Nothing too thin; if that is all you have then double it up. I have a huge fabric stash so I didn't have to buy any, but if you had to, you could just buy 1/2 yard of each color and piece them together. Some of the colors I didn't have a 72" length, so I did some piecing. After all that will be added you really won't notice the seams.
You'll also need a backing. I chose the softest, coziest black fleece I could find. You could just buy a pre-made blanket, or buy yardage at the fabric store, which is what I did. I bought 2.5 yards of 60" wide super-soft fleece.
Step 2: Cut Strips and Pre-wash/dry
You want to preshrink things now, before you put the blanket together. After the strips come out of the wash and dry cycle some might be a little tangled and a little frayed, but that's okay. Any fraying will be well within the seam allowance and all the wrinkles from tangling you will iron out.
When everything is ironed and nice, lay the strips in order all on the floor or bed. You want to make sure that nothing shrunk too much or got ruined. I used silks and cottons and nothing shrunk too much.
I didn't wash the fleece because it really shouldn't shrink at all. If you choose a shrinkable fabric for your backing be sure to pre-wash/dry that as well.
Step 3: Start Sewing!
Start with a white and black strip. No need to waste your time pinning, just lay the edges together and stitch a 3/8" seam allowance. Iron entire length, with seam allowances flat, then ironed to one side. This will save time and aggravation later, as it gets progressively larger. Continue sewing strips on, ironing as you sew.
I marked off the column lines with narrow seam binding. It really sharpens it up! Each column should be about 11.5". Since the binding is .25", the column spaces plus the 5 pieces of binding should equal ~ 72". Pin and stitch on. Press out binding.
Step 4: Embroider? Oh, Yeah!
I have an embroidery machine... I wouldn't expect you to, but you can certainly hand-embroider for a nice, homemade look. But that would take a REALLY long time. You could also silkcreen or paint these on.
Each section that gets embroidered needs to be centered on a hoop, a piece of stabilizer fitted within the hoop underneath, and tightened up like a drum. It requires PATIENCE.
I am embroidering everything with different colors of glow-in-the-dark thread.
Isn't that cool?!
I have made a quick compilation of short videos I took along the entire process. Towards the end is a demo of the LED panels for the reading lights.
Step 5: Embroidery Complete!
Phew! That was a lot of work!
I didn't have a symbol for percentage, so I thought it would be cute to make swirlies with some resistors and then sew those on by hand.
I just used round-nose pliers to shape and then sewed each one over the diagonal bar securely.
Step 6: The Electronics
I wanted the top part of the blanket, near your head, to have a reading light system.
I used: 2 LED panels, a tactile on/off switch, 2 jumper wires, shrink tubing, a small LiPo battery with USB charger, and some conductive thread.
First, I ironed on a few layers of interfacing underneath to give some rigidity to my surface.
Then, using conductive thread, I stitched the positive leads of the two panels to the blanket, connecting to each other and one leg of the tactile on/off switch.
I soldered the other leg of the on/off switch to a jumper wire. The other end of this jumper wire will insert into the pos. hole of the jst/battery. This makes it easier to remove for when you want to charge the battery.
I then stitched the neg. leads of the LED panels down onto the blanket and to one end of the other jumper wire, using conductive thread. The other end of that jumper wire will also fit into, you guessed it, the neg. hole of the jst.
I finally stitched, with green thread, the neg. jumper onto the blanket, to keep it in place.
Step 7: The Comfy Backing
Now it was finally time to sew the blanket fleece onto the resistor code chart!
The fleece is 16" wider and taller than the chart so that I could create a black border in the front.
I place the fleece and chart right sides together, stitch up the sides, then the bottom, miter the corners, and then stitch most of the top, leaving an opening of about 6" for turning room and to create the pocket for the battery.
When sewing, it is best to pin the entire thing, and try to stitch with the code chart blanket facing up, and the fleece touching the platform of the sewing machine. Fleece can be pretty stretchy and you don't want to distort anything.
Step 8: The Final Step
This is where I turn over and stitch the raw edges where the pocket will be. Fleece doesn't fray, but the cotton will. Plus, it provides a nice edge. As I topstitch closed the 6" opening I turn down 90 degrees to start to form the pocket side, turn again after 2 " to form the pocket bottom, turn up for the other side, then finally turn once more to topstitch closed the other side of the opening.
I then tack the on/off switch legs down onto the black fleece, and add snaps to hold the battery in.
You can keep the USB charger in the pocket if you'd like, or just near your charging station. The battery will power those panels for many nights of reading before it needs to be charged.
Step 9: It Glows and Lights Up!
I really love the way it turned out!
I don't know of a setting to get a picture for when all the words and numbers are glowing in the dark. I think the setting might be spending $600 more for a camera. : D
But it is truly wild, everything glowing!
It's an Electric(ity) Blanket!!
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