Introduction: LED Star Tree Topper and Method for Attaining Same.
A Stunning Star Tree Topper! Under $5. (Well, maybe like ten if you own absolutely nothing.)
Hi, This is my first instructable, so please forgive my dust. This is kinda two instructables in one, as it's both the process to make the star that is the end result and the process of getting there. This is a great weekend project for supervised kids as it doesn't involve sewing but does involve a lot of creativity and coloring!
But this all started with a need. We had this lovely tree, but no tree topper!!! What are we to do!?
I had an idea about using a battery-powered led light pack with some wire to make kind of a star thing.
The end result you can see above, but I didn't really start with that in mind. I'll tell you how I got there as I tell you how to get there.
Let's Go! Allons-y!
Step 1: First Things First.
So, ok, so I bought a string of battery-powered LED's at the drug store. I guess that's a step of its own, but there's honestly not more to the story. There is also probably a source online.
CAUTION: DO NOT USE NORMAL LIGHTS!!!! FIRE WILL HAPPEN!!! LED's ONLY!!!
Then I took a coathanger and I straightened it. I looked longingly at my tape measure, all curled up on the floor. Longing to be useful.
I took my needlenose pliers and I placed the end of the wire in the canyon between the two plies. Each length measured from the tip of the pliers to the middle of the maw. I left a little bit extra on the first part and the last part just ended up the length which was left. A more persnickety person would measure 10 lengths with one left over for the leg. Be brave.
Each bend is the opposite of the last one. It is important you only bend in one direction. As soon as you bend back, you can snap the coathanger. If your coat hanger is particularly tough, you can score the bends with the cutting part of your pliers but do so lightly.
If you break a corner, you might as well start over. If you absolutely can't, like if it's the last coathanger on Earth, grab some duct tape.
Once you have a pretty good looking star (Or square or rhomboid, I don't judge) take a little bit of extra time to make sure it's as nice as can. You're not going to be able to do much after this, so get it right.
Alright, let's make that star twinkle!
Step 2: I Gots Ta Wrap.
Ok, so now you just need to decide two things.
1. Where do you want the lights to end up on your shape?
2. What do you want to watch while you spend forever wrapping a thing?
I had 15 lights on my strand. That's 5 on the points, 5 in the valleys, and 5 in the middle. I think it may have looked cooler to put 5 on the points, and 10 in the valleys with one going up each leg. But I have no way of knowing until you try it.
The wrapping should happen naturally. the goal is to get the bulb to where you want it to go with no slack. The wrapped wire should be very very tight. This will help the lights stay in place, and it will help your whole zen thing. Go slow. Check how the flashing mode flashes and account for that in your design.
I chose to start at the top of the star with the bulb on the end of the strand so I could get it standing straight up at the top. This was a wrong decision. The first image shows why. The box (with the batteries and switch) needs to end up at the bottom, so that it can be reached to turn it off and on. It may be best for you to start at the box end of the strand.
Anyway, by the time I noticed this I had been wrapping for like seventeen hours. I'd watched 22 seasons of British television in that time. So I decided not to correct my error and use it as a teachable moment. What a lovely excuse that is. I make mistakes, you learn, somehow we're at zero.
I finished wrapping around the perimeter and kept on around, the inside lights are wrapped on the valleys and turned in. If you wrap tightly enough, they stay where you put 'em. It took hundreds of thousands of hours, but finally I finished wrapping. After the last light, I doubled back to get the wire back by the leg. I lost a good 5 or more inches to this, so you could have much more of a lead on the box than I did. As it stood, I had about as much as the end of the leg.
In the third picture, you can see my tape measure crying because I have successfully created a thing without her! Haha!
Ok, if you like the look of that, you're done. It didn't really work with our tree, but it's kinda cool or whatever. it would be cool if it had a cover that would glow. Hmmmm.... well I don't want to spend all day on this...what could I do without sewing?
Step 3: Glue You Can Spray. Wow. If Only They Had This for Duct Tape.
I had some fabric left over from being Zeus at Halloween a couple of years ago. It's white and rather thin but it's a thing I have, so it's free. Any fabric would work, although the light may not show much through really heavy fabric. Note that the lights are blue in color, so choose fabric color with that in mind. I cut out a chunk big enough to cover the star shape twice. I left a generous margin of error. I like a generous margin of error.
I stood back and took the first photo. I looked at it, pondered, then added an iron to the photo. That iron is not currently on. This is not proper iron storage procedure. I ironed it for a while. I am not a poor ironer, this fabric just didn't want to be smooth. Some spray starch or nicer fabric would be nice. Take extra care with the crease.
At this point you can sew around the thing for like a year. Go nuts. I don't like to sew anything more than a sock, so I had to cheat. This cheater's method is vastly superior to sewing in that it's quick, creates a firm shape and looks clean. The downside is you need some spray adhesive and you probably don't have any. You can get some at an art supply store. I use something called Super 77. I didn't know if I could show a picture of the lable, so I showed a picture of the directions. (Glance at picture 6 now.) This is some good life advice. There are other brands available as well, it's called spray mount or spray adhesive. Look for the permanent variety more than the temporary variety. But either should work ok. This stuff is very useful.
Warning: Do this outside or your roommates will whine about you making it smell weird. I am not responsible for your hallucinations if you do this indoors. (Side note, spraymount smells like childhood... what's that tell you?) Read the directions on the can before you begin. Please.
The cheaters method. I didn't take any photos of this part because it's quick and dangerous. I'll describe why.
a. Place the star on the fabric with the leg pointing towards an edge.
b. Fold the other part over. Curl the edge of the top fabric over your pencil so you can hold it flat with one hand.
c. Shake the can. Shake, shake it! Shaka-shake-sh-shs-sh-shu-sha-shu-shake it.
d. Pull up the fabric with your off hand and spray both insides of the fabric from about 8- 10 inches away. Cover both the part the star is laying on and the part that's above it. Light coverage with your basic spray-painting technique. Sweep in one direction quickly.
e. Hold it open. Count to 20 or so. Use 1 finger of your free hand to touch the adhesive and see if its tackiness is adequately aggressive. Should feel like your finger is kinda hard to pull away.
f. VERY carefully lay the top part onto the bottom part. Start at the crease, use your whole arm and smooth as you go. Go slowly. A bubble or crumple can be pulled up and reset, but only for a little while.
g. Once it's closed, take the cooled iron or a book or something and use it to smooth both parts down until you have a good seal. Really squoosh it in and around the shape to get good structure.
h. If you mess up here and get a bubble, you're on your own. I don't know how to help you. You're doomed.
Quick I need a Wok Lid!!!!
Step 4: Walk a Wok a Wokka.
The Wok lid just happens to be a big round thing I can use to define my shape. You could use a big plate, a trashcan, or a drawing compass. You want something a bit bigger than the star but not waaay bigger.
Use a pencil to draw around the lid. The pencil should mark on your fabric. If it doesn't, use a sharpie and cut inside the marking.
KIDS: Tell your parents to supervise you now. Cut slowly and keep your free hand behind the scissors. Never use force to cut, use sharpness. If your scissors are dull, tell your parents to sharpen them or buy better scissors. It probably took more than 10 minutes to cut this out and I'm a good cutter. Take your time. Be safe. Ok?
Cut now. Use scissors. Look out for the wires! Seriously, you can cut a wire and then you'll have to look up an instructable for splicing wires, and then where will you be? Cut a circle first. Ponder the circle. You can leave it as a circle, but would it be cooler as a curvy star? Cut a curvy star. A curvy star is cut by doing big smiles in from the points and then rounding off the points. Be perfectish.
The end result is in the third image. I thought the wires showed through the fabric too much, and I was starting to come down from the spray mount so I did a second layer of fabric on each side. I didn't take a picture at this point. Sorry. I feel like a terrible failure.
Ok, I've had a good cry. Time to put a star on the tree!!!!
Step 5: Coloring! Yay!
Yeayeay! It's on the tree... and it looks pretty... blue. It's a lot bluer than everything else is. That's... well that's bad. I don't like that. If you have LED's on your main tree, it may look the same as those and you may wish to stop here.
Me, I'm moving on. Well, I did kinda feel done here for a while, cleaned up, muttered a lot. Stared at it. Photoshopped it. A-ha! It doesn't look as blue if it's not as blue. A-ha! Perhaps I could photoshop it, but in real life! Some sort of life-o-shop. If only there were a method of applying pigment to fabric. Hmm... A-ha!
I hunted through my box of markers. Tried some out on some scrap fabric. Dry-Erase markers work great!!! I used green, red, light blue, and yellow. If you don't have dry erase markers, try others from your marker box, something is bound to work. If you don't have a marker box, get thee to the marker store!
I first filled in the dots with the orange. I then outlined those with blue or green, connected those rings to each other, and kept adding colors and shapes until it was done. The important thing here is symmetry. If you do something, do it the same all the way around. Think snowflake. The five points each have the same design. This makes it pretty to our brains. Or go crazy with it, I don't care. Just be sure to change the color of all the lights so you don't get like one blue one. Or do, if that's your thing. Giving advice on art is hard.
Dry erase markers are also available at the drug store, and here are 2 other reasons to have them around (Yeah, I'm padding because this step's kinda skimpy.)
1. Dry Erase markers are great fun with windowpanes!
2. If you accidentally get permanent marker on something hard, scribble over it with the dry-erase marker and watch as it lifts away like magic!
That's all you need to know, go get some markers and start coloring. If you don't know how to color... well... um... Put the marker on the fabric and move it around?
Ok, now go put it on the tree! If you have 2 kids, you can have them each design a side and then watch as they constantly fight to get their side facing forward. Oh, how they'll fight. It will be such fun!
Step 6: Done!
I attached the leg of the star to the trunk of the tree with 2 twist-ties. The little foot thing is standing on a branch. The battery pack and switch hang down and hide in the topmost branches on the tree. It is easy for an adult to turn on and off but would prove challenging for all but the spideriest of children.
Hey-Oh! It's on the tree! And you know what? It's pretty cool looking. It's even not bad in person. I think I like it. Yes, that's what this feeling is, pride! I dun good!
We have finished here, and I just want to say a bit about the process. I just started with a vague idea and made the rest up as I went along. No plans or instructions, just an idea, a will, and a disdain for my tape measure. If you want to change something or improvise as you go along, that's awesome, go nuts. The process of doing stuff this way is more challenging but it is much more fun. What could you make with a different shape? Different material? Let me know if you do anything wacky starting from this idea with a comment.
CAUTION: DO NOT USE NORMAL LIGHTS!!!! FIRE WILL HAPPEN!!! LED's ONLY!!!
How's my first 'ible? Too chatty? More details needed anywhere? Lemme know!