Introduction: Christmas Tree LED Embroidery

About: I'm a digital artist/crafter/maker who likes electronics and sewing. I used to run the blog Soft Circuit Saturdays, which is now part of my site GellaCraft - dedicated to techy crafts, costuming, and art.

Inspired by Becky Stern's Electronic Embroidery Tutorial, this pattern uses LEDs as the string of lights on a felt Christmas tree applique.

I've included a tree pattern that fits 8" or 6" embroidery hoops, or you can make your own shape.

Step 1: Materials

You will need:
  • Embroidery hoop (8" or 6")
  • Fabric
  • Green felt
  • Star shaped button
  • Embroidery floss
  • Embroidery needle
  • Pins
  • Scissors
  • Round/needle nose small pliers
  • 8 LEDS (5mm for an 8" hoop, 3mm for a 6" hoop)
  • LilyPad Coin Cell Battery Holder (if this is too big for the 6" hoop pattern, a sewable battery holder will also work)
  • 3V 20mm coin cell battery
  • LilyPad Slide Switch
  • Conductive thread
  • Ribbon
  • Glue gun

Step 2: Prepare Tree Design

Place your fabric in the embroidery hoop and trim any excess.

Cut out a tree shape from felt and center it on the fabric, pin in place. Design your own tree or print the PDF pattern I attached.

Step 3: Sew Applique

Using embroidery floss, sew your tree onto the fabric using a blanket stitch (or decorative stitching of your choice).

Futuregirl Craft Blog has a great tutorial on the blanket stitch if you are new to it.

Step 4: Attach LEDs

Carefully poke LEDs through the felt/fabric to create a 'light string' design. If you are having trouble getting the LED legs through the fabric, poke holes with your needle first.

Arrange the LEDs with the longer leg (+) facing the top of the hoop, and shorter leg (-) facing the bottom. Poke an LED through the holes in a star button at the top, with the + leg on the right side.

If you don't have a button, you can use yellow felt for the star.

Step 5: Prep LEDs for Sewing

Turn your hoop over and use pliers to bend the LED legs flat against the fabric. Hold the LED with one hand to stabilize it while you bend the legs with your pliers. For the top LED, fold the legs to the left/right.

Once all the LEDs are bent, use the pliers to spiral the legs into loops for sewing.

Step 6: Sew + Power Lines

On the bottom left side of the tree: using conductive thread, attach the positive side of your battery holder to your fabric, making sure not to sew through the felt to the front of the fabric.

Using a running stitch, travel up the length of the tree to the star and sew to the loop. Wrap the thread tightly around the loop a few times for a secure connection and knot. Trim excess thread.

With a new piece of conductive thread, loop around a section of your 'power' line/running stitch near the top loops on your rows of LEDs. Carefully sew each LED loop to connect to each other across the row. Do not let your thread touch the bottom loops. When you get to the last loop in the row, knot your thread and trip the tail.

Step 7: Sew Switch and - Power Lines.

With conductive thread, sew the negative side of your battery holder to one end of the switch. Sew through the fabric (but not the felt) to keep it in place.

With a new piece of thread, sew the other side of the switch and repeat the process used for the power lines (a running stitch up the side of the tree to the star). Make sure to leave some space between the top loops of the LEDs so no short circuits occur.

Sew the bottom loops of the LEDs to the line.

Once all LEDs are sewn, insert the battery in the holder and test it out.

Step 8: Finishing Touches

To add a decorative finish to the hoop and hide the tension screw at the top, use a glue gun to attach some matching ribbon around the outside edges of the hoop. At the top let some ribbon overlap and fold over the back to hide the raw edges. Glue in place.

Flip the switch and hang on the wall using a thumbtack or nail (make sure not to let any metal on the hanger touch your conductive thread). Enjoy!