Introduction: How to Make a Reflective Light Up Bandana

About: Hello, I'm Colleen, a designer and maker-extraordinaire from Atlanta, GA. You may have seen me around the internet from my side project turned business Wearable Planter. When I'm not 3D printing things for wor…

Bandanas are a fun and simple accessory that nearly everyone has in their closet. Today we're going to sew our own bandana to also make it a safety accessory by adding reflective tape, and a blinking light.

In this tutorial, we're going to be making a light up and reflective bandana. This tutorial will be broken into two parts, the first part as a sewing project, and the second part as creating a simple blinking wearable circuit with an Arduino Lily Tiny.

For this instructable, we're going to make a dog bandana, but these instructions can be easily modified to make a scarf, pocket square, or any other garment. This instructable references my earlier tutorial to make a dog collar slide bandana.

Safety tip: This finished product contains a battery and some small electronics, which could harm your dog if swallowed. If you are making this project as a dog bandana, your dog should only wear this under supervision, and is meant to be worn only on walks or as part of a costume.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

First things first, you want to gather all of your materials together. Here is what you'll need:

From the Fabric Store

  • Fabric (I used thin quilting fabric for the front and a thicker flannel for the back)
  • Felt
  • Thread
  • Reflective tape
  • Needle
  • Snaps
  • Sewing pattern (the one I am using is for a dog bandana. You can easily adapt this with any scarf or pocket square pattern though)
  • Seam tape (optional)


  • Sewing machine
  • Iron
  • Scissors
  • Fabric pencil

Circuit Components

  • Lily tiny circuit
  • Lily tiny battery pack with switch
  • CR 2032 Battery
  • Conductive thread
  • 3V sewable LEDs

Get together all of your materials and tools for this project. I already had most of these materials on hand. All of the sewing notions, including the reflective tape, can be found at any big-box fabric. The parts for the wearable circuit were all purchased from Sparkfun.

Step 2: Cut Your Fabric

Using your pattern, cut two identical pieces of fabric for the bandana. These pieces will make the outside visible part of the bandana.

Next, cut a triangular piece of felt to hold your circuit that is at least 1” smaller than the other fabric pieces.

For this instructable I will be making a bandana for my dog to wear on walks, but this instructable can be easily modified to make as a scarf or pocket square.

Step 3: Iron on Reflective Tape

Next, get out your reflective tape, scissors, and iron. Cut the reflective tape in any shape you wish to put on your bandana. I cut mine with scissors, but this material can also be cut on a desktop paper cutter like the Silhouette if you want to make a more intricate shape. Place the reflective shapes where you would like on the fabric.

Heat up your iron. With a pressing cloth or piece of scrap fabric, hold the iron over where you have placed the reflective tape. The heat settings and time will be dependent on the brand of tape you choose, so make sure to follow the heat and time recommendations on the package.

Step 4: Sew Opening Seam

To allow us access to the circuit, we’re going to have one un-sewn side of the bandana. This will be held shut with snaps so it can be closed when in use, or opened to access the circuit. Having a removable circuit also allows us to take it out to wash the bandana.

Decide which part of your bandana will have the open seam. Make note of where this is on each piece of fabric.

Fold over the fabric inward with a ¼” seam. Iron over this seam to crease it for easier sewing. If you have seam tape, iron it in with the seam (this will make a neater seam). Pin the seam down, and sew it 1/8” from the edge. Repeat on the corresponding edge on the next piece of fabric.

Step 5: Attach Snaps

Next we’re going to attach the snaps that will allow the circuit to be removable and to close the bandana.

First, take the back piece of fabric and the felt and mark the corresponding spot on each piece of fabric where these snaps will go. Next, make similar marks along the side of the bandana for the corresponding snaps. Sew (or hammer) snaps into place.

Tip: If you're not excellent at sewing, or have hand issues that make this difficult, the snaps can be glued on with a glue like E6000 as well. You can also use a snap plier tool.

Step 6: Sew and Assemble Bandana

Now that you have the fabric cut and snaps sewn, we’re ready for the final (and most satisfying) part of the sewing part of this project. These steps are specific to making a dog bandana (like this one), but can be easily modified for another garment.

Pin both pieces of your bandana with the “outsides” in. Sew a ¼ seam along the edges (remember to not sew the edge with the snaps). After sewing, remove the pins and flip the outside of the bandana out. Iron the bandana to crease the edges. Sew again along the seam 1/8” from the edge (remember to still leave the edge with the snaps not sewn).

Next we’ll crease down the edge to make the collar band. Fold down the seam (marked on the pattern), and iron it down. Pin this down, and sew along the bottom of the collar to make a channel that your dog’s collar will slide through.

The sewing part of your project is now complete!

Step 7: Assemble Wearable Circuit

Now that the sewing part of the project is complete, we’re going to make our wearable circuit. Plan out how the pieces of your circuit will be laid out. If you’re using a lily tiny, you can reference the diagram above. Draw out your circuit before you begin sewing to make sure none of your lines will cross.

Lay out the circuit on the felt. With a needle and regular thread, place some loose stitches to keep each component in place.

Now that all of our parts are in place, we’ll begin to connect the circuit with conductive thread. Conductive thread is sewn just like regular thread, but you’ll feel a little more tension when pulling it through the fabric. First connect positive terminals of the battery pack with the positive terminal of the lily tiny. Repeat with the negative terminals making sure to not touch the threads. Looping each thread around the holes several times will help make the sure the connection is secure.

Decide which of the outputs you want to use on your lily tiny board, they each perform a different flashing function. I chose to go with #1, the heartbeat, setting. From that loop (in my case #1) sew to the positive (+) loop of the first LED. Loop around several times, and sew to the positive loop of the next LED. Repeat as needed. On the last LED, tie off and cut the thread.

Now we are going to complete our circuit. Starting at the negative loop of the last LED, begin sewing as you did before, looping through the negative loop of each LED. To complete the circuit, we’re going to continue this line back to the negative terminal of the lily tiny board. Wrap the thread around several times to ensure the circuit is closed. Tie off and cut the thread. Your circuit is now complete!

Add in your battery and flip the power switch to on. Voila! Your wearable circuit is complete!

Step 8: Assemble

Now the the sewing and wearable circuit parts of this project are complete, all that is left to do is snap the circuit into place. If you're making this as a dog bandana, slide the collar into place. Now you’re done!

Step 9: Show Off Your Project

You’ve worked hard on this project, so now it’s time to show it off! Put it on your dog and take them for a walk!

Lights Contest 2017

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Lights Contest 2017