Introduction: Low Lights Skirt

This tutorial will go over how to make your own box pleated skirt pattern with color matching LED's inside the pleats. It assumes that the reader already knows how to construct a skirt with pleats.
It's technological AND elegant! It's techlegant!

Start by collecting your materials.

You will need for the skirt:

  • Fabric
    • 2 yards outer fabric, I used a heavy cotton woven treated with a gold sheen from Mood in New York.
    • strong but lightweight woven (like muslin) in a complementary color)
  • Thread
  • 1/2 yard fusible interfacing
  • 2 Skirt hooks
  • Sharp dress making shears
  • Sharp small scissors or snips
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Paper

For the circuit:

  • Flora board
  • Side emitting, color changing miniLED's
  • 1 meter of 30 gauge silicone covered wire in 4 colors
  • color sensor
  • rechargeable battery
  • battery charger
  • solder


  • Sewing machine with a buttonhole attachment
  • Iron and board
  • Soldering iron

Step 1: Do the Math, It's Easy Arthmatic!

Determine the waist measurement. (You can base this measurement off a skirt that fits well.) Next decide how big you want the skirt to be at the hem line (hem circumference), the number of pleats you want, and the length.

Now for math fun!

Equation variables:

  • w = waist measurement
  • d = distance between pleats
  • h = hem circumference
  • i = total amount of fabric in the interior of the pleats
  • n = number of pleats
  • a = amount of fabric into EACH pleat
  • f = length of interior pleat folds
  1. w ÷ n = d
  2. h - w = i
  3. i ÷ n = a
  4. a ÷ 4 = f

Step 2: Layout and Cut Fabric

Now that you have all your measurements you can start laying out your pattern. I suggest doing this first on a sheet of paper and working in scale. After you have your diagram drawn up you can draw it on your fabric knowing it is correct. I draw my stitch lines. If you do not you will have to account for your seam allowance after your diagram is complete.

Outer fabric

  1. Draw one line that represents half the length your waistline, this is the front piece. Draw another that represents one quarter of your waist measurement, this is half of the back of skirt, you will cut two of these.
  2. On the two ends of the front mark SS (for side seam). On one end of the back piece mark SS, on the other end mark CB (for center back). (The second back piece will mirror the first.)
  3. Using your established scale evenly mark your measurements starting at one SS in this order:
    d÷2 *f 2f f d* repeat between stars until you reach the second CB mark.
  4. Do the same for the back piece.
  5. Strike two lines down on either end of your lines that will represent the length of your skirt. Connect these lines at the bottom, that represents the hem line.
  6. Make a mark 7" down from the waistline on both CB lines, this is your placket opening.
  7. Mark your buttonholes for the circuit. Make a 3/4" line starting 1/2" into the "f" sections on the diagram from the "2f" section line adjacent and 1/4" down from the waistline. Do this for all "f" sections.
  8. Transfer the pattern in full scale onto your fabric, on grain. Mark 1" SA on the top and side edges, except for CB which get's 2" and the hem which get's 4". This is so you can make adjustments later after your fitting.
  9. Determine the height of the waistband. In my example the waistband is 3" tall, which is taller than usual. Yours should be at least an inch for proper support. Layout the waistband on the fabric in three parts. The front is half of "w" by the height of the waistband. The left back piece one is a quarter of "w" by the height of the waistband. The right back piece is a quarter of "w" plus 1 1/2" by the height of the waistband. All SA 1" except for CB which gets 2". Cut the same out of fusible interfacing and iron on.

Lightweight fabric

  1. Use this tutorial for your pocket pattern. It will tell you how to install them too! Make sure to notch your side seams where your pockets start and stop. On your pattern (and the fabric) mark a 3/4" buttonhole 1/4" down from the center top of one half of the pocket that will go on the side of the skirt where you want your sensor. The buttonhole should be on the side of the pocket that is away from your body.
  2. Draw a small rectangular pocket a little bit bigger than your battery. Give it 1/2" SA.
  3. Draw a rectangle that is 14" x 4" with 1" SA. This is your placket.
  4. Draw one long rectangle that is 1 1/2" x 40" with 1/4" SA. This is the cover to your wire sensors.
  5. Cut it out!

Step 3: Sew

  1. Prepare your fabric by overlock or zigzag stitching your pieces.
  2. Stitch the button holes as marked, according to your machine's instructions, on the front, back, and pocket pieces.
  3. Sew on the battery pocket in a discrete and comfortable position near the CB on the side you want your sensor on.
  4. Sew back pieces together at CB. Start at the opening notch and stitch all the way through your seam allowance (SA). Iron SA open.
  5. Sew front and back pieces together at the side seams, from the top to the bottom, taking care to leave your pocket hole open. Iron SA open.
  6. Pin the pleats together and sew 3/4" down from the waistline (stitch through the SA). Iron open just the new seams.
  7. Pin the pleats and sew 1/8" into the seam allowance along the waistline. Iron pleats as desired.
  8. Install pockets.
  9. Install placket at CB.
  10. Sew the wire cover down the length. Turn right side out and leave the ends open.
  11. Sew together your waistband but do not attach it to the skirt yet.

Step 4: Soder and Code

I used the circuit diagram and code from Adafruit's Chameleon Scarf for my circuit. Make sure you pay attention to the markings on your LED's! I ended up wiring my LED's backwards to my FLORA board because I was coping the directionality of the positions on the circuit diagram which didn't match the NeoPixels I was using.

  1. Using the chart diagram as a reference, chart your LED's. Depending on the width of your pleats, the distance between them, and how much light you want on each pleat, your circuit may have more or less LED's than mine. I had 6 pleats, 2 LED's per pleat.
  2. Determine the distance between LED's based off your pleat placement chart from step 2 (of the Instructable).
  3. Wire the LED's to each other and the board. Check that everything is working.
  4. Wire the sensor to the board. This connection will use the remainder of your wire. The fourth color wire will need to be cut down to match the lengths of the other three color wires you used in step 3 (of this page).
  5. Check your circuit with a multimeter.
  6. Install the code. Unless you want to modify yours, use the code from the Adafruit tutorial. I had trouble getting mine to be bright enough so I increased the RBG output. This worked okay but there are sometimes issues with color accuracy. So if you figure it out, let me know!
  7. If everything is working cover your sensor wires with the wire cover tube.

Step 5: Install Ciruit

Once your circuit is tested and working, it's time to install it into the skirt. Exciting! You're almost done!

Start on the side of the skirt where your battery pocket is. Locate the button hole in the first pleat from the center back (on the same side as the pocket with the buttonhole). Weave the LED's and sensor through to the outside of the skirt and again through the button hole on the other side of the pleat going back into the skirt. Repeat until you reach the pleat on the side seam. Here you will let go of the sensor and continue on with only the LED's until you reach the last pleat. Now go back to the sensor and weave the sensor behind the side seam pleat and into the pocket's button hole (between the pocket and the skirt). Pull the sensor all way out of the pocket to take out the slack and then return the sensor into the pocket.

Now you can insert your battery into the battery pocket and sew the FLORA board onto the skirt nearby in a discrete and comfortable position. Remember, if the board faces your body the components of the board will press into your body. I sewed my board on the interior fold of a pleat facing away from my body because my pleats were deep enough to accommodate it's width. This is also ideal because I can activate the reset button through my skirt with a bit of touch searching.

Step 6: Finish

You are so close to being done!

  1. Sew on the waistband. Be careful not to sew the wires! They are far enough down that they should really not get in your way, but better safe than sorry.
  2. Have a friend help you fit and mark (using safety pins) where your waist band closes. If your waist band is taller than 1 1/2" leave about an inch between hooks and no more than a 1/4" between the hook and the top and bottom of the waistband. Otherwise, use one hook and center it.
  3. Fit the skirt again making sure that the closures are comfortable. Make adjustments as necessary.
  4. Fit the skirt with a friend to help mark your hem. Have them fold the SA of the hem to your drawn hemline and make any adjustments. Trim your SA and hem by hand or machine according to your fabric type.

That's it! Now go match your skirt to your shoes! To your jewelry! To your dates outfit!

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