Introduction: Twinkling ETextiles

This Instructable will help you use Lilypad's Tiny Twinkle to enhance fabric projects with magical twinkling lights. This project is a very simple example of how to use the Tiny Twinkle, but you can use these steps to set up larger parallel circuits, incorporate the Tiny Twinkle into more complex fabric arts or clothing, or even use other interim parts between battery and effect.

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

For this project you will need:

  • Felt
  • Alligator Clips
  • Scissors
  • Battery holder
  • Lilypad Tiny Twinkle
  • Four tiny LEDs
  • Needle
  • Conductive Thread
  • Regular Thread
  • Needle Threader
  • 3V battery
  • Micro-controller (on/off switch)

I used all Lilypad products, but you can swap out with anything you like. You don't have to use Lilypad LEDs specifically.

Step 2: Learn About the Order of Things

First spend some time making sure you understand how to connect the Tiny Twinkle to the LEDs. If you can light all the LEDs and they twinkle in a soft pattern, you did it right. The picture does show the setup, but it's hard to tell which are the positive and negative terminals. If you are using Lilypad LEDs, each terminal is marked with either a "+" or a "-".

Start with the battery. Connect an alligator clip between the battery's positive terminal and the Tiny Twinkle's positive terminal. Remember: positive to positive, negative to negative!

Connect all of your circuit with alligator clips in this order:

  • Battery's positive terminal to Tiny Twinkle positive terminal
  • From each numbered pin (1,2,3,4) on the Tiny Twinkle to the positive terminal on each LED
  • From each negative terminal of the LEDs to the negative terminal of the Tiny Twinkle
  • From the negative terminal of the Tiny Twinkle to the negative terminal of the battery
  • The switch is multi-directional, and can go between the Tiny Twinkle and the Battery on either the negative or the positive side.

Step 3: Start With the Battery

Stitch down one of the positive terminals. The conductive thread is very brittle, so rough handling can break it easily. This is not suitable for going in a sewing machine.

Make sure to loop tightly around the terminal to make a good connection.

Step 4: Insert the Microcontroller and Stitch to the Tiny Twinkle

Like I said earlier, this step can be done at either end of the process. I've simply chosen to put it here.

It doesn't matter which direction the microcontroller is pointed. You
can also put it on the other side of the fabric if that better suits your needs.

Stitch from the positive terminal of the battery to one of the terminals of the microcontroller. Sew it down with many tight loops for a good connection. Make a knot, and then cut your thread. With the new length of thread, sew to the positive terminal of the Tiny Twinkle. Make many tight loops, knot your thread, and cut it. Every time you to a terminal, you will repeat this process.

Step 5: Stitch From the Tiny Twinkle to the LEDs

You might find it helpful to mark where you want your LEDs to be. They can be on either side of the fabric. You can also have the LEDs on the back of the fabric, facing forward to shine through the fabric from behind! Mine are on the front of the fabric, with all the other electronics on the back. I also stitched them through another piece of fabric

Stitch with a new piece of thread every time! Otherwise your circuit will short out, and there will be no pretty lights.

Stitch from one numbered pin (loop many times tightly) to the positive terminal of one of your LEDs (loop many times tightly, knot, and cut thread).

Once you've done this, it's a great idea to test your circuit. Use your alligator clips to make sure that everything lights up when it's connected.

Step 6: Stitch All Negative Terminals Together

With one piece of thread, connect all the negative terminals of the LEDs together. Then keep sewing back to the negative terminal of the battery pack. Be careful to not cross any threads, or you will short out your circuit and there will be no pretty lights.

Remember to loop many times tightly around the terminal every time for a secure connection.

Step 7: Done!

Stick a battery in and see if it's magical! Oh, and don't forget to turn on the switch. Aheh... I made that mistake at first and sort of took apart my piece before realizing what was "wrong."

Make many good things like this, or inspired by, or just flat out new!