Introduction: Brighter Than the Average Bear
Are you brighter than the average bear? This little guy sure is! Perfect for mad scientists, tiny Halloween scenes, or people with a twisted sense of humor.
(Inspired by this lamp: http://www.suck.uk.com/product.php?rangeID=104&showBar=1, but in miniature.)
He'll light up your life - or at least, illuminate a very small area.
Features of this bear:
- he's about the size of a 9V battery
- he's fully jointed
- his arm acts as a switch to turn the LED on and off
- the batteries can be replaced without requiring surgery
No teddy bears were harmed in the making of this instructable.
(Note: this project is small, fiddly, and requires hand sewing skills.)
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Step 1: Things You Will Need
For the circuit, you will need:
- an LED (mine is about 4mm diameter)
- some conductive thread (I got mine from http://www.aniomagic.com/)
- watch batteries (mine are 377 or LR626) - the LED runs on 2, but you'll want spares
For the bear body you will need:
- a little bit of polyester fiberfill (available at anyplace that sells sewing or craft supplies)
- thread (I use clear nylon, but you can also use a color that matches your fabric)
- a scrap of stretchy fabric (like thin t-shirt material) for the battery compartment
- a small piece of upholstery velvet or similar material for the body of the bear (keep reading for details)
Fabrics for making miniature bears can be purchased from specialty suppliers such as http://www.christiebears.co.uk/ or http://www.sassybearsandfabrics.com/. If you don't want to order fabric, you may be able to find upholstery velvet or thin ultrasuede at your local fabric store.
The fabric that I am using is a miniature bear velvet with a white grid backing. However, any fabric that is thin and won't fray at the edges should work. The bear will hold its shape better if the fabric isn't stretchy.
- a ballpoint or very fine felt tip that will write on the back of the fabric you are using
- something thin and blunt like the handle of a crochet hook
- small scissors
- a tiny needle
- a needle that works with your conductive thread (I had to use a bigger needle for my conductive thread)
- hemostats (also called locking forceps). Either straight or curved will work, but they need to be small.
You can get hemostats from the same places that sell miniature bear fabrics. They are used in surgery, so will be sold by medical supply companies, and I've also seen them for sale with tools & pliers used for electronics. I think I've also seen them sold as fish hook removal tools.
Step 2: Transfer the Pattern to the Fabric and Cut It Out
Print out the attached PDF file. I've included a couple of lines marked off in inches and centimeters so you can verify that the pattern printed out correctly. If it prints out too small, you'll need to scale it back up or you won't be able to fit the batteries and LED leads inside. If it prints out too big, it might look wrong with your LED.
Carefully cut out the pattern pieces.
If you're familiar with commercial sewing patterns, you will know that they usually include some seam allowance. (If you're not familiar with sewing patterns, seam allowance is the space between the stitches and the edge of the fabric.) My patterns do not include seam allowance. Instead, I add the seam allowance when I cut around the pieces.
Because this pattern is so tiny, the seam allowance is basically the width of a ballpoint pen line. If you trace the pieces onto the fabric, you can cut outside the line and then stitch inside it.
Under the pattern pieces I've written the number of copies you will need. When it says "cut 1 + 1 reversed", that means put the pattern piece on the fabric writing side up and trace around it. Then flip the pattern piece over and trace it onto the fabric again facing the other direction.
If your fabric is furry, figure out which way the fur lies flat. Turn the fabric over, and mark the direction of the fur with your pen. Turn the fabric so the arrow you just marked points down.
The fur should end up going down on all the pieces as shown in the PDF file.
Trace the correct number of pattern pieces onto your fabric. I've attached a picture showing the correct number of pieces drawn on the fabric.
Now look at the pattern again. On most of the pieces there are marks with letters. These indicate where you will be sewing and where you will be leaving openings. Copy the marks onto the fabric (you only need to mark the ones that face the same direction as the pattern piece).
Then carefully cut out the pieces, cutting just outside the pen line.
Step 3: Sew the Arms
Put two arm pieces furry sides together. Make sure they're lined up exactly.
Using a back stitch, sew just inside the pen line. Leave an opening along the back of the arm - this means you are starting at the position marked A and ending at B. (Refer to the pattern piece for the positions of A and B.)
(If you don't know how to do a back stitch, there is a video tutorial here: http://www.needlenthread.com/2006/10/embroidery-stitch-video-tutorial_24.html. The video is aimed at embroidery, but sewing a seam is exactly the same except that you go through both layers of fabric.)
Your stitches should be very small - around 3 mm maximum.
Do the same for the second arm.
Step 4: Turn the Arms Right-side Out
Take one of the sewn arms, and put your closed hemostats inside. Open the hemostats and carefully lock them onto the fabric at the paw end of the arm. Gently pull the hemostats back through the opening so that the arm turns right side out. You may need to use the hemostats on the shoulder end also.
If you pull too hard, your hemostats may slip off the fabric and pull off some of the fur, so be careful.
Use the handle of a crochet hook (or similar) to push on the inside of the seams at the paw and shoulder, making sure it's completely turned right side out.
Do the same for the second arm.
Step 5: Stuff and Close the Arms
Now, take a tiny bit of polyester fiberfill and roll it into a small ball. Use the hemostats to push the ball of stuffing into the paw. Put some more stuffing in the shoulder, and then push some into the middle section of the arm. Keep adding stuffing until you think the arm is full.
Then, use a ladder stitch to close the opening. (If you don't know how to do a ladder stitch, there's a tutorial here: http://blog.craftzine.com/archive/2009/04/how-to_close_a_seam_with_the_l.html. This project is much smaller than the one in the tutorial, so also look at the attached pictures in order to get an idea.)
Do the same for the second arm.
Step 6: Sew the Legs and Turn Them Right-side Out.
Put two leg pieces furry sides together.
Using a back stitch, sew the short section from A to B at the back of the heel. Then back stitch from D around the top of the leg and down the front of the leg to the toe at C. The opening from A to D will be used to turn and stuff the leg.
Leave the bottom of the foot open because the footpad will go there.
As on the arms, sew just inside the pen line and take small stitches.
Next, open the bottom of the foot. Use a stitch or two to tack the end of the seam at the toe to the front of the footpad. (The front of the footpad is the middle of the wider part at the top of the pattern piece.) Then tack the end of the seam at the heel to the back of the footpad (the middle of the narrower curve at the bottom of the pattern piece).
Now start next to one of the points you just tacked and sew all the way around the footpad, attaching the footpad to the leg piece.
Now sew the second leg the same way.
Step 7: Finish the Legs
As you did for the arms, put the hemostats inside the leg and lock them onto the fabric at the toe. Gently pull the leg right side out. Use the hemostats on the top of the leg also if you need to.
Stuff the leg, starting with small amounts of stuffing in the toe. When the foot is completely full, stuff the top of the leg, and finally the middle next to the opening. Close the opening with ladder stitch.
Finish the second leg the same way.
Step 8: Sew the Body and Make the Battery Holder
Put the two body pieces furry sides together, and use a back stitch to sew from A to B, and from C to D.
This leaves two openings: one at the bottom and one at the back. The opening at the bottom will be used to stuff the body. The opening at the back is where the battery holder goes.
Leave the body inside out.
To make the battery compartment, cut a rectangle of stretchy fabric, fold it in half and sew the sides together. The resulting pocket should be just big enough to squeeze the two batteries into. (The batteries need to be stacked so that the negative side of one touches the positive side of the other.)
You may need to experiment a little to get the size right. Look at the picture to see how the batteries should fit. Also remember that the battery holder needs to fit inside the body.
Next, take the batteries out and use the conductive thread to add connections from the batteries. The side of each battery that touches the fabric will need to connect to the conductive thread. Use a few stitches on each side to make sure you will have a good connection, and leave a long tail of thread from each side of the battery holder. DO NOT stitch through both pieces of fabric with the conductive thread.
You can test that the battery holder works by putting the batteries inside it. Touch the two leads of an LED to the two tails of thread, making sure that the thread from the positive side of the battery touches the positive LED lead, and the thread from the negative side connects to the negative LED lead.
If your LED lights up, you have a good connection. If not, make sure that your batteries are connected correctly (positive side to negative side). If they are, the battery holder may not be holding them tightly enough, or the conductive thread may not be placed correctly to contact the battery. Redo the battery holder if necessary.
You will need to keep track of which side of the circuit connects to which LED lead. You may find it helpful to mark the leads somehow so that you can connect the LED the same way you have it now.
Step 9: About the Circuit
Here's how the circuit works:
One side of the battery holder connects to one side of the LED.
The other side of the LED connects to a patch of conductive thread on the arm.
The second side of the battery holder connects to a patch of conductive thread on the body.
When the arm is positioned so that its patch of conductive thread contacts the patch on the body, the LED lights up.
It doesn't matter which way around you connect the LED, but it must correspond to the way the batteries are inserted. That is, if the negative side of the LED is connected to the battery holder, then the conductive thread connecting them will be touching the negative side of a battery. The positive side of the second battery will be touching the thread that connects to the body switch.
Tip: test the circuit after every step. On my first attempt, I got most of the bear sewn together, and then found that it didn't work. I had to rip the body apart to fix it. It's much easier to fix problems if you only have to undo one step.
Step 10: Attach the LED to the Body
The LED is attached to the body by pushing the leads through the fabric at the neck.
Looking at the pattern, the neck is at the top of the body.
With the body still inside out, put the LED inside.
Push the leads through the fabric gently, wiggling them around. They should go through without tearing the fabric.
Use hemostats (or pliers) to coil the leads into loops, one on each side. You may want to mark one somehow so you can tell which is which.
Carefully turn the body right-side out.
Test the circuit by putting the batteries into the battery holder, then hooking each thread from the battery holder into one loop of the LED.
Step 11: Put One Side of the Switch on the Arm
Decide which side your switch will go on. My bear has his switch under his right arm.
You will need to sew a patch of conductive thread onto the arm that will match up with the thread on the body. Hold both arms and both legs against the body with your fingers. This will help you see where the arms will attach to the body and which part of the arm will contact the body.
You can stick a pin or needle into the arm to mark the point where you want the switch.
You may want to draw a dot on the body (with a felt tip pen) to mark the point where the arms should go.
Sew a patch of stitches on the arm. (You can sew back and forth over the knot.)
When you think you have enough stitches, take the thread out through the top of the arm where it will connect to the body. Leave the tail of thread attached.
Test the circuit at this point by hooking one battery thread through the correct LED lead, hooking the thread tail from the arm to the other LED lead, and then placing the other battery thread across the patch of stitches you just sewed.
Step 12: Finish the Switch
Now sew a patch of stitches on the body at the point where the arm will contact it. Leave a tail of thread attached for now.
Test the connection by hooking one side of the battery to the LED, the arm to the other side of the LED, the other side of the battery holder to the body switch, and then holding the body and the arm together.
You can see from the pictures that I had the battery holder inside the body while testing the circuit, although it was not yet sewn in place.
If your circuit works at this point, you can connect the arm.
Put the tail of thread from the arm on a needle, and pull it through the body (just one layer of fabric) at the correct point for the switch to connect. Pull the arm up to the body.
Now, working through the opening in the back of the body, loop the thread through the correct LED lead several times. End it off.
You can also end off the thread from the body switch - you'll use the thread tail from the battery holder to connect it.
Step 13: Insert the Battery Holder
Test the circuit again to make sure your arm switch works. Assuming it does, take the batteries out of the holder. (But remember which side is which!)
Put a needle on the thread tail that will connect to the LED, and loop it through the LED lead.
Position the battery holder inside the body, so that the open side of the battery holder is lined up with the opening in the back of the body.
Pull the thread fairly tight. Now loop the thread through the LED lead several more times and end it off, keeping the battery holder lined up with the opening in the body. You will have to slide the needle along the side of the battery holder and through the looped LED lead, and you may have to do it by feel.
Next, put a needle on the other thread from the battery holder. Keeping the battery holder positioned correctly, take the thread to the side of the switch sewn on the body. Sew the battery lead through the switch patch several times to make it connect well.
Put the batteries in the holder and test the circuit.
If your circuit still works, you can sew the battery holder in place. Take the batteries out. Use a ladder stitch to sew the right side of the battery holder to the right side of the body, and the left side of the battery holder to the left side of the body.
Put the batteries in and test the circuit again, then take the batteries out.
Step 14: Finish the Body
First, you'll need to stuff the body. Do this very carefully - you don't want to break the conductive thread or create a short circuit.
Start by putting stuffing at the top of the body. You will have to put the stuffing in through the bottom of the body. Use your hemostats and slide them carefully along the side of the battery holder and past the threads that form the circuit.
The first few bits of stuffing should be positioned in between the LED leads, separating them.
Then stuff around the battery holder, but don't put too much stuffing in or the batteries won't fit.
Move the arm so the switch is open, and then put the batteries in. Squeeze the body and check the amount of stuffing.
Then stuff the bottom of the body.
When you're happy with the amount of stuffing, use a ladder stitch to close the opening.
Step 15: Attach the Arms and Legs
The bear is string-jointed, which means the arms and legs are held on by thread.
Use a needle that is long enough to go through the body and both legs or both arms from side to side. Put a long piece of thread on the needle and tie a secure knot at the end.
Position the arms where you want them. (One arm is already attached by the circuit thread. The other arm should be even with it.)
Take the unattached arm away, and insert the needle into the body at the point where the middle of the top of the arm was. Thread the needle through the body so that it doesn't go through the battery pocket. Then push the needle through the center of the attached arm.
(If this is confusing, look at the pictures of the legs being attached. The arms are attached the same way.)
Pull the thread through. Reinsert the needle right next to the point where the thread comes out. Push the needle through the arm and the body, and then through the center of the top of the other arm. Again, don't stitch through the battery pocket.
Pull the thread tight, squeezing the arms against the body while you do so.
Now reinsert the needle next to where it came out of the arm. Push the needle through one arm and the body, then bring the needle out under the second arm. You should now have a tail of thread coming from under the arm with the switch.
Test your circuit. If it doesn't work, the switch is probably not connecting. Pull the thread out and reposition the arm until the switch connects, then stitch through the arms again. Keep doing this until you have a working circuit.
Tie the thread off under the arm.
Now joint the legs in the same way.
And that's it, you're done!