Embroidered Light Up Patches




Introduction: Embroidered Light Up Patches

About: Industrial Design Student at Emily Carr University @krlamare

In this Instructables, I will explain my process of creating and making an LED light up patch that is sensored to the light in the room. My creative process can be hard to follow in such a structured way, but I will do my best to explain the steps I took to get to the final product.

This project started with an interest in fabric and textile arts. I always love different colour stitching and intricate stitch patterns within my clothing because it demonstrates the attention to detail by the maker of the piece. I was also interested in embroidery and how simple stitching or patchwork can completely change a piece of clothing and make it unique.

I have experience working with sewing machines and basic hand sewing techniques, but I had never used it in a way to create embroidered designs, images, or patches. I went and bought thread, yarn, needles, and templates to begin practicing the craft. I was experimenting with different types of thread and fabric to create designs. I highly suggest before starting a large embroidery project to practice with the medium first and learn what kind of designs you're interested in or good at. I found flowers and leaves the easiest to get started with.

Step 1: Materials

You will need the following to complete this project:

Embroidery Floss (variety of colours)

Embroidery Needles

Embroidery Circles (I prefer wooden over plastic)

Linen Fabric

Spray Paint (if you want)

Arduino Lilypad

Usb connector

LED sew in lights (I used 5)

Conductive thread

Battery Pack

Two 3 v batteries

1 v resistor

Light sensor

Bread board

Conductive Wire

Soldering Gun


Mini Usb cord



Step 2: Setting Up the Files

To begin my process, I was interested in embroidery and stitch techniques and incorporating new technology into a traditional craft. I decided it would be easier to create templates and stencils for my embroidery so I could have a design to follow. I discovered a lovely machine called a paper cutter that I used frequently throughout this project to prototype and do tests. The electronic paper cutter I was using is the brand Silhouette America and I was using the Silhouette program that I downloaded from their website onto my computer.

The paper cutter was helpful for me because it taught me to understand the difficulties of creating proper stencils and cut outs. The reason I was doing prototyping with the paper cutter was because I wanted to have fabric laser cut, much like I was doing with the machine and paper.

The paper cutter can cut things that would take hours by hand and the stencils can be used for a variety of purposes. The stencils that I created were originally intended to be stencils or patterns for my embroidery so I could follow along with the design, but I can use them with spray paint, different lighting techniques and much more.

You can see some of my process with the paper cutter above.

Step 3: Laser Cut Files

In my project I had to prepare an Illustrator file for a laser cut element. The different colours in the image represent the different cut paths and inside vs. outside cuts. Working with the paper cutter so much, helped me understand the basics of creating an image that will stay together once it is cut out.

The image of the lady was inspired by a sticker I have on my phone and she is suppose to represent the strength of women and women being present in the outdoors.

This step in the process was to explore different technologies, but is not necessary to create LED patches. I just wanted to show you all the steps of how I got to the final product! In the final design the laser cut element is the lady's figure. I cut out a few different designs and actually ended up only using an off cut.

Step 4: Spray Paint Exploration

This is where my process can get a bit confusing. I decided to take the stencils I had been making with the paper cutter and use them with spray paint. The stencils were originally suppose to be paths for my embroidery, but the project shifted and I began experimenting with spray paint.

I had a lot of fun using the spray paint and it is a medium that I am interested in exploring further. I made several different versions of images and I like it because it is fast and you can easily create cool effects. I believe that I have made some interesting pieces by exploring the effects of layering different colours and finishes.

This process helped me finalize the colours for my design. In the final patch the background that I had embroidered on was spray painted purple. The design of the woman's figure is spray painted black and a top layer of purple sparkle spray paint. I discovered the spray paint helped to seal the edges of the fabric and they were less likely to fray.

Step 5: Embroidery Process

The embroidery process is long and tedious. I spent over 14 hours on the embroidery because of all the different colours of thread and small stitching I did. Keep in mind I am a beginner and I only got faster and better with detail as I went along. Some tips I can give you are put on some music and sit on your couch when its raining and go for it. Also if you ride transit, do it on the bus! It saved me time and people give you really funny looks!

I decided to follow a theme of flora/fauna for the embroidery because I enjoy the connections it has to the traditional craft and women practicing it. I was ambitious to try and fill up as much space as I did. I want people to be able to clearly see the effort I put into my embroidery and hopefully I can achieve that with specific attention to detail and the hours of work.

This project is loosely based on a passion to create light up clothing without sacrificing the aesthetic. For example, many clothes that are created for people to wear at night use reflective material that is obtrusive and distracting. I want to still follow the concept of being bright in the dark, but in an attractive and unique way.

Step 6: Setting Up the LED Lights and Sensor

I decided to put the electronics on a separate layer of fabric so they shine from underneath the purple fabric. The Lilypad Arduino has holes that you can sew into that act like pins on a regular Arduino. You can use the conductive thread to create paths from a number pin, for example 9, to the positive side of the LED and the negative side of the LED to the ground pin, which in - (minus) on the Lilypad. I used 5 LED lights that are connected to the pins 3, 6, 9, 10, 11 because they can be controlled separately in the Arduino program.

The light sensor is connected with wire to the A1 pin on the Lilypad and the other side is connected to the ground. The jacket is sensored to come on in the dark so wire is long enough so that the the light sensor can be sewn in to the shoulder of the jacket. This way it is exposed to the outside light.

I was new to using the Arduino program so the coding I use is very simple. I adjusted the "blink" example to work with 5 LED's. I then used the "if statement" example to connect the light sensor to the LED's. The LED's fade in and out separately and are unfortunately hard to get a proper picture of.

This is the Arduino code I editied and used:

Conditionals - If statement

This example demonstrates the use of if() statements. It reads the state of a potentiometer (an analog input) and turns on an LED only if the potentiometer goes above a certain threshold level. It prints the analog value regardless of the level.

The circuit: * potentiometer connected to analog pin 0. Center pin of the potentiometer goes to the analog pin. side pins of the potentiometer go to +5V and ground * LED connected from digital pin 13 to ground

* Note: On most Arduino boards, there is already an LED on the board connected to pin 13, so you don't need any extra components for this example.

created 17 Jan 2009 modified 9 Apr 2012 by Tom Igoe

modifies again 7 April 2017 by Kelsey Lamare

This example code is in the public domain.



/ These constants won't change: const int analogPin = A1; // pin that the sensor is attached to const int ledPin = 6; // pin that the LED is attached to const int threshold = 400; // an arbitrary threshold level that's in the range of the analog input

void setup() { // initialize the LED pin as an output: pinMode(ledPin, OUTPUT); // initialize serial communications: Serial.begin(9600); }

void loop() { // read the value of the potentiometer: int analogValue = analogRead(analogPin);

// if the analog value is high enough, turn on the LED: if (analogValue < threshold) {

digitalWrite(3, HIGH); // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)

delay(1000); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(3, LOW); // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW

delay(50); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(9, HIGH); // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)

delay(1000); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(9, LOW); // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW

delay(50); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(6, HIGH); // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)

delay(1000); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(6, LOW); // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW

delay(50); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(11, HIGH); // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)

delay(1000); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(11, LOW); // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW

delay(50); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(10, HIGH); // turn the LED on (HIGH is the voltage level)

delay(1000); // wait for a second

digitalWrite(10, LOW); // turn the LED off by making the voltage LOW

delay(50); // wait for a second }

// print the analog value: Serial.println(analogValue); delay(1); // delay in between reads for stability }

Step 7: Finalizing the Patch

Once the embroidery was done and I had set up the electronics, I needed to put it together.

I used a regular sewing machine to sew the black linen onto the purple embroidered fabric. I then sewed both the embroidered piece of fabric and the one with all the electronics together. The Lilypad is on the side that is still accessible to me in case anything goes wrong. I sewed the patch onto the jacket, but I cut a hole in the jacket where the patch was so I could access the electronics.

Be the First to Share


    • Puzzles Speed Challenge

      Puzzles Speed Challenge
    • "Can't Touch This" Family Contest

      "Can't Touch This" Family Contest
    • CNC Contest 2020

      CNC Contest 2020

    3 Discussions


    5 months ago

    This is an awesome project! How do you wash the jacket?

    Fuzzy Monkey
    Fuzzy Monkey

    3 years ago

    This is absolutely beautiful! Incredible work :)