Introduction: LED Kitty Cat Ears
This tutorial will teach you how to make a pair of light up cat ears for costume, tech, and kitty enthusiasts alike. The ears were designed and made in collaboration with Amped Atelier, an awesome tech couture design studio in the Bay Area. For the purpose of this tutorial, we will assume you have basic knowledge of sewing and LEDs.
Step 1: Gather Your Materials
Tools: scissors, needle nose pliers, ruler, hot glue gun, sharpie
Materials: felt for inserts, 2 types or colors of faux fur, Velcro, thread, conductive thread, battery holders, 4 LED's
For the battery holders we used LilyPads. they are also available on various tech and maker websites, but here is a link to them on Amazon.
Here's an example of LED diodes similar to the ones used in this tutorial. There are TONS of websites you can find them on for varying prices. Some change colors, some come in sets. Look around and decide what you like the best.
Step 2: Cut Out Your Ears
This step is not as gruesome as it sounds but the faux fur may get messy. On the back side of your fabric, draw a kitty ear shape. We did ours with curved edges for a more natural effect.
Fold your fabric in half, face to face, and cut around the outline of your ear. This will give you a left and right ear that are the same shape. (You are cutting out both ears at once, so 2 layers of fabric fur-to-fur-side.)
Step 3: Cut Out Inserts
Cut out 2 pieces of felt that are smaller than your ears. You want them to be a half inch smaller on every side. they should be able to fit inside the ears once they're sewn together.
On one of my ears I painted the outlines for where I will put my hardware for the LED's. If you don't want to do this with paint, sharpie will do the trick.
Step 4: Constructing the Ears
Start by cutting 4 pieces of iron on Velcro. You should have 2 rougher pieces of Velcro ad two softer pieces, and one should go on each ear so they can stick together. Make them smaller than the bottom of the ears by about half an inch on either side.
Peel the backing of the iron on Velcro off like a sticker, and place it at the bottom of the ear. Put a piece of scrap fabric over the ears and Velcro before ironing to prevent burning or melting. Ironing times will vary depending on fabric, but I did mine on medium heat for about 20 seconds, checking it every 5 or 10 seconds.
Step 5: Sew Ears Together
Once the Velcro is secure, put the ear and ear lining right side together, and pin together before sewing. Use a sewing machine or a needle and thread to sew a basting stitch all the way around, leaving the bottom of your ears open. Repeat on second ear and trim any loose threads you may have.
Step 6: Preparing LED's
Identify positive and negative legs (or leads). The longer leg is positive.
Use a sharpie to mark your positive leg. This will make it easier to tell them apart once you start working with them.
Use your needle nose pliers to roll up each leg into a small coil, the turn the coils to the side so you can lay the LED flat on your surface.
Step 7: Install LED's on Ear Inserts
Hot glue the battery holder and LED's to the ear inserts. Leave enough room between them to sew a path with the conductive thread.
Thread your needles with your conductive thread so its 2 threads thick, and tie a knock at the end. Use a whip stitch to sew the battery holder down to the felt going through the first positive hole. Go around the edge 4-5 times. This is the connection to the LED, so it needs to be strong.
Using a basting stitch, sew from the first positive point, up the ear insert, to the positive leg of the first LED. Sew around the leg the same way you sewed around the positive point in the battery pack, sewing the leg to the insert, and making sure it is strong and sturdy. Really, make sure! This is what will make the lights turn on. Continue the basting stitch to the second LED, and sew the second positive leg to the insert.
Tie off the end of your thread and tie a few knots. Conductive thread can fray easily so do an extra knot and make it tight! (If this hasn't been clear, making this connection strong is important)
Now, repeat all of those sewing steps for the negative side, making a second path from battery holder, to negative leg, to second negative leg.
Making sure you thread does not come undone is important (again). You want your ears to last, so make sure your knots are tight, and for added security put a glue for fraying or clear nail polish on the knots of your conductive thread.
Step 8: Check Your Work
You should now have 2 ear inserts ready to go, and 2 ears sewn together. Now is a good time to test you lights and make sure they work properly before continuing.
If the LED's don't work, double check that none of your thread tore or frayed.
If the lights do work properly, do a happy dance, and turn your furry ears right side in.
Step 9: Attach Ears to Head Band
To attach the ears to the headband, you can use a whip stitch again. Using a regular needle and thread (no need for conductive thread) sew through one layer of the ears, then all the way around the head band. Position your ear where you would like it on the head band (towards the top, but off to one side) and then pull the thread tight. Do this all along the edge of the ear, the more you sew the better the ears will stay attached. Make sure you only sew through one layer so you can still open the ear and remove the insert, I did the back layer but either one is OK. Tie off the end and tug on the ear a little to make sure they are attached to your headband well enough to hold up through a costumed night of playing and dancing. Also open them up and check that you didn't bock your access to the insert.
Step 10: Show Them Off
Put on you ears, paint some whiskers on your face, and head to the nearest Halloween party.