Its holiday party season and this year you can be the shining star of the party with a light-up menorah sweater! This is a sewn circuit project using relatively inexpensive materials that are easily found online and at the craft store. Even better, the project has switches for each "candle" so you can light up different lights for each night!
Step 1: Materials
Conductive thread (stainless steel like this from SparkFun https://www.sparkfun.com/products/13814)
9 yellow LEDs - 3, 5 or 10 mm (https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9594)
8 Metal snaps - brass or nickel-plated brass size 1/0 recommended (or 2/0) available at most craft or fabric stores
CR2032 Coin cell battery available from SparkFun, IKEA, etc.
Iron on glitter vinyl in two colors (silver and gold recommended) https://www.michaels.com/cricut-iron-on-glitter/M1...
Hobby knife (or CNC vinyl cutter)
Dental pick or vinyl weeding tools https://www.michaels.com/cricut-weeding-tool-kit/D...
Iron and Ironing board or towel
Cotton press cloth (can use a clean cotton dish towel)
Hand sewing needles
A Sweater or t-shirt - pre-wash before ironing on the vinyl
Download the menorah template or make your own design
Step 2: Cut Out Your Glitter Menorah
1. Download the pdf of the menorah template and print on a regular 8.5 X 11 piece of paper. Lightly trace onto your vinyl. Or draw your own menorah and flames directly onto your glitter vinyl.
2. Using the hobby knife cut into the glitter vinyl along the menorah template. You want to press hard enough to cut through the vinyl layer, but not hard enough to also cut through the sticky clear liner that is on the vinyl.
3. Weed the vinyl using a dental pick or weeding tools. This involves removing all the little pieces of vinyl that are not part of your final image. You should end up with only the menorah part stuck to the clear sticky liner.
4. Cut out 9 flames in gold glitter vinyl.
Step 3: Iron-on Your Glitter Vinyl Menorah
1. Pre-wash your shirt/sweater
2. Figure out where you want your menorah to go on your shirt and mark with pins.
3. Set your iron to the Cotton/Linen setting (generally the highest temperature setting). Make sure the steam setting is OFF for steam irons.
4. Use the iron to preheat the area of the sweater where you will be applying your vinyl menorah for 10-15 seconds.
5. Place the weeded vinyl, smooth clear liner side up and sticky side down, onto the preheated sweater. Cover with your cotton pressing cloth
6. Apply medium pressure with the iron for 25-30 seconds.
7. Flip the front of the sweater inside out, cover with your pressing cloth and apply medium pressure with the iron to the back of the material for an additional 25-30 seconds.
8. Let cool on the ironing board for 1-2 minutes.
9. Remove sticky clear lining. If it looks like any of the edges haven't stuck you can press them down again using the press cloth between your iron and the vinyl.
10. Using a ruler line up the flames above the menorah and iron-on the vinyl using the previous steps.
Step 4: Make Your LEDs Sewable
There are some fantastic sewable LEDs that are readily available online. But we can also use regular 3 or 5 mm LEDs for sewn circuits with a little prep work.
You will need to know which leg is positive and negative. The longer leg is positive. The negative leg of the LED is shorter and has a small flat section at the base of the dome. Either identify the flat side for the negative leg, or mark one leg with a permanent marker so you can tell which side is positive and which is negative.
1. Using your pliers coil a leg of the LED around the plier tip going all the way from the tip up to the plastic dome.
2. Repeat on the other leg.
3. Using your fingers separate the legs so your LED sits flat on a surface with the dome up and the legs to either side.
Step 5: Sew Your Circuit - Info and Best Practices
Look at the chanukah menorah circuit image or download the PDF circuit diagram. It may be helpful to line up all the components on the printout so you are sure of the orientation as you put the project together.
We will be creating a parallel circuit so we can light each candle individually (except the middle candle - the shamash). A parallel circuit has two or more paths for current to flow through. Voltage is the same across each component of the parallel circuit.
We will use metal snaps as a cheap and easy switch to turn on and off each "candle". If you don't want to do the switches you could omit the snaps and sew directly to each LED but then all the candles would be on all the time.
You will need to hand sew the project using a whipstitch and a running stitch. Look at some Youtube videos or sewing tutorials if you have not done any hand sewing. A whipstitch goes through the fabric and around a component to attach them together, and a running stitch goes in and out of the fabric in a line to move along the fabric.
The key to sewing circuits is to have very tight connections of the conductive thread to the metal parts of the components. You can go over the component several times with the thread to ensure a tight connection. If you have trouble keep the component on the fabric and sewing with the conductive thread you can first glue the components down with a little hot glue or lightly sew them on with regular sewing thread. Knot your conductive thread well, as it has a tendency to unravel.
As you sew be sure to trim the thread tails short after you make knots. Long threads can cross to other sections of your circuit and cause a short circuit.
Step 6: Sew Your Circuit
1. Line up your LEDs so the negative leg coil is at the top of the flame facing the neck of the shirt, and the positive leg coil is facing down towards the menorah branches.
2. Cut a piece of conductive thread approximately as long as your arm. Pass the thread through the hole, double it and tie a knot at the end. Starting at the positive side of the battery holder, whipstitch the metal part of the component to the shirt, going around and through the hole at least 3 times. Using a running stitch, sewn through the menorah following the red dashed line to the right branch.
3. At the top of the right branch sew the conductive thread to the first half of a metal snap. Each snap has 2 sides, separate the sides and pick one side to sew with a whipstitch to the shirt. Go through all 4 holes on the snap with your conductive thread. Save the other side of the snap for a later step.
4. After sewing on the snap on the first branch, continue to follow the red dashed line to the left with a running stitch to sew the snap on the second branch.
5. Progressing from right to left, sew snaps to each of the branches of the menorah. Sew the middle candle (the shamash) directly onto the positive coil of the LED because it will be on every night so it doesn't need a snap. If you run out of conductive thread you can start a new piece of thread on any snap or LED. Just be sure to go over the metal part of the component tightly 2 or 3 times with both the old and new thread to ensure a good connection. Tying threads together will not give you a reliable connection.
6. Cut another long piece of thread and starting with the negative side of the battery, whipstitch around the metal end then use a running stitch to go up the left side of the menorah. Follow the black dashed line in the picture or pdf.
7. At the top of the left branch whipstitch the negative coil of the LED to the sweater going around the metal leg at least 3 times.
8. Progressing from left to right, connect all the negative legs of the LEDs in a row by whipstitch around each 2-3 times and then using a running stitch to sew between the flames. Knot the thread well when you get to the last LED.
9. Sewing the switch: Look at the close-up labelled photo for more guidance. For each LED you will attach the other side of the snap using a short piece of conductive thread.
9a. First, whipstitch the coiled leg of the positive side of the LED to the shirt going through the leg and shirt at least 2 times.
9b. Now line up the remaining half of the snap with the positive coil and continue your whipstitch through one hole in the snap.
9c. Go through the positive coil and the hole in the snap 2 or 3 times to make a loop attaching the snap to the LED. You want enough slack in the thread so the snap can close with the other half of the snap you already sewed to the shirt, but not so much that it touches that snap all the time. Once you are sure the snap is in the correct position, knot the conductive thread and cut off the extra.
10. Repeat sewing the other halves of the snaps to the LED coil for the other 7 candles to make switches.
Remember: keep your conductive thread tight around electronic components and trim long thread tails so you don't have short circuits.
Step 7: Light It Up!
1. Place the coin cell battery in the battery holder matching positives and negatives. The center candle should be lit!
2. Close the snaps to complete the circuits for each of the candles.
3. Spin a dreidle, eat some latkes, and have fun for eight nights!
- Is your battery good?
- do you have two separate sides of the circuit? A positive side and a negative side that do not connect except through LEDs?
- Do you have any short circuits?
- Is your conductive thread loose on the battery connector?
Some lights lit but not others?
- Is your conductive thread loose on some of the snaps or LEDs?
- Do you have conductive threads accidentally touching other parts of the circuit?