This little, inexpensive softie gives cub scouts an electrical circuit experience, exposure to sewable electronics and a very cute little take-home project.
It is written in excruciating detail as it is intended for use by a day-of-event volunteer at Cub Scout Day Camp in Long Beach, CA.
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When you plan a camp for 100 odd youth, you need to create crafts that are inexpensive and which can be adapted for the differences in ages and skill levels. So, as I worked on this craft for Cub Scout Day Camp in Long Beach, I was tasked to adapt one of my (very cute) standby crafts so that it could be successfully executed by all ages and skill levels... in 45 minutes.
You can see the original craft here - Sock softies at 1:22. It takes about 3 hours for a 3rd - 4th grader to make a sock softie.
The following adaptations were made, so as to enable successful execution by the (assisted) incoming first graders (Tigers) and unassisted second-fifth graders (Wolves, Bears, Webelos). I also made a few changes to "scoutify" the craft, adding some touches that reflect scout culture. The softie's eyes will light up when the softie places its hand on its heart for the Pledge of Allegiance, and the colors of the softie are blue and gold (cub scout colors). The softie also wears a scarf appropriate to the cub scout's rank.
Below I list the changes and advantages.
- Instead of socks, I used felt, which is easier to work with than the woven sock.
- I used embroidery thread, which is easier for little hands to manipulate.
- The stiffness of the felt and embroidery thread enabled me to use a running straight stitch, which is much easier than the overlock seam stitch that I was using.
- The craft lets the boy draw his own shape, giving it some personalization
- The body front and body back are asymmetric. one side has arms and legs, the other does not. This makes the pattern much easier, and the scout only has to stitch around two ovals (instead of along arms and legs also).
- The thickness of the felt permits us to hide the exposed conductive materials by sandwiching the thread between a single layer of felt.
- The entire circuit is stitched on the part of the body that includes the arms and legs. If the youth runs out of time and is unable to complete the softie by stitching the front to the back, he's still got a working circuit to take home.
The last step includes some variations for those who have access to a laser cutter.
The instructable is written with a certain shape and certain colors in mind but ultimately, if the scout chooses to make something different, it's perfectly acceptable to let him take a different path.
Cub Scout requirements
Tiger Cub Elective 2 can be satisfied if the cub scout gifts the finished product.
Tiger Cub Elective 18 can be satisfied by providing a button and using it as the belly-button.
Wolf Cub Requirement 5, partial. Tools for Fixing and Building (needlenose pliers).
Step 1: Gather Materials
You will need the following supplies.
- Blank white paper
- Felt by the Yard in royal blue and khaki. Make sure to have enough blue felt available for each youth to have an 8 1/2" x 11" square. Joann's Fabrics.
- Felt in orange, light blue, gold/yellow, red. This will be used to add a scarf appropriate to the scout's rank. Orange for Tigers, Gold/Yellow for Wolves, Light Blue for Bears, Red for Webelos.
- Olive green marker (for Webelos to make an olive green/red plaid pattern on their scarves)
- Gold craft thread. This is the single twisted strand embroidery thread. I used Iris thread that I got at JoAnn's in a bulk pack. (Not yet sure how to get a lot of yellow or gold, as these are all multi-color packs).
- Conductive thread. I use the 30' SparkFun bobbins of conductive thread.
- Large-Eyed needles (fits gold craft thread and conductive thread) I use the Sparkfun needles
- Good craft or fabric scissors (must be able to cut felt).
- Soft fiberfill. I used Fairfield Silky Soft, and it was really perfect for this application.
- Yellow LEDs (2 per softie) I buy the bulk 100 pk from Sparkfun.
- CR2032 battery (one per softie). I'm buying in bulk, and got a good price here.
- needlenose pliers
Step 2: Draw the Softie
In this step, there is some opportunity for individual design. At minimum, we need a right arm and hand, a torso and a head. Here's the instruction I would give:
Match top and bottom edges of paper and crease along center.
Draw a large oval for the body, and attach a smaller one for the head.
Draw two arms with hands (not advised to draw too much detail).
Draw legs and feet.
Adjustments for younger ages: Make sure all parts of drawing connect.
Step 3: Cut Out Softie Body Pattern
Cut along outer edge of the drawn figure. It will produce two similarly shaped pieces. Place one aside for later use.
Step 4: Cut Out Shape in Blue or Khaki Felt
Blue felt is relevant for all cub scouts, but Webelos scouts may choose to use the khaki felt. Let them choose.
Place the paper pattern on felt and pin in place. Cut along the outer edge of the drawn figure and place aside.
Step 5: Cut Body Back
In this step we will create a second pattern piece by taking one of the pattern pieces and cutting off the arms and legs. Lay the new pattern piece onto the blue or khaki felt. Pin in place and cut out in felt.
Note: This is a significant adjustment to the original design, so as to avoid little hands having to sew around arms, hands, legs and feet. We will be stuffing the head and body, but the arms and legs will be single-layered.
Step 6: Demonstrate the Circuit
At this point you will demonstrate how the circuit will need to be connected in order to work.
You need to cover the following points and whatever other points you can think up.
- Battery has positive and negative
- LED has positive and negative
- Electricity flows through the circuit when all parts are properly connected. (demonstrate)
- Show what happens if a/ the LED legs and b/ the battery are connected incorrectly.
- They want to be able to keep track of which legs are which, and we will be connecting positives together. To keep track, I put the positives at the top of the head.
- When enough electricity flows through the circuit, the LEDs will light up.
- When too much electricity flows through the circuit, the LEDs will burn out.
- We know that the battery we are using will not put too much electricity into the circuit.
- (you may care to demonstrate what happens when too much electricity goes through the circuit using a 9v battery or battery pack that delivers 6v) and mention that we would have to add a resistor to avoid damage to the LED. Other than this mention, we are deliberately not covering resistance.
Note: Adjustments for 1st graders. You may just want to skip the explanations, and just show them the circuit lighting up the LEDs.
Step 7: Carefully Place the LEDs Into Position on the Head
Piercing the felt with the LED's legs should be done carefully, so as to avoid bending the legs of the LED more than desired. My convention is to place the LEDs positive legs closer to the top of the head.
Make sure the legs are far enough apart to not contact each other on the other side.
Turn over the felt piece and form a couple of loops with each wire leg. You may use your fingers or a pen tip, but a pair of needle nose pliers will also be helpful.
Note: For the younger participants, you may just want to help. If you have an awl, you can poke holes to help this step along.
Step 8: Using Conductive Thread, Sew a Pad on the Right Hand
Thread the needle with conductive thread and tie a knot at one end. (Do not double the thread. It is sufficient to do a single thread.)
Sew through the palm of the right hand several times. If you are facing the LEDs, it will be to your left.
Step 9: Connect the Pad to the Positive Legs of the LED
The felt is thick enough to permit you to pass the needle through the felt layer. If you can do this, the conductive thread will be sandwiched within a single layer of felt. It eliminates the possibility of shorting the circuit by accidental contact of the uninsulated threads. Feed the needle through the felt up to the first LED's top leg (positive) and sew the loop in place several times. Then feed it to the second LED's top leg (positive) and sew in place several times.
Feed the thread through the felt again to some random location near the top of the head. Cut the thread. This will reduce the chances of the thread coming loose.
Note: Younger kids may not be able to keep the thread from showing through the felt. It's ok if it shows, better on the back of the felt, which will become the inside of the softie.
Step 10: Sew a Pad Over the Heart and Connect the Negative Legs
Tie a knot in the conductive thread and sew a pad over the heart by looping it through the same spot in the felt. (The heart will be to the right side of the figure if it is facing you.)
Sew a path to the negative legs, sewing the conductive thread over each loop several times as you connect it.
Step 11: Test the Circuit
At this point, you can place the battery on top of the heart pad (negative side down) and place the palm pad onto the positive terminal of the battery.
The eyes should light up.
Step 12: Cut and Sew a Pocket Battery Holder
Cut out a piece of felt that is just bigger than the size of the battery and shaped like a pocket. Cut a hole about 1/2" in diameter in the pocket. This will enable electrical contact when the hand is placed over the heart. Use a running stitch to attach the pocket over the heart.
Note: If the younger kids are struggling, you can end here.
Step 13: Sew and Stuff
Thread the needle with the yellow/gold embroidery thread and tie a knot at the end. For economy, use a single thread (not doubled).
Using stitches that are about 1/4 inch or less, use a running stitch to join both sides together along the outside edge of the head and torso.
Start at the top of the head, with the needle inserted between the two layers (this will put the knot in a place where it won't show).
Work your way around the head and torso until you get 3/4 of the torso completed. "Park" the needle in the felt.
Take a small amount of the fiberfill and insert into the torso, making sure it's all inside. Close the torso by sewing around the remaining opening.
Do the same with the head.
I did a double stitch at the neck to strengthen the seam.
Note: For the younger cubs, let them do whatever size stitch they want. 8)
Step 14: Make the Scarf
Cut a triangle for the scarf, using the color appropriate to the level to which the scout will be transitioning.
Orange for Tiger cubs (incoming 1st graders)
Yellow/Gold for Wolf cubs (incoming 2nd graders)
Blue for Bear cubs (incoming 3rd graders)
Red for Webelos (incoming 4th and 5th graders)
If you are making a Webelos scarf, have the scout draw a plaid pattern onto the scarf with the olive marker.
Fasten the scarf in place around the neck of the softie. You may use a bit of embroidery thread to tack it in place with a couple of stitches, or use a tiny rubber band.
Step 15: Variations: Laser Cutter Options
I add this step for those who have access to a laser cutter.
Note: I do not yet have access to a laser cutter, but if I had one, these are some of the variations I would explore.
You can use a laser cutter to burn images into a thick fabric layer. A heart, a fleur de lis - reminiscent of a scout symbol (check with your Scout Council to make sure it would be ok to do this).
- Change the body color to tan felt and use a layer of blue to make a shirt.
- You can make a template of shapes (all the same or all different, just for variety) and pre-cut a variety of the felt shapes as an additional assist for Tiger cubs.
- If you do the above, you can also pre-cut sewing holes along the perimeter of the torso and head. This is a significant help for the Tiger cubs.
- If you have access to a computer lab and cutter during the camp, you can step up the demo quite a bit and show the design portion on the computers then route to the cutter.
- You can pre-make the scarves and burn in a teeny tiny Tiger, Wolf, Bear insignia onto it with the cutter.
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If you can think of any other Scoutifications for this project, please add to the comments!