This project was conceived as part of a summer class for my MLIS program at St. Catherine University. Our class explored makerspaces and the Maker Movement, their application in libraries, and different tools used in makerspaces. Here's our blog, if you want to see some really creative projects:
For my personal project, I decided to construct a lamp that could be hung on the wall behind my bed for use as a night light, or for situations when I didn't need a bright overhead lamp. I knew I wanted the lamp to be pretty portable and lightweight, and covered in fabric which I could ideally change easily if I changed decor. I also wanted it to be powered by a battery and not give off much heat. LED's seemed like the perfect solution! I know next to nothing about wiring, but this project is easy even for complete beginners.
Materials & Tools:
12' Embroidery Hoop (wood, not plastic)
Fabric large enough to cover the hoop and light enough in color for the LED's to shine through.
(This could be a remnant, an old T-shirt, a pillowcase--you can get creative!)
LED ribbon with adhesive backing--I bought a 36" extension designed to plug into a larger strip, because I didn't need a lot and it was more economical.
Hand saw or other sharp tool to remove metal parts from embroidery hoop
Power supply (The LED ribbon I used requires 12V. You could use one 9V battery, one 9.6V battery, or 8 AA batteries to power it, or find a 12V adapter with a barrel plug, which will connect to the end of the LED's.)
Step 1: Gather Supplies & Alter Embroidery Hoop
First, make sure to procure all of your materials. For less frustration, test your LED's with your desired power supply before you begin constructing the lamp. You may also want to use some plain muslin or cotton to figure out what size to make your cover, before cutting any special fabric you purchase for the final product.
The next step is to unscrew the two parts of your embroidery hoop, leaving two separate hoops. You will notice that one is larger than the other. As you will be gluing the two together, this could be problematic. However, you will be removing the two metal attachments from the larger hoop. Use a hand saw, a power saw, or other sharp tool to cut the hoop on both sides, removing only the part with the metal attached. You should end up with a gap in your larger hoop. This gap will be convenient later as a place to put the power cord from the LED ribbon.
Step 2: Glue Your Hoops Together
Next, take your two hoops and glue them together. I used Krazy Glue, but wood glue would work also. Krazy Glue has the advantage of bonding very quickly, but you must also be very careful not to glue your hands to your project! Wood glue would require some clamps to hold the hoops together for best results. Since the two pieces are flexible, I found it very easy to put a few drops of Krazy Glue on the inside edge of the smaller hoop, then lay my larger hoop down on top, beginning with the area near the gap that you created in the last step. You may then keep applying a few drops of glue at a time, making sure to press the two hoops together for 30 seconds to bond properly. You can work your way around the hoops bit by bit until the larger hoop has been completely glued to the smaller one. This type of gradual attachment ensures an even joining of the separate pieces.
Step 3: Cover Your Hoop With Fabric
Next, lay your glued hoop down over your chosen fabric. Carefully trace around the shape of your hoop, making your traced circle at least 1 to 1 1/2 inches larger than the actual hoop. This will give you the extra fabric needed to attach on the inside of the hoop. You may have also used plain fabric, or even butcher paper, to test how large a circle you would need. In that case, use your template to trace instead of estimating an approximate size.
Then, lay your hoop on top of the reverse side of your fabric, centering it in the larger circle. The gap that you created in the larger hoop can be facing up or down, this will work either way. Using Krazy Glue, place a few drops on the upper rim of the inside of your hoop.
Beginning at one side of the circle, wrap your extra fabric over the edge of the hoop, attaching it to the inside with the glue. Press and hold for 30 seconds, and continue around the circle, attaching a few inches at a time. You will have a little overlapping of fabric; this is expected. Gloves may come in handy here so that you are not scraping Krazy Glue off of your fingers for days. Whether or not you use gloves, be cautious about not bonding yourself to your lamp! The finished product should look like the second picture, fabric stretched tight over your hoop.
Step 4: Attach the LED Ribbon
Once you have a covered lamp structure, it is time to attach the LED's. Place the cord at the end of the LED ribbon in the gap you created in the larger embroidery hoop. If you glued your fabric with the gap on the bottom, snip a small hole in your fabric to stuff the cord through.
Then, place the ribbon around the inside of your hoop. You can peel the protective strip off the adhesive on the back of the LED tape, and work your way around the circle again, laying the ribbon where you want it. I placed mine right up against the fabric; you may choose to center yours on the line where you joined your two hoops together. Whatever works for you! Any excess LED may be trimmed using scissors. Between every three LED's, the tape has positive and negative connection points. The tape may be cut on the line between those points. With the size of the hoop, I only had to trim 3 LED's from the end of my strip.
Step 5: Attach Power Supply, Hang, Enjoy!
So here's where this lamp can really be customized. If you're a newbie to lighting projects (like me), you can purchase a plug in 12V adapter that will attach directly to your lamp. This is easy, but means that the lamp can only be hung near an outlet, and you have the added annoyance of an unsightly cord (as seen in the first picture above).
With a little tinkering, you can make this lamp battery powered. The easiest way to do this would be something like the battery holder with switch pictured above. Everything you need all in one package, and it plugs directly to your LED tape! I intend to procure this (it may be purchased online) in the near future.
Another way would be to raid your local surplus or electronics store and find battery holders, switches, circuit boards--you name it! This lamp could easily be programmed to work with an Arduino if one had the knowledge and the parts. A little soldering or electrical tape and it can be powered by batteries and hung virtually anywhere!
The lamp will hang by a nail or thumbtack, or attach to a wall using Command strips on either side.
If there are any questions, or you have great tips to improve this project, let me know in the comments!