How to Make Light-up Shirts

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Things You'll Need

  • Shirt

  • Embroidery hoop

  • 3 or 4 LED lights in your choice of color

  • Disappearing ink marker

  • Conductive thread

  • Hand sewing/embroidery needle

  • Coincell battery

  • Coincell batter holder

  • Switch

  • Needle-nose pliers

Sew LEDs onto a shirt to make it light up.

Stitch a row of LED lights onto the shoulder, sleeves or front pocket of a shirt to make it light up and stand out. You will take your crafting to the next level once you learn how to work with soft circuits and conductive threads. You can start with a pre-made button-up shirt or T-shirt, or sew your own shirt and then attach the lights to it. Sewing a switch into the shirt lets you turn the lights on and off.


Step 1

Position your shirt on the embroidery hoop. Drape the part of the shirt that you will add the lights to over the inner circle of the hoop, then push the outer circle over top. Pull the shirt tightly and tighten the screw at the top of the hoop to secure the shirt.

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Step 2

Arrange the LEDs in a row or pattern (such as a circle or flower shape) on the shirt. Once you've determined how you want the lights to look, mark where each light will go with a disappearing ink marker.

Step 3

Thread the needle with the conductive thread. Tie a knot in the opposite end of the thread.

Step 4

Use the needle-nose pliers to bend the long lead (the metal wire that sticks out of the bottom) of each LED into a square, coiling the wire all the way up to the base of the light.


Step 5

Use the pliers to coil the shorter lead of each LED up to the base of the light. Coil each lead on the switch, as well.

Step 6

Position the first LED on the shirt and hold it in place with your fingers.


Step 7

Push the needle up through the shirt, coming from the inside. Stitch around the square coil of the LED and push the needle back into the shirt. Continue to stitch around the square-coiled lead, until it is securely fastened to the shirt.

Step 8

Place the battery holder on the inside of the shirt, near the first LED. Sew from the first lead of the LED to the positive end of the battery holder. Stitch around the positive end (there should be a small metal loop) until it is securely attached to the shirt.


Step 9

Stitch from the positive end of the battery holder to where you will place the next LED. Sew the square-coiled lead of the LED to the shirt in the same manner that you sewed the first LED. Repeat, attaching the square coils of the remaining LEDs.

Step 10

Tie the conductive thread at the end, to secure it. Wrap the thread under itself, so that it does not unravel and short circuit. Cut the end of the thread.


Step 11

Re-thread the needle if you need to and tie the end of the thread. Push the needle up through the shirt and stitch the rounded coil lead of the first LED to the shirt. Make sure you do not touch the thread used to sew the positive, squared leads with the thread you are using to sew the negative, round leads. Stitch the remaining rounded leads in place. Do not tie off and trim the thread.


Step 12

Cut a small hole in the shirt and push the switch through it, keeping the wire leads on the inside of the shirt. Stitch one lead to the shirt, using the same thread you used to sew the negative LED leads in place. Tie off and cut the thread.

Step 13

Re-thread your needle and knot the end. Stitch the second lead of the switch in place, the same way you sewed the LED leads.


Step 14

Stitch from the second lead on the switch to the negative end of the battery holder. Sew the negative end of the battery holder in place, then knot the thread end and trim.

Step 15

Turn the switch so that the battery holder is off. Insert the coincell battery into the holder. Flip the switch and watch your shirt light up.


Make sure that the negative thread and the positive thread do not touch at any point.


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