STEAMhome: LED Brooch
Make your own LED brooches!
Whether you're looking for a unique craft project or a hands-on circuit learning lesson, creating an LED brooch with kids ages 8 years and up has it all.
Wearable technology has grown in the maker world over the years with designs ranging from a simple LED Binder Clip Ring to designing clothes that light up when you move, expanding our understanding of both technology and fashion. This LED brooch project infuses technology and fashion together. You will learn how a simple electric circuit works while using multiple tools and materials to design a fun new accessory.
- 1 large (5mm) or 2+ small (2mm) LEDs*
- 3-volt button cell lithium battery (CR2032)
- Felt material in multiple colors
- Embroidery needle
- Hot glue gun and glue sticks
- Scotch Tape
* Ebay has a large variety of small electronics like LEDs and 3-volt batteries, especially if you want to buy in bulk. These items can also typically be found at your local hardware or electronics store.
- Trace a pattern or draw your own design onto a piece of felt. If you're layering pieces, trace these on desired colored felt as well. Cut out and use the hot glue gun to piece together. Here are the beginning stages of a spooky, glowing-eyed skeleton:
- Once the glue is dry and cooled, flip your design over to the back and hot glue a pinback about 1/2 inch from the top of the main felt piece. This is how you'll attach the brooch to your clothing.
- To attach the LED(s), first take a pen or fine point marker to mark where the holes should be made to allow the leads (the LED legs) through the felt.
Place the LED (leads still straight) over where you want it placed and make two dots where the leads meet the felt. If your design uses 2 or more LEDs, the pair of holes for the leads of the second LED must be close enough to the first LED, so the leads can attach to the same 3-volt button cell battery you will attach in Step 10.
Smaller LEDs (2mm) are best for adding multiple LEDs to the design because they draw less power from the battery.
- Teachable Moment: Notice how one LED lead is shorter than the other? Typically, the shorter lead is called the cathode and represents a negative charge, while the longer lead is an anode and represents a positive charge. Learn more about LEDs in this Instructables lesson.
- Now it's time to make two holes in the location where you want to place each lead by using an embroidery needle or other fine point tool. Put the two leads through the two holes from the front side. Repeat for each LED you want on the brooch.
- Bend the two LED leads so they are flat against the back of the felt piece.
Now place the 3V cell battery flat against the back of the felt piece near the leads. Bend the leads so the negative lead (cathode) is against the negative side of the battery (look for the "-" sign) and the positive lead (anode) is against the positive side of the battery (with the "+" sign). It should look similar to the back of the skull brooch:
- When both leads are touching the battery, the LED should light up. If it does not light up, play with the placement of the battery and LEDs. Make sure the leads aren't touching each other or overlapping, flip over the battery, etc.
- With the battery and leads still touching, place a piece of tape across your battery to the back of the felt piece.
- Attach the brooch to your favorite jacket, backpack, or hat to show off your new wearable tech brooch!
- Extra Credit: Explore what types of things you can do or add to make the circuit (LED light) turn off and on.
*This LED Brooch project was adapted from an Instructables post: Wearable LED Flower Brooch and photos were provided by SJPL Librarian, David Munger.
More Wearable Project Ideas
This project can be easily adapted to add LEDs to any item of clothing to create a light up hat or deck out your favorite ugly Christmas sweater. For more wearable tech project ideas, use your library card to check out Make: Wearable Electronics by Kate Hartman or explore online at makezine.com/tag/wearables.
STEAMhome is a blog series sharing science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) projects with families and caregivers to make at home with children. For more STEAM program ideas and resources, check out the Maker[Space]Ship webpage.