LED Bookmarks with Sew Electric


I got this idea from the book Sew Electric by Leah Buechley &Kanjun Qiu.


It’s a bookmark! It’s sewing! It’s circuitry!

Ok, so I may be a little more than excited by these bookmarks. I love that they not only allow for creativity but that they also are easy enough for someone like me to troubleshoot. I’ll admit it, I’m really not the greatest when it comes to all this STEM stuff. Ardunio? What’s that do?
But this book made it soooo much easier. Directions were clear and had illustrations to go along with them. They even had troubleshooting and explanations on how/why everything works. A must, for someone like me!

The only downside to this project? It can be a bit pricey. Their website (www.sewelectric.org) has all the materials you need for purchase or if you want to shop around there is always that option as well!

According to the instructions, here’s what you’re going to need:

Coin cell batteries – Run about $6.00 for a pack of 10

Conductive thread– $12.95 for a 60ft bobbin

Coin cell battery holder– $3.95 each w/out switch. $4.95 with switch.

LilyPad LED– $3.95 for a pack of five from the Arduino Store USA

Chalk or pencil for marking fabric- $3.00 pack of 16

Felt– Assorted 44 pieces for $7.88

Tacky glue– $2.79

Large-eyed Needle– $3.99 pack of 12


Paper and pencils for designing your sketch.

Total is about $70.00 for everything (except the scissors and paper and pencils) for a group of 10. The coin cell battery holders are where the cost is going to get you. However, what’s nice about the LilyPad battery holder is that it has an on and off switch for your LED light and holes to sew the battery holder onto the felt which is vital for the circuitry to work! You don’t necessarily have to have the on and off switch, though, because you could just take the battery out of the holder when you aren’t using it.

The site’s kit costs $40 for:
2 coin cell battery holders

3 coin cell batteries

1 LilyTiny

1 spool of conductive thread

5 LilyPad LEDs

4 snaps

1 set of needles


Tips and Tricks!
Create a plan first! I highly recommend having teens design their bookmark before the cutting and sewing begins. Going in “blind” without first drawing everything out, makes it so much trickier.

Our program lasted 1.5 hours but really it should have been a 2 hour program with the troubleshooting and design process.

I also recommend limiting your program to 10-15 teens, depending on how comfortable you feel with circuitry and sewing. My teens needed the most help with threading and sewing their battery holder onto their felt. I had them try to troubleshoot any issues they had with the circuitry themselves first and then would troubleshoot with them as needed.

Finally, this was seriously so much fun. I had a teen who decided to make the Statue of Liberty on his entire bookmark and then have her torch light up. The creativity that comes of them always amazes me!


Alas, because I was helping so much and “oohing” and “awing” over projects, I totally forgot to take photos. D’oh! However! I did find a picture on Sew Electric’s Facebook page from a “Creative Coding” program at MSU in Denver to give you an idea of the possibilities!


Image credit: Sew Electric, cvayoungartiststudio.weebly.com


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