Sunday, November 13, 2011

Working with lights

How sparkling do you want your quilted project? I'm working on creating quilts that can be lit with battery operated LED lights or fiber optic lights. Both are really cool, but the LEDs are actually easier.

Here are some of the projects I've done so far.

I used Quilt In A Day's Pumpkin Grins pattern to create the backgrounds for the following wall hangings. I did alter the face features, based on another pattern with a number of different sketches. Both of the pumpkin faces use strands of 6 LED lights and a small watch battery. I chose to keep the features black, and accent with green lights. It really looks spooky at night. I quilted the background with a spider web effect using ecru nylon quilting thread, so it looks like a shimmery web.

A different face in a second wall hanging. I call this one the Smirky Pumpkin.

A few extra steps go into adding lights. First, the design needs to be suitable for the lights used. In the above quilts, the face features worked well. We adjusted the features to work with the spacing of the little bulbs, which is about 4 inches. You can't sew over the wires, and the lights need to be attached. We tried just placing the lights under the fabric, and while it's pretty, it isn't very bright. I decided to mark the placement of the lights and create tiny button holes, push the bulb through, and then sew behind it to keep it in place. After the lights are attached, I layer the quilt sandwich, but have to cut a slit in it to pass the battery pack to the backing. I quilt the top as usual, but skip over the wires. You really do have to know where they are, because if you break a wire at this point, it can't be fixed easily. You would have to take out the quilting to access the lights, but that could be lots of ripping. I often test the lights as I am sewing, to make sure the delicate wires are still working. Once the quilting holds them in place, they aren't as delicate, but can break if the quilt is folded along the wires. Here's another adaptation for the winter season.

In this one, you can actually see the tiny LED lightbulbs that poke through the fabric. After finishing the quilting and binding, I add a small pocket on the back to support and hide the battery pack, as well as a hanging sleeve and magnet tape, so I can put it on my steel door.

I'm teaching classes on these projects, and designing other quilts for class that can use the lights. It's fun and enlightening (sorry, had to have at least one pun, lol). These and other lit projects are also for sale in my Etsy shop, MaryMackMadeMine. Check it out. There is a link on the right sidebar. My lights are provided by

No comments: