Overview

The classic light-up LED felt wristband project is a great way for beginners to learn about switches. To turn it on, you connect the ends into a loop that closes the circuit. Traditionally, the fastener is a metal snap connected to the battery and LED with conductive thread. But learning to work with conductive thread can take time, even for those who already know how to sew.

Peel-and-stick conductive fabric tape to the rescue! This no-sew version is quick and kid-friendly. It's also inexpensive enough to do with an entire class, because the battery holder is part of the fabric closure.

Playing with LED Options

Since this project is so simple, you might want to try it with different types of LEDs for different effects. You can even add more than one light to the parallel circuit -- as long as they are all the same kind of LED. I have included directions for standard LEDs (the kind with two long wires, known as leads), Chibitronics Circuit Stickers, and Adafruit Sequins. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

  • If you want to use different color standard LEDs together, give them the "throwie" test first. (A throwie is the simplest kind of LED circuit -- just a light and a battery.) Take the LEDs and slide them over the edge of the coin battery. Make sure the positive lead (usually the longer one) for each LED is on the positive side of the battery (marked with a "+"). If they all light up, you're good. In some color combinations, a few LEDs may look a bit dimmer, but still work. With other combinations, one or more LEDs may not work at all. For the example here, I used flashing LEDs for extra pizzazz.
  • Both the Adafruit LED Sequins and the Chibitronics Circuit Stickers have on-board resistors so you can use different colors together. However, you should still test them by placing them on the conductive tape before fastening them down "permanently." (It's not that hard to peel off the tape if needed.)
  • Adafruit Sequins can be held onto the project with the peel-and-stick conductive tape, but for added security, use the optional Z-axis tape on the back of each one. (See directions for details.)

Suggested Parts List -- Electronics

For each wristband, you'll need some conductive fabric tape, a 3-volt coin battery like the CR2032, and one or more LEDs (all of the same variety). I also recommend Z-axis conductive tape for holding the battery on when the wristband is open and for attaching Adafruit LED Sequins.

1 x Conductive Nylon Fabric Tape - 5mm Wide x 10 meters long
This Conductive Nylon tape doesn't crack when bent or twisted, so you can make all sorts of odd shapes and paths without worrying about broken traces. It comes with conductive glue on the opposite side, so you can tape it directly to capacitive pads. It's low resistance, only a few ohms per foot -- not quite as conductive as copper tape, but you can definitely power small components with it. You can't solder it, but you can sew it!
1 x Diffused 5mm Fast Flashing RGB LED - 10 pack
Inside these LEDs is a little chip programmed to cycle through every color at a fixed rate for a fun flashing effect.
1 x Diffused 5mm Slow Fade Flashing RGB LED - 10 pack
Same as above, but the colors change more slowly! Inside these LEDs is a little chip programmed to cycle through every color at a fixed rate for a fun flashing effect.
1 x CR2032 Lithium Coin Cell Battery
This non-rechargeable coin cell is CR2032 sized: 20mm diameter, 3.2mm thick. It has a nominal voltage output of 3V (although it starts a little high at 3.2V and slowly drifts down to 2.5V as it is used. The capacity is 220mAh assuming a draw of constant .2mA.
1 x Adafruit LED Sequins - Multicolor Pack of 5
Sew a little sparkle into your wearable project with an Adafruit LED Sequin. They only show a single color and they don't have digital control, but that makes them easier to use. You get one each of the following colors, matched with a resistor: warm white, ruby red, royal blue, emerald green, and rose pink.
1 x Chibitronics Color LEDs Add-On Pack
Circuit stickers are an imaginative and easy way to make fun electronics projects without coding, soldering, or experience. The stickers are super lightweight, thin, and flexible. They're perfect for educators, artists, and novices. This pack contains 10 Red, 10 Yellow, and 10 Blue LED stickers.
1 x 3M Z-Axis Conductive Tape
Z-axis tape by 3M can bond two conductive surfaces together and allow a small (under 100mA) current to flow through the tape. But here's the cool part: it's only conductive across the thickness of the tape itself, not along the length or width! Each order comes with a strip of 2" x 6" tape, enough for several projects. Just cut out the size you need and save the rest.

Suggested Materials List -- Household and Crafts Supplies

I used felt to make the wristband itself because it's easy to find, cheap, and doesn't fray. To make the wristband thick enough to stay closed, I doubled it with a layer of peel-and-stick felt. (See the directions for details.)

  • strip of felt about 2 inches wide and long enough to fit loosely around your wrist, adding about 1.5 inch of overlap (generally between 6 and 10 inches long)

  • strip of peel-and-stick felt the same size

  • adhesive dots (non-conductive -- like the kind used in scrapbooking)
  • electrical tape
  • extra scraps of felt for decoration
This guide was first published on Nov 13, 2018. It was last updated on Nov 13, 2018. This page (Overview) was last updated on Nov 13, 2018.