Make the Menorah

I looked and looked (and looked!) for a silly Hanukkah sweater to use in this project. I saw around 1,000 ugly Christmas sweaters but not a single Hanukkah sweater could be found, silly or otherwise.

This seems somehow unfair. But, all the more reason to make our own! 

Find a sweater that's got a fairly tight weave and fits somewhat loosely. Blue is good.

Heat Transfer Vinyl

There are lots of iron-on vinyl colors and brands available. I'm using an iridescent vinyl from Siser. Check out their site for lots of different options. You can also find this stuff at almost any craft store, near the vinyl cutting machines.

Download the menorah graphic linked below.

If you're cutting by hand, you can print out menorah_print.pdf to use as a pattern. Feel free to size it up or down to fit your sweater. On me, 8" wide is just the right size.

If you're using a cutting machine, upload menorah.svg to your cutting machine's software program. Resize it to your preferred size and get ready to cut.

Cutting with a Vinyl Cutting Machine

Heat Transfer Vinyl (HTV) can be a bit tricky to work with. The mistake I most often make is forgetting to place it on my cutting mat face down. You want the machine to cut through the back two layers and leave the acetate film protecting the front intact.

Use the Heat Transfer Vinyl setting and it should come out perfect.

Remove the design from the cutting mat. Still working from the back side of the vinyl, weed out everything that isn't the menorah. Leave the menorah design stuck to the acetate layer.

Cutting by Hand

If you're cutting by hand, it can be tricky to cut through only the back two layers. It's possible if you're gentle with the knife, but it may be easier to cut through all 3 layers and then put another layer of paper or acetate over the top when you're ready to iron.

Placement

Decide where you want your design to lay on your sweater. I recommend putting the sweater on and pinning the design in place so you know how it will look when it's being worn. It seems to lay out much differently on the body than on the table.

Remember to leave room above the candles for the NeoPixel "flames".

Interfacing

Most sweaters are fairly stretchy. Heat Transfer Vinyl is decidedly not stretchy. This could become a problem - if the sweater stretches too much, your menorah will rip.

The easiest solution is to add a patch of fusible interfacing to the inside of the sweater to take the stretchiness out of the area where we'll fix the vinyl. Fusible interfacing is sold by the yard at fabric stores, or you can find it online. It comes in a variety of weights. Its purpose is to stabilize an area of fabric and keep it from stretching, so it's perfect for applications like this.

I'm using a medium weight interfacing since I have a medium weight sweater.

Cut a piece of interfacing a little bigger than your menorah design. Leave an extra inch or so on the top for the flames. Round the corners (I didn't do this for my sweater but I wish I had).

Turn your sweater inside out and fuse the interfacing to the wrong side of the area where your menorah will be. Don't fuse the menorah itself yet.

Use a marker to transfer the layout of the menorah to the interfacing. Be accurate here. We'll use these marks to place our NeoPixel lights.

Attach the Electronics

I'm using Alene's Fabric Fusion embellishing glue to affix the pixels to the interfacing. It dries clear and flexible and won't seep through to the outside and show. It will also be washable after 24 hours.

Starting from the left side, place the first pixel on the first mark. Pin the wires neatly and add a dab of glue. Continue with the rest of the pixels, working from left to right. Let the glue dry completely, then remove the pins.

To keep the wires from catching on anything, we'll add a second layer of interfacing over the pixels and wire. It's always a good idea to unplug the power before ironing the pixels. Be as gentle with the heat as you can while still fusing the interfacing. The pixels will stand up to a few seconds of ironing.

Turn your sweater right-side out. Now it's time to iron on the HTV menorah. Line it up carefully with the lights. Follow the directions on your Heat Transfer Vinyl. Let it cool completely before peeling off the acetate layer.

Use an awl to poke a small hole through the interfacing, just between the center shamash light and its candle. 

We'll attach the Gemma to the back of this light with our bolt-on kit, right through the sweater. Place the Gemma face-down on the interfacing. Thread the screw through the hole and tighten the bolt. 

This screw will hold the Gemma in place, and will also act as our capacitive touch switch. It's tiny enough to go unnoticed in the fibers of your sweater. 

Touch the tiny screw below the shamash, and use it to light each candle one by one, starting with the right-most candle.

Put a rubber band around your battery, trapping the wires inside. This will provide strain relief - these wires can break really easily. Stick a piece of sticky-back velcro on the battery, and stick the other side someplace within easy reach on the interfacing square.

Use the on/off switch on the face of the Gemma M0 to power your sweater on at dusk. Touch your shamash to light each candle. 

When you're done wearing your sweater, unscrew the bolt and unplug the connector before washing. Let the sweater and electronics dry completely before powering them back up again.

This guide was first published on Dec 17, 2020. It was last updated on Dec 17, 2020.

This page (Sweater Assembly) was last updated on Mar 26, 2021.

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