To make the embroidered anglerfish light up the following materials were required:
1. A Light Emitting Diode(LED). For this one I used a small ultra-blue LED.
2. A 3V button cell battery – these batteries are quite convenient to use as they are light, flat and sufficient to run a LED for a long time.
3. A button cell battery holder. These are available in electronic shops, but we can also make our own using felt-fabric like this.
4. A metal snap button which I use as a switch to turn on and off the light on the anglerfish.
5. and finally we need some conductive yarn to sew the different components together to make the circuit.
I started by fitting the LED in the appropriate part of the anglerfish by sliding the two legs of the LED from the top of the embroidery so that the legs stick out at the bottom where they can be connected to the circuit.
Already curious to see what the LED would look like when bright, I held a battery between the legs of the LED beneath and this was the result on top:)
Continuing with the circuit design, next the LED needed to be fixed properly so that the conductive yarn can be sewn around the legs.
To do this, I twisted each leg of the LED into a loop with a pair of pliers so that the loops lay flat beneath the surface of the fabric. This is a common technique used to sew on any electronic component that has legs. In a LED, the longer leg is positive and the shorter one is negative. Its good to mark these beforehand, as after twisting the legs it might be difficult to identify them without testing.
When both legs of the LED are twisted, it looked something like the image below. The loops make it easy to sew on the conductive yarn around them.
Also when the legs are twisted, the LED is attached firmly in its appropriate place and can be left there while the rest of the embroidery work gets done.
The circuit that lights the LED was a simple one with a switch that can be used to turn off and on the light. To make it compact, the button cell holder had to placed over the embroidered part under the fabric. The image below shows the placement of the button cell holder and the circuit plan drawn beneath.
Since the cell holder goes over the embroidered part, the embroidery needed to be finished first before continuing making the circuit.
Filling in embroidery
There are some good tutorials for filling-in embroidery stitches in Needle and thread. However, I went with a more intuitive/ visual approach of just filling in the spaces with coloured threads without following a particular stitching technique. I had a few shades of red, black and white embroidery threads that I improvised with to fill up the different regions of the anglerfish trying to create an appropriate mix of shades and tones.
I found mixing strands of dark thread with light ones a good way to create shades and tints. Also mixing them made the stitches appear as strokes whose direction and density could then be manipulated to create a desired effect. I found there to be a lot of room for experimentation. Mistakes or undesired stitches could be corrected quite easily.
When finished, it looked something like this. I was quite happy with the result. The anglerfish looked pretty ferocious 🙂