Dec 14, 2014

How to make your own light-up shirt

Earlier this year, I thought it would be fun to make a light-up t-shirt to wear to holiday parties.


I went overkill on planning--I spent hours figuring out what materials I would need and how to connect the circuit elements, bouncing ideas off my electrical engineering coworker. When I finally ordered the materials from Sparkfun, they came packaged with step-by-step instructions. It took less than two hours to put together the entire shirt, and about 30 seconds to program the sound sensor using Aniomagic's super-easy graphical programming interface.

I've worn my light-up shirt to holiday parties around Baltimore, and it's been really popular everywhere. Strangers come up to me and ask if they can buy one! Here's how you can make your own:
  1. Materials: I got all the electronics together in a kit. The brand is Aniomagic, and I ordered it from the Sparkfun website. I ordered the t-shirt separately.

    • (1) Holiday t-shirt
    • (1) Circuit board
    • (1) Coin cell battery holder
    • (5-10) LED lightboards
    • 3 yd conductive thread
    • (1) Sound sensor
    • Seam tape, optional
  2. Arrange the LEDs as you would like them to appear on the shirt. With the Aniomagic kit, it's important to keep the LEDs in numerical order--the number of dots on the left/positive side of the lightboard tells you what number it is. Since the numbers only go from 1-5, if you use 10 LEDs, like I did, you can arrange them in order like this: 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 4 5 5. I used red thread to sew the LEDs in place during this step.

  3. Connect the circuit board to the battery pack--you'll need two pieces of 8" conductive thread. Sew through each hole on the board at least 3-4 times to ensure a good connection. When you're done, the circuit board should light up, like this:
  4. Connect the LEDs. To do this, connect the positive side of the circuit board to the positive side of LED #1. Connect the positive side of LED #1 to the positive side of LED #2. Continue until all of the LEDs are connected. Then connect all of the negative sides in the same way.
  5. Attach the sound sensor to the last LED, positive to positive and negative to negative. I put the sound sensor on the inside of the shirt to hide it, but I think it would function better if you put the sensor outside the shirt. After this step, I used seam tape to seal down the threads. If they cross, you'll get a short circuit and the LEDs won't light up. Seam tape helps prevent that.
  6. Go to and follow the instructions to program your shirt.
  7. You're done! Now go out and be merry and bright.