Illuminated Discoveries: Learning to Use the LilyPad

Written by Julie-Anne Turner, MA Candidate, University of Ottawa

“Here are the LilyPads, there are batteries in the box, and lights too. And don’t forget the needles! “

Michelle handed me the box of supplies, and enthusiastically, I moved to a classroom to begin my project, which consisted of sewing an LED light on a T-shirt of the Institute. I decided to start exploring e-textiles as a preparation for the Maker stream, having never had the chance to play with these tools.

I admit to having some sewing skills, having learned at an early age to do basic repairs, so this component of the project did not cause me any concern. In addition, in terms of knowledge about electricity and circuits, I could hear the echo of my father’s voice in my head: “It’s simple, positives with positives, negatives with negatives ! “

But where to start? And how? I had before me a panoply of tools and gadgets, but no idea how to start my process. So, I must admit that starting the activity was the hardest step for me. Intimidated by a battery and an LED light, this is ridiculous! But, it’s the truth: I had a slight discomfort of this freedom to create.

So, like many Makers today, I found myself looking on Youtube to understand how to tie the battery on the fabric. The first step was to sew the battery in place and then pass the wire to the LED light in order to have a connection between the two positives.

Eager to know if I was on the right track, I decided then to take a shortcut and test the circuit by completing it with the thread and my needle. Success! A little pink light illuminated, just like my face, which radiated of this pretty neat discovery! I then had to sew the wire so that the circuit remained in place.

After sewing the second thread, I could see that my light was still lit and that it was really a success. There you go!

Despite having pricked my fingers repeatedly, due to my lack of practice with sewing, I was able to quickly adapt to the task and finish the first stage of my project rather quickly. Completely energised by this light, I then decide to integrate another one! 

I can now better understand the importance of discovering while learning, and daring to try something new, since it is a very gratifying feeling!  Happy with my project, and filled with creative energy, I am now eagerly waiting to see what the Makers will create during the week of learning!

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