Sweet Tweets: Remixing the Electric Cuff Activity


by Susan Klimczak -

As a maker-educator, I love Twitter and have many Twitter maker friends who inspire my practice.  

Recently, my Twitter friend @joshburker (who recently published a rockin’ maker guide you definitely want to buy!) did a light-up electric cuff soft circuit project with his senior citizen technology group at the library.


This past summer, we made hundreds of electric cuffs with elementary and middle school youth in our free Learn 2 Teach, Teach 2 Learn STEAM (STEM + art) camps.  


Recently we were remixing the Electric Cuff activity for teenagers in our STEAMing Up Teen Central workshops at the Boston Public Library.  When shown Josh’s prototype, the youth teachers immediately wanted to use not only velveteen as an embellishment, they wanted to try all-velveteen cuffs!  

Prototyping with velveteen.  Prototyping how to cut and sew with velveteen took a whole day --- it’s not so easy!  The velveteen needs wide seam allowances because it unravels quite easily.  Then, even when it was pinned, it was slippery to sew on the machine. Online tutorials recommended hand-basting before sewing. . . but that was too much like work for 20 cuffs!

The approach that worked involved cutting the cuff pattern out of iron-on interfacing, then ironing the pattern onto the back of the velveteen before cutting.  This made both cutting and sewing the right sides of the cuff together a breeze. After turning the cuff inside out, topstitching made the cuffs lie nicely and was a quick way to sew up the opening at the top.

Lasercut felt designs suggested by youth.  Captain America, Pikachu with Pokeballs, and Polkadot bows were among the ideas that youth teachers brainstormed.  I made a Papercut dragon design.  

Color-changing and candle flicker LEDs.   Sparkfun carries reliable fast and slow color-changing RGB LEDs and you can get a 20% off educator discount.  Evil Mad Scientist carries a wide variety of candle-flicker LEDs that were perfect for Pikachu’s tail and the dragon’s eye!  You can also find these cheaper on ebay, if you order a month or so ahead of time and don’t mind a little gamble on their quality!

3D printed LED diffusers. Naked LEDs on wearable electronics are not so aesthetic.  We’ve hidden them underneath white felt, which makes a great diffuser. Andrew, our 3D printing enthusiast (a  Wentworth Institute of Technology work-study student), watched me looking at Thingiverse 3D printed diffusers and thought he could design some cool ones.  Then, Brad Presler, our resident industrial designer, caught the design bug too.  Using SolidWorks software that we received free from the Fab Foundation, they created small and large balls, hearts and stars that pressfit over our LEDs!

Our workshop at Teen Central at the Boston Public Library was a lot of fun.  Here’s a little video showing the process and the results!


Here are some links to the guide, in case you might want to try the activity in your makerspace or class!