This is me after loosely sewing 40 battery-powered LED lights to the inner lining edge of my suit jacket for the work XMas dinner party. A couple of years ago I grabbed some 2AA-powered LED lights from IKEA (they don’t seem to sell them anymore though) and loosely strung them over my shirt and under my suit jacket with the battery packs in my trouser pockets in order.
This year, I didn’t want do the exact same thing, and also wanted to streamline the entire process a little. So meet the LED Jacket MK II. The LED lights are from Marks & Spencer (so’s the suit, but I already had that) and only cost £5 each. They also appear to be missing from the M&S website, causing me to believe that there’s some conspiracy against selling LED lights online.
But I digress.
The strings are made of 20 coloured lights and are each powered by 3 AA batteries. I didn’t want to have the battery packs in my trouser pockets again, so I started by positioning the battery packs in the inner jacket pocket.
Operating the LEDs is done via a small switch on the outside of the battery casing. I made sure that this was facing the outside of the jacket, so I could activate the lights by touching the front of the jacket. Thankfully, the inner pockets are below the nipple level. Unfortunately, you miss out on a few double entendres about the jacket being a ‘turn on’. Wakka wakka wakka.
I bought 50 small brass safety pins to attach the lights to the inside of the jacket. This didn’t work as well as I had thought. To get it to work properly, the safety pin needs to be attached as close as possible to the LED and prevent it from moving around. But it turns out just attaching it to the wires closest to the LED wasn’t going to work as it would still move around once attached. I wanted the LEDs to be peeking out from the inner edge and to be as stable as possible.
Around each LED is a thin plastic sheath to protect the wires and resistor running in. I was able to get a needle and thread through without damaging any wiring, so each LED was loosely stitched into place (nothing too serious – they need to be easily removed afterward and I didn’t want to damage my jacket), with the pins used further inward as cable management. I started by attaching the first and last LEDs on the string, then marked out halfway points from there by sight. The process was more time-consuming than I had imagined, taking up all of the running time of ‘Friends With Benefits‘ and half of ‘Captain America‘.
All in all it was a success, although I’d like to improve upon it in a couple of ways. One would be introducing some kind of dimmer switch. The overhead lights were pretty close to being off in the bar/restaurant, so the jacket was perhaps a little overwhelming. Being able to raise and lower the intensity would be a plus.
Another thing to do would be to put some kind of fabric over the cables inside the jacket so it doesn’t look like I might possibly have explosives inside my coat judging by all the visible/invisible wires and the reaction of the nervy little guy across from me on public transport last night.
I’m pretty sure most terrorists aren’t this festive.
Total cost: £10 on lights, £1.50 for the safety pins and about 3hrs prep time.