Milky Way Jacket

E was incredibly excited about this week’s theme. She’s a total STEM kid and loves outer space. (Actually, she likes art too so she’s a STEAM kid.) If you’d asked her a year ago, she would have told you she was going to grow up to be an engineer and that she would build space robots (think Mars rover here, not some sci-fi superhero thing). If you ask her today, she’s still going to be a robot building engineer but she also wants to be an astronaut the first person on Mars.

I was just as excited about this theme as E. I was obsessed with outer space at that age too and I still have a fondness for everything astrophysics even though I have a hard time wrapping my brain around some of the concepts. I had so many ideas but I couldn’t figure out what would work with this jacket I had in mind. I had to make this jacket. A warm up/cool down jacket with lights, real ones. I spent hours researching sewn electronics and found LilyPad. The sewing thread is conductive and everything can be handwashed. Except for the battery. Don’t wash the battery. I was ready to go even though I still didn’t know what would go with the jacket.

The two main fabrics I used are from Cali Fabrics. Black techno knit for the outside and royal blue double brushed polyester for the lining. Oh, and black power mesh that’s hidden inside so you can’t see it. The stripes are silver weirdness from Spandex World.

I started with Jalie 2795. I didn’t make huge changes to it. The sleeves bothered me because they have these seams that look perfect for a pocket but they don’t have one! So I played around there to make pockets and add silver stripes for a sporty look.

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(I know my zipper is rippling a bit but I swear I was super careful not to stretch out the knit when I put it on. That being said, I love that zipper! It’s a Riri zipper from Pacific Trimming. Kinda expensive but the price included shortening it to my specifications.)

The back stayed the same but I combined the front pieces into one and made a zippered pocket (you’ll see why I wanted a pocket that would close later). These were my shell pattern pieces. All of that (except for the silver stripes) was cut out of the black techno knit and underlined with the power mesh. The pocket insides were cut out of the double brushed polyester because it’s softer and thinner. Everything is top stitched because techno knit doesn’t hold a crease. I even had to whipstitch the edge of the zipper tape because the bulk in the seam allowance was making it flip out. (If the pattern had had larger seam allowances, I would have graded them but they were only 1/4″. Yes, I could have made them bigger but I didn’t think about it until I encountered issues with bulky seams allowances.)

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(That’s a big star shaped nail head on the front there.)

Before getting to the lining, I had to take care of my circuit. The battery holder with on/off switch was sewn into the right hand pocket. That’s where the zipper comes in. I wanted to protect the battery from the elements.

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(The silverish thread at the bottom right is conductive thread. The blue thread at the top left is regular polyester sewing thread. There are two + sewing tabs and two – sewing tabs but I only needed one of each for my circuit so the other two were just sewn down with the regular sewing thread.)

I prepared holes in the techno knit at the back where I wanted my LEDs. I used the conductive thread to sew the lights on and connect them to the battery. I ran the thread only through the power mesh. The thread isn’t protected so it’s best to cover it. None of the thread shows up on the outside. It’s all cleanly hidden in the mesh. I checked that my circuit worked and then I completed the design on the back. I used star and circle nail heads and beads to create the Milky Way as seen from Earth’s night sky.

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(You can see where I made holes for the LEDs here. You can see the edge of one LED sewing tab too. Since the techno knit doesn’t fray, I left the edges of the holes raw.)

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So now, the lining serves two functions. It makes the interior of the jacket cozier but it also protects the conductive thread. Like I said, it isn’t coated. Without the lining, if the jacket is folded up and you turn it on, some of the threads touch and create a short circuit. I combined the pattern pieces to only have one pattern piece each for sleeves, back, and fronts. However, on the right front and back, I wanted openings in case something happened to the circuit and I needed access. I split those pattern pieces into two and added a hem allowance. After assembling the rest of the jacket, I just basted the openings closed. I didn’t want a zipper (too heavy) or metal snaps. I don’t like plastic snaps and the velcro I found was too thick. So I basted it until I find a better solution. Besides, I shouldn’t need to access the circuit often. Or even ever. These opening are just for my peace of mind.

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(I forgot to take a good picture of the interior of the jacket so this will have too. Also forgot to take pictures as I worked so there are no good pictures of my mad engineering skills.)

And then… I ran out of time for the rest of the outfit. I did have a plan though! I was going to make a romper, inspired by astronaut flight suits. I wanted to put a Mars pocket or something on it. And I had found this great wicking knit to make a tank top. The print reminded me of the cosmic microwave background. It doesn’t get more outer space than that. I still want to make the items but I’ll do it at a more relaxed pace. In the meantime, enjoy this crappy picture of the lights in the dark!

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Creative mommy at home to two wonderful little girls, trying to juggle family, sewing, exercise, family, knitting, photography, and did I mention family?

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Posted in Sewing
18 comments on “Milky Way Jacket
  1. Trish says:

    So cool! Science meets sewing – what an awesome combination!!!

  2. mamidesofiona says:

    I read this and think, “Dang it! She’s clearly WAY smarter than me!” That jacket is very cool. Nice fabric choices, especially the sleeves. The idea of the romper sounds like a great one! If you do it, I’d love to see it.

    • I’m a smart one! But I think you’re just as smart as me. It’s just that I have a math and science background so I’m a little more confident when it comes to the engineering stuff. If I can, I’ll be making the romper during Kids Clothes Week. I say if I can because I already have a long list of things I want to make then!

  3. tgosgood says:

    Wow! My oldest son once wanted to make a lightning suit, but we didn’t try hard enough to figure it out. And maybe circuits like this weren’t available then. Anyway, you did a great job!

    • Thank you! Since then, I’ve been thinking of ways to add circuits to all clothes! This jacket isn’t a mess to handwash because that color and fabric won’t get stained but little sister wants a light up T-shirt. Knowing her, I’m going to want to machine wash that T-shirt. More design work coming my way!

  4. naehconnection says:

    Ohhhhhh. This jacket is pure awesomeness!!!!

  5. Deborah says:

    OMG…love it. You so thought outside the box!

    • Thank you! It’s funny because it’s one of the first things that popped into my head when I was thinking of outer space. Possibly because my mind went straight to science (astrophysics) and engineering (space missions).

  6. Charity says:

    This is amazing!! I love that the LEDs, nail heads, and beads form the Milky Way, instead of being randomly placed. And good thinking leaving access to the circuitry inside.

  7. This is so incredible! Now I totally want some conductive thread. Mind boggling!

  8. Deborah says:

    I loved your finished product, and even voted for you. That’s saying something because I submitted a project too. Deborah @ Sew Much To Give

  9. Brooke says:

    This is amazing!

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