Animated Holiday Hat

by littleBits

Published on April 23, 2014

Bright LEDs project a spinning image of Santa and his reindeer flying through the night on the wall of this animated hat. Touch the pressure sensor at the top of the hat to activate the dc motor.

How To Make It


The most important and trickiest part of this project is finding the perfect combination of hat and clear plastic cylinder. We found a clear plastic paint pail whose size is virtually the same to a hat we have from a costume store across the street.


Get rid of the metal lid and handle from the plastic container. Cut off the extrusion of plastic where the metal handle was, so you have clean clear surface with only a metal bottom piece.


Find a circular section of the hat that has the same diameter to the plastic cylinder. Cut the hat at that position so that the hat holds the plastic cylinder tight when you replace the body of the hat with the plastic cylinder. If the position is so high that it looks ugly when you put the plastic cylinder on the hat,(this is what happened to us...) you can cut down to a lower section of the hat body and push the plastic pail in to the rim part of the hat by surrounding it with fabrics from the hat.


Cut Japanese paper and fill the inside of the plastic pail wall with it. Using spray adhesive makes this significantly easier.


Cut black cloth and wrap the outside of the plastic pail with it. Try to avoid any wrinkles on the surface. Make regular cuts at the end of the black cloth and fold, glue it down covering the edge of the plastic cylinder.


Cover the edge of the black cloth with black artist’s tape.


The circuit is very similar to the one in our "Run Horse Run" project, but the sound trigger is replaced with a pressure sensor and a latch: Power + Pressure sensor + wire + latch + wire + bright LED + wire + bright LED + wire + bright LED + wire + bright LED + wire + dc motor


The horse stencil is also laser cut from black construction paper. Be mindful that there should be some room for your head in the hat so you need to set the height of the turning screen accordingly. You can simply use our pattern and a laser cutter or, of course, you can do some hardcore craft with an x-acto knife. Once it's done, stick the stencil strip on clear plastic film, and wrap it around the motor wheel. Remember that the wheel is to be placed at the bottom of the strip because this cylinder will be dangling from the ceiling of the hat (different from run horse run.) The film helps the pattern keep its shape, so have the stencil paper go inside and the plastic film and wrap around it. Super glue and spray adhesive were very helpful in completing these steps.


Drill some screw holes both at the top of the hat (bottom of the plastic pail ) and at the disc which has the square post on it. Screw down the post to the inside ceiling of the hat.


Place all the Bits modules on the post. Let the four bright LEDs point outwards from each side of the post. Do not touch the spinning screen with any of the Bits modules. (specifically the battery cord)


Make a slit for the pressure sensor pad on the top of the hat. Slide the pressure sensor pad through the slit so it is exposed on the top of the hat.


Cover the top of the hat with black felt using spray adhesive. It is a good idea to place some soft material under the pressure pad to give some tactile feedback.


Grab the top piece of the hat that we cut away before. Cut it down short enough to fit in the hat without interfering with the mechanisms inside.


Sew down two of velcro hook pads inside of the hat body across the mouth. Each of the pads are supposed to be placed where they can hold the top piece of the hat


Make small slits at the edge of the mouth of the paint pail, where your temples go. Thread a rubber band through them and tie it with tape.


Place the hat rim around the hat body.


Wear the hat and become the perfect mobile holiday decoration!

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