Thursday, 8 January 2015

DIY: goth-y reflectors (or safety first but fashion is second!)

I must have a fewer or something, this is a second DIY post in just a few weeks! This post is about making goth-y pedestrian safety reflectors, also known as reflectors or luminous badges.

Reflectors are not necessarily so important in cities with bright streetlamps and neon signs but they are very useful in suburbs, small towns and in the country, where might not be sidewalks nor streetlamps on every road. As they say, a reflector is a pretty cheap insurance against being hit by a car or other fast moving large object.

Reflectors are like bicycle helmets, at some point people'll think it's "uncool" to use one. Well, if the reflector is really nice and cute, it is no longer so uncool.

What you need:
- a felt cloth: the size of a normal A4 printing paper will probably do
- luminous/reflecting fabric
- some yarn
- a safety-pin or two, depending on how many reflectors you make
- some thin thread or a flat iron or both
- paper and pen if you want to make a template
- scissors or some other instrument to cut

I chose black felt (no surprise there) but of coarse there are many other options, like blood red or emerald green and so on. The reflecting fabric is the color it is, there were no options in my local store. I somehow doubt there are any options in general, the point of it is to reflect light.

When making a reflector suitable for a goth, the shape of the reflector matters. A spider is an easy shape but more talented person could even make a scenery of a cemetery or a profile of E. A. Poe! Knowing my own limits, I chose to make two bat-shaped reflectors.

Since I wanted bat-shaped reflectors I first folded a normal paper to draw half of a bat and then cut it so that wings would be somewhat similar size. I must say I am quite pleased with the shape, even though the other ear is bigger than the other. I have no idea how but luckily it doesn't really matter.

After making a paper template I used it to draw on the back of the reflecting fabric. If you want a really useful reflector, you'll want the both sides to be luminous, so you'll need two identical (or not if you do not want the both sides to be alike) pieces of reflecting fabric.

Because I am not that crafty person I do not have all kinds of crafty tools so I used ordinary scissors to cut the felt and fabric. A carpet knife would be more precise, or one could even use some other cutters made into ornamental shapes (at least that is what they suggested in the tag of the reflecting fabric).

I did not bother to draw bats on the felt too, instead I cut out a piece that was big enough for the reflecting bats. I left some margin on the felt so that the black color would also be seen and so that the rims might protect the reflecting fabric and it would not wear from the edges. When the reflecting fabric is attached, one can cut the felt into the proper shape.

It is also smart to leave a little more edge to a small area so that you can pull the yarn through there. The point of the yarn is that you can attach the finished reflector to your clothes. Of coarse I managed to forget this while cutting the first one and I am now a bit worried the felt is not thick enough and is going to be ripped if the reflector is ever caught into something.

Some of those reflecting fabrics are equipped with a coat of glue, so that you can iron it to another fabric. Some also have a detachable film so one does not need a cloth between the reflector and the iron. After ironing the film is gently detached.

So, depending what kind of reflecting fabric you have, you might be able to attach it to the felt with heat. Reflectors are usually smaller than the face of a flat iron so try to hold the felt from a corner with another hand while ironing. Felt can have static electricity and get attached to the iron if you are not careful. Believe me, it is not pleasant to try to pick it off. Especially if you panic like I and do not use any tools instead of bare fingers...

I found a fabric that has glue surface on the other side but the salesperson suggested it might be a good idea to make a few stitches to make sure the fabric won't detach. That is why one needs the thin thread. As you can see from the photo below, my stitching skills are equal to the skills of a three-year-old. So, one out of two reflectors looks a bit crappy but luckily one can not see it from a distance.

If you use thread to attach, make sure the needle you are using is thin, so that it won't shatter the reflecting surface, if it is made of stiff material (plastic-like stuff). You also might want the thread to be more subtle color or perhaps fishing line, so it would not look like ugly stitches like on my poor bat. It looks a bit like Frankenstein's creature, so I'll just claim that was the point.

When the reflecting piece is made, one has to attach it to the clothes, so one needs the yarn and a safety-pin, as mentioned before. It's a good thing that a reflector can spin around freely, because then it can reflect light from various angles and that way it is more safe because it can reflect light the light of cars headlights in various distances and various directions.

Here you can see that I've attached one bat to the sleeve of my coat. The other bat is on the other side hanging from the hem of the coat.


  1. Great idea! And a cute accessory.

    1. Thanks! I'd love to make some more, though not yet sure what sort of. :)

  2. I did not know you could even buy such a thing as reflecting fabric! I love your bat Jade, and if I ever get brave enough to go out for a walk at night I shall definitely make a few myself. I wonder if they'd be good to avoid being hit by a fast moving large object such as a moose? Or a bear? Yeah, I'm probably never going to walk outside at night. ;)

    1. Yep, a reflector is not very good against bears, though I've understood they do avoid human scent and noisy people. :D

  3. Reflecting fabric!!! Where have you been all my life! I love a little DIY project and I love bats so I am in!

    I have a super adorable hand sanitizer holder from Bath & Body Works' Halloween collection that is a little bat. Touch his tummy and his eyes blink. The recent ones blink for a certain period of time but the one I bought three or so years back blinks or the eyes remain lit until you push it again.

  4. that´s so cute, and a very good idea for safety.

  5. A nice idea to have creatures of the night to keep you save in the dark!

    1. Thank you! I wish to make some more creepy creatures of night. :)

  6. Good idea for bikers...I see so many of them riding with no helmet, no lights....

  7. That is a good idea, I have never thought of using reflectors just on clothes at night, although I don't usually go anywhere at night now that I live in the suburbs, not the country, where it felt safer to walk around in the dark.

    1. Thanks. :) I do hope people would use more safety reflectors, or at least put some on their children, if they are playing outside during dusk.