back to articles list »

PROJECT: Make A Light Up Purse

No more fumbling for your lipstick or compact while at the club, lightyour way with this easy to make light panel for your purse or bag. The panel uses a two part magnetic switch, so when the purse is closed the light is off and when its open the light is on. Simple!

I did a demo of this project at Maker Faire. Thank you to the ladies at ArtFuture!

You can see it here:


1. Decide where you want the panel, the battery, and the switch in your purse. Place it inside and mark your locations with stick pins or erasable fabric pin. We suggest putting the battery on one side of the panel and the wired switch on the other.

2. Following the diagram, place your LEDs inside the corrugated plastic. Make sure you have the + and - sides correct. Also, for added brightness, we staggered the lights and skipped a row on each side.

3. Solder your panel together following the diagram and test it by holding the wired switch with the non-wired switch and then taking it away. The lights should turn on when the switch sides are together.

4. Secure and cover all the soldered joints with electrical tape. Cover the exposed LED legs too.

5. Tuck all the parts (battery snap, panel, and switch) behind the linging. If you have a white lining, use a seam ripper to put the panel behind it. If you don't you can cut out a rectangle in the lining and place the panel. If you do the latter, make sure to tuck the fabric
edges back and top stitch or slipstitch them down so it is neat and clean. You can glue the edges of the fabric around the panel itself if you like.

6. Make a pocket to fit your battery. Read BurdaStyle for more on the Patch Pocket

7. Cut a small hole where you want your battery wires to go and then sew the pocket on top of it. Pull the 9-Volt battery snap through the hole into the pocket.

8. Using hot glue, secure your panel to the purse.

9. Place the wired switch on one side of your purse and the the unwired switch on the opposite side. Plug in your 9-Volt battery to the snap. Make sure that the light turns on and off as you open and close the purse and then secure the switches into place with hot glue.

10. Finish by stitching the lining closed where you ripped it open.


You don't have to use this in a purse, get smart and think of where you want to shine light in your life; like a drawer, kitchen cabinet, or jewelry box.

You can purchase the parts kit from SWITCH for $24.99 or just make your own from parts around the house, craft store and get the parts online (see below).


Switch Light Panel Kit $24.00 includes:
(6) 5mm 15 degree LEDs, approx. 3.5V [voltage number updated] (part #RL5-W18015)
(1) Magnetic Switch with Magnet, Minute Man Electronics (part# FM103-W)
(1) 9V Molded "T" Battery Snap, Minute Man Electronics (part# BH129)
(1) Clear plastic corrugated board, from your local art store (cut to size you need)

Other Materials You'll Need:
A purse or bag of your choosing.
Seam ripper
Needle and Thread (or new-sew hemming tape)
Soldering iron
Lead-free Solder
Needle nose pliers
Hot glue gun and hot glue
Stick pins

If you don't own electronic tools, MinuteMan Electronics has a good kit for starters:

Soldering Iron Kit (part# S540) - $19.49
Consisting of:
UL Approved 30 watt soldering iron.
One package of .062" electronic grade solder
One 4-1/2" diagonal cutter
One 4-1/2" needle nose pliers.
Soldering aid tool



Hey, thank you so very much for your reply! I'll try it and post the results.
Plus, I've learnd to actually SIGN my posts lol
~ Abbie (aka Agra :P)

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 10:30

Hello Agra! Thank you for writing. We attached the switch with a strong epoxy that works on leather. You may have to use clamps to hold it in place for an hour, so be sure to put a soft towel or sponge between the clamps and the outside of the bag so it doesn't ruin your handbag. Please feel free to respond here so everyone can learn from your questions.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 14:23

Hey there, hello from Buenos Aires, Argentina!
I'm deeply in love with this project and can't wait to make my own. Problem is, I just can't seem to figure out how you attached the swtich to the purse and assure that it is endurable.
I know this post has been online for a while not, but I'm really hoping you can answer my question. contact is agra.caceres [at] gmail [dot] com.
Thanks a million!!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 - 10:31

Sorry to hear that you have trouble finding clear corrugated plastic sheets. Please note that the sheet does not need to be completely "clear," translucent ones are also good. Although many hardware stores and art supplies shops carry only color white or black, some do have clear or translucent ones available:

So call around before you give up. You may buy online but there's usually a minimum order.

Without the corrugated board, it'd be difficult to keep the LEDs in place. In that case I'd modify the design and use LED strips instead:

Another option would be using an electroluminescent (EL) sheet or EL tapes, but it's an expensive option:


Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 21:00

Hi. I am having a tough time finding the clear plastic corrugated plastic sheets. Is there something else that can be used instead?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 16:41

Nice! This is a cool way to light up my bag. I've just been using this super cute little PICO lite, but maybe I'll look into making myself one of these!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010 - 02:15

Love the idea!! Can't wait to (try to) make one for my mum's handbag!
Thanks for sharing (and yes, I'll send pics when it's done!)
Caroline (Frenchy in Scotland)

PS: Electronics + Style : hot hot hot! ;)

Sunday, May 30, 2010 - 17:25

Thanks Joe! I would love to see it, please send pictures to book[at]iheartswitch[dot]com!

Alison Lewis

Wednesday, January 20, 2010 - 23:25

Joe, the key for me was making sure I use LEDs that use about 4.6V, this way when the power is split between the two parallel circuits, it isn't overpowering the lights. HOWEVER, a resistor is definitely something you should put in if you know how to do it. Like Frank says above, sounds like you do. If you do add resistors, each LED should have its own. Thank you for the feedback! All my best, Alison

Alison Lewis

Thursday, January 7, 2010 - 14:49

Hi Joe: Thanks for sharing your experience with us. We always appreciate feedback from our readers. Regarding the absence of resistor, yes, the most proper circuit would need one but we prefer making Switch projects as simple and accessible as possible for everyone. You are welcome to add a resistor to your circuit if you know how to do it (sounds like you do). Either way we look forward to seeing your work.


Monday, December 21, 2009 - 12:15

thank you so much for what you've done for everyone that follows you're work Alison. I've already recommended this beautiful website to 4 friends of mine and my girlfriend loves it! Thank you again for this website as well as the info!The thing that puzzled me was that the resistor calc always throws a resistor into the mix and I was confused as to how you were able to complete your purse circuit without a resistor. I even plugged in the same data that you used for your own circuit and still the calc. said to use a resistor. Although I am still confused as to why your circuit is able to work without a resistor I am very impressed and happy to say that it DOES WORK! LOL, hopefully I will be done with my project soon and I would be honored if you could take a look at some of the pics. Thanks again for everything and If we don't speak, HAPPY HOLIDAYS! :>)

Saturday, December 19, 2009 - 21:25

The voltage ratings are usually on a data sheet linked or associated with the LED online. If you use RadioShack, they are on the back of the package if you buy a single LED. If you purchase a pack of loose LEDs...well, you'll end up guessing a bit, but there is a good chart on the link above (

Alison Lewis

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - 16:17

Hi Joe. Truth be told, I could have used a series of AAA or AA batteries to do the same thing as the 9V. I used a 9V because its smaller and lighter, has low amperage, and the battery snap is easy to find and use. If you want to learn more, here is an excellent tutorial on LEDs:

Also, I highly recommend this resistance calculator to figure out how many resistors you need and how to set up your LED circuit depending on the voltage you want or have available:

FYI: To ensure you get the correct calculations for your own projects, read the data sheet or spec sheet for your LED and battery to find out the highest forward voltage it can take and the current it draws. Most commonly found LEDs draw 20mA - 30mA but some can take up more, so be sure to find out. Let me know if this helps!

Alison Lewis

Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - 16:13

Hi Allison, I was just curious as to how you determined that a 9v batt would be suitable for this project. Thanks so much, and also I was wondering how you determined the voltage ratings for the led bulbs you used, I cant seem to find that. Thanks again, Joe

Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - 13:34

Thanks Fang!!!

Alison Lewis

Thursday, September 10, 2009 - 12:37

Thanks Alison!

Sunday, April 12, 2009 - 00:09

Okay, another update. I discovered that Minute Man labeled their magnetic switch types incorrectly. Their NC switches are actually NO and vice versa. So for your light-up purse project, you can buy that "NO" type mini switch from Minute Man (Philmore # 30-17054). However, the $20 minimum requirement still stands.


Friday, April 10, 2009 - 13:28

Oops. I looked at your question again and realized that you wanted the small (low profile) version of magnetic switch. It seems that Minute Man no longer has the small normally-closed switch in stock, only normally-open ones. Try this instead:

I'm going to post a new blog entry giving everyone an update. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.


Thursday, April 9, 2009 - 23:16

Re: Magnetic Switches @

Their website is not that easy to navigate. The switches are on this page:

Get either the normally-closed type or the 2-in-1 (normally-closed & normally-open) type. However, Minute Man now requires $20 minimum. If you are not going to spend that much, let me look around and find other vendors for you.


Thursday, April 9, 2009 - 22:45

Hi Alison,
Where can I get the small magnetic switches that you use? I tried searching it on Minute Man Electric but couldn't find it. =/

Tuesday, April 7, 2009 - 23:17

For people who would like to purchase the light kit, please email Alison your request here: hello [at] iheartswitch [dot] com. Sorry for the inconvenience. We don't have an online store because we are not in the business of selling kits. :) It is provided as a friendly introduction to electronic crafting to our readers and friends, and not really a source of income. Thank you for your interest!


Sunday, March 1, 2009 - 12:22

OK, I wanted to order a purse light kit. Have been all over your site and can't find here/how to order.


Saturday, February 28, 2009 - 11:58


Wednesday, February 25, 2009 - 00:33

I am happy to help and sent you an email.

Alison Lewis

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 11:35

Is there a phone number I can reach you by?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 00:09

Hi this is Gwen again. I've tried emailing you but no response. I'm interested in trying your light kit before I get more.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009 - 00:06

Thank you, that was a big help!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 15:31

Thank you, that was a big help!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 15:31

Re: Number of LEDs

Yes, using just 2 LEDs is fine. Please note that 2 LEDs may not be bright enough for an illuminating panel. You may want to make a narrow illuminating strip instead. Another option is to sew the LEDs directly to your purse without using corrugated plastic. In this case, you may want to consider a LED with wider view angle to spread the light better.

One caveat is the power source issue. The LED that we recommend requires about 3.5 volts. If you solder them side by site (series connection), that's 7V; if you arrange them opposite each other (parallel connection), that's 3.5V. Therefore, the 9V battery is no longer ideal. You may want to use a different power source. For example, use two serially connected 1.5V batteries (= 3V) to support two 3.5V parallel connected LEDs. If for some reason you want to continue using a 9V battery, you need a resister to bring down the voltage.

Comparison of series and parallel connections can be found here:

I hope this is not too confusing.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 12:52

Re: Magnetic switch

You need a normally-closed (NC) type switch that turns the circuit "on" when the two halves are apart. What you have is the normally-open (NO) type.

If you bought it in a hardware store or security equipment shop, ask to exchange it for the opposite type. If the salesperson doesn't know the difference between NC and NO switches, simply tell him or her you want one that can trigger the alarm when your door/window is opened.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 11:59

Do you think I would be able to use only 2 LEDs? If this is possible how would I set it up?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 00:46

Hello I am doing this as a science fair project, but i have a problem. When the magnets are touching, the lights go on, but when they are apart they turn off. This is the opposite of what's supposed to happen. Do you know what i may be doing wrong?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009 - 00:01

Sara: Thanks for writing. Sounds like you stand right at the intersection of art and science, and we'd love to see what you will come up with. As for you question, the light sources that we use are not bulbs but LEDs (light-emitting diodes). They hardly break and don't need to be replaced. If you'd like to learn more about LED, refer to this Wikipedia page:

Have fun!


Monday, February 16, 2009 - 23:12

Alison, thank you for your wonderful tutorials. As a interiors grad now working doing mechanical drawings for a construction company, I think making this purse would cement my two worlds and impress a few people I work with. However, I tend to drop my purse from time to time. Do the light bulbs break easily?


Sunday, February 15, 2009 - 18:17

Thanks! I meant to send that through emails not post it.I will contact you soon. =]

Saturday, February 7, 2009 - 17:41

Hi Gwen, we have another version of the light up purse in our book Switch Craft, with more info on tools and materials such as the LED (in the "Basics" section). You are welcome to look it up in a bookstore or library.


Friday, February 6, 2009 - 22:41

Oops I forgot to say where to get LEDs.. You can get LEDs from: (if you use this site look for "discrete leds & Standard Output LEDs")

Alison Lewis

Thursday, February 5, 2009 - 17:02

Hi Gwen, you have some good questions. Yes, the lights come in different sizes, but I suggest 5MM because it fits inside the corrugated plastic so well. Also LEDs come in many many different colors, each one has a different voltage rating so if you use a different color you may have to use a resistor. Right now I have it so the lights we use only take up 2.5 volts; which works perfectly with the 9-volt battery.

I have a number of these kits. How many would you like? Please email us at hello [at] iheartswitch [dot] com if you need to contact me directly.


P.S. Be careful about posting your email online, it is food for email spammers!

Alison Lewis

Thursday, February 5, 2009 - 16:57

Hi! I was wondering if the lights come in different sizes or colors. I also would like to know if you sell all the individual parts in the Switch Light Panel Kit in mass quantities. Is there any other sources where I can get more informations or photos of this light? Please feel free to contact me, Gwen Le, via email:

Thursday, February 5, 2009 - 13:24