Handmade hoodies, one-of-a-kind clothing and costumes, fit for a faerie or stylish human.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Tentacles, Robots, and Princesses

For some reason, I always seem to lose my focus and motivation in the spring time.  Maybe it's the weather.. spring fever is running rampant and California's spring sunshine is beckoning.  Maybe it's because I often get sick when the seasons change, and this last cold had me in bed for two full days, which is pretty much unheard of for me.

Anyway, I've been trying to get myself back on track with a couple easy silly projects which I will share here.

1. Workstation Reconfiguration

My electronics workstation was cobbled together from bits & bobs and had completely run out of storage.  I got some new drawers.  I had way too much fun with spray paint and my label maker.  Now my workstation is beautiful and organized with extra room for new stuff and ideas.  

Before, I couldn't do any work because my tabletop was too messy.  Now, I can't do any work because my tabletop is TOO CLEAN.

Also I can't stop playing rock band.

2. Octopus Tentacle Cup

With the brand new beautiful tabletop looking so nice, I needed some new accessories.. mostly a little catch-all trash cup for resistor legs and wire ends and bits of hot glue.  I wanted something with style.  A few minutes in Tinkercad and a few hours with my 3D Printer and .. check it.

Mind the Kraken

It's got tentacles.  I'm convinced that when I add the correct combination of mishmash to the cup that the tentacles will come alive and suck all my trash down into the Deeps.  Here's the file on Thingiverse if you wanna print one yourself.    Really, this photo doesn't do it justice.

3. Tinkerplay Mermaid Robot
Do y'all know about Tinkerplay?  It's very cool.  Tinkerplay is an app wherein you can drag bits and pieces together to create your own superhero robot creature.  They have MERMAID PARTS.  Naturally I had to make one.

She turned out sort of like a dragonfly mermaid superhero goddess creature.  I printed the purple bits in purple, and printed the rest in white and painted it.  I love her.

Hanging with Robotica

4. New Cinderella Dress

Princess parties continue to consume my weekends, but that just gave me a lovely excuse to go see the new Cinderella movie.  And then of course I had to modify an old Cinderella dress to match the new look.  

I didn't go overboard.. left the skirt alone, just replaced the sleeves and added butterflies (with magnets!  Rare earth magnets!  I'm such a geek).  I wore it to a party where all the guests had just been to the movie earlier that morning.  They immediately recognized me as the Cinderella from the movie they'd just seen, but complained that my hair wasn't in a bun and I wasn't wearing gloves like the "Real" Cinderella.  "You mean the cartoon?" I asked.  "Well, YEAH, she's the Real Cinderella, not you," they replied.  

Ah well.  It was fun to fix up the dress anyway.

So while it feels like I've done nothing of note in the last month or so, I suppose maybe I have.  Soon I hope to be back on track coming up with fun new stuff to make.  :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

LED Arc Reactor for SuperHope

My favorite kind of project is the kind of project that makes me happy and also makes someone else's day. 

Recently I was asked to contribute to a superhero costume for Super Hope.  Super Hope is an awesome organization that works with kids who have cancer, and partners with local designers and artists to create superhero costumes for these kids, giving them the vision and motivation to kick cancer's butt.

I wanted to make an arc reactor a-la Iron Man.  I was working with Luma (Myth and Magic) to create a design done by an 11 year old girl battling leukemia and the LEDs really made it come to life.
I started by 3d printing a design I found online of an arc reactor, modified slightly.

I took a neopixel ring wired it up, then cast it in easy cast resin (with lots of glitter!) so the light would diffuse nicely and sparkle a bit, and also so that the electronic connections would be protected.  Kids are hard on electronics!

Then I wired the neopixels up to a gemma microcontroller and tried out a few different code samples to make the lights flash and blink in various patterns.  After putting a bunch of work into this I realized that Adafruit's neopixel strandtest code (for testing pixel strips) worked incredibly well and so I ended up just using that code as-is.  It cycles through ranbow colors, pulses, blinks, and generally does lots of fun stuff right "out of the box".  Win.

I added a 3AAA battery case and hot glued the whole contraption into the 3d printed arc reactor case.  It looked SO great with the spandex yellow and purple costume that Luma made.   And our amazing superheroine was delighted.  :)

Friday, January 23, 2015

DotStar LED Belly Dance Fans Tutorial

The new DotStar LEDs from Adafruit.com just arrived a couple weeks ago and I am the lucky lucky duck who got to play with them.

The cool thing about DotStars as opposed to NeoPixels (Adafruit's older LED type, and what I used for Glimmer the LED Mermaid and my Isis Wings) is that they are faster.

What does it mean for an LED to be fast?  Aren't they all just light speed?

Well, I'm not really sure.  But I think how it works is this: LEDs aren't just solidly "on".  RGB LEDs like NeoPixels and DotStars have 3 teensy little lights inside, a red, green, and blue.  They blink super fast and are able to create loads of different colors.. but even though they look solid to your eyeball, they are blinking slowly enough that when the LED moves quickly through space, you see it as a series of blips rather than a solid line of light.

DotStars fix this.  You see a solid line of light.  To wit:


So anyway.  Me being a light-spinner-type I had to create some LED fans.  LED fans are rather hard to come by in the high-end toy world.  Everyone is making hula hoops, poi, and staff toys but I've only seen one type of LED fan for sale (and I wasn't that nuts about it).

These, however, I am nuts about.

I've written a tutorial and posted it over at Adafruit.com so all you crafty types can make your own LED fans too.  It's got instructions and links and code and stuff.  

These fans have 3 modes with the code I uploaded to Adafruit.  My personal fans, of course, have far more modes than that.. there is loads of space on the arduino chip for adding more, adding choreo modes where the modes change automatically or at a certain time point, or just picking different colors.  The DotStar pixels are so fast that you get a persistence-of-vision effect when you swing the fans fast, with some modes.. I'm currently exploring some of the different stuff they'll do.  

If people want, I may post more elaborate code with more modes etc here at some point.   :)

Here's a video and a slideshow.  Yay LED Fans!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

LED 3D Printed Mermaid Necklaces

I just got back from NCMerFest in North Carolina.  I am a Mermaid performer and this is the best Mermaid convention I've ever been to -- I had a whole year's worth of fun and it's only January 7.

I've got some tremendously great Mermaid friends who I don't see nearly often enough.  When I got my 3D Printer for Christmas last year I decided I wanted to make some mermaid gifts for my pod-mates to give them at MerFest.  Since I'm so new to 3D printing, I wanted to keep it pretty simple, so I built on some of the other artwork I've been making recently and created custom mermaid LED necklaces for my 4 favorite mermaids.

I'd just finished making this Cosmic Turtle necklace for a friend as a Christmas gift.  For the mermaid necklaces I used the same basic electronics inside, with a slightly different LED configuration -- I wanted lights placed in specific spots for my designs, and also I was out of Neopixel rings with no time to order more, so I used individual Neopixels in place of the rings.

I've tried giving LED necklaces and costume pieces as gifts before, but the breakabilty and difficulty of use has stopped me.  Most handmade electronics require removing a battery to charge it, and the connections can be so delicate that even a gentle hand can break it pretty easily.  This new design includes an onboard battery charger that plugs into a USB cable, which makes it a wonderful gift for someone who's not ready to fix things with a soldering iron.

This was also my first crack at creating custom 3D images.  I looked all over Thingiverse and several other 3D image file source sites, and there just aren't many mermaid shapes available.  I wanted these necklaces to be extra special and personalized, so I decided to use an image of each of the Mermaids herself as the basis for the glowing cutout in the necklace.   The shell design was one I found on Tinkercad, and the pendant part is made of simple shapes so I was able to create that directly in Tinkercad as well.   I also embossed their names on the backs of the necklaces.

They turned out absolutely stunning.

I chose an iconic photo of each mermaid, taken by the incredible Chris Crumley and Robert Minnick, to immortalize in 3D printed plastic, then painted the pendants with metallic enamel and chose LED light colors in the programming to match each mermaid's tail colors.  The clasp is a magnet, which also doubles as an on/off switch by completing the circuit to the battery inside the pendant.

The Mermaid Atlantis
Mermaid Iara

Mermaid Malena

Mermaid Rachel (Dive Bar Sacramento)

I have the coolest friends.  I think they liked them.  :)  

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Cosmic Turtle Adafruit Learning Center Guide

My second Adafruit tutorial post is live!  Cosmic Turtle Loves you.  Check it out!

I made this for my brother's girlfriend as a Christmas gift and I loved it so much that I wanted to make myself one too.. but then I realized that this turtle pendant appears to be discontinued.  :(  Ah well, that means I'll have to get creative.  Oh darn.  

I got a 3D printer for Christmas, because my Dad is awesome, and I made a 3D printable turtle enclosure that fits these components perfectly.  You can download it free from Tinkercad, or if your dad is not as awesome as my dad and you didn't get a 3D printer for christmas, you can order one from Shapeways


Friday, December 26, 2014

Making ABS 3d-Printed Plastic Look Like Gold -- Paint Testing

I'm having a blast with my new 3D Printer, and the first thing I'm printing is jewelry.  Tiaras, necklaces, pendants, LED jewelry enclosures.. all the perfectly sized things I've always wanted but haven't been able to make until now.

There's just one problem... this printer prints ABS plastic.  White plastic jewelry is just... not... quite what I'm going for.  There are lots of colors available but they all look like plastic.  I want them to glisten and gleam like gold or sparkle and shine like silver.

I tried 5 different kinds of paint on this stuff to see what results I liked best.

Rustoleum Metallic Gold Spray Paint:  This is shiny.  It's super uber shiny.  It shows a lot of detail-- the texture of the model really comes through.  However, it's spray paint.. there is no carefully painting just part of the model without a lot of tedious masking.  And, well, it looks like gold spray paint.  BUT IT IS SHINY!

Liquid Leaf Renaissance Gold:  I had high hopes for this one.  It's thick and opaque and dries fast.  It's impossible to clean up if you spill or get it on you.  But the color turned out.. well, sort of dull and orangey.  It looks like painted plastic.  Not really worth it.

Testors Copper Enamel:  This was my favorite of the lot.  It's shiny but not SO shiny that it looks completely fake.  It's easy to apply (I used a q-tip since I don't want to bother with turpentine) and I can cover just the top layer of printing while leaving the lower layer blank for texture.  It's cheap too.  This is made for painting model cars so I guess they know how to make plastic look like metal.  Win.

Liquitex Bronze Acrylic:  I didn't have high hopes for the acrylic, and therefore it did not disappoint me.  To be fair, this is a bronze rather than a gold but I've never really had a great gold acrylic.  Acrylic paint is easy to use, easy to clean up, but just doesn't pack a lot of punch.

Rub n'Buff Antique Gold:  This is a wax based rub that is supposed to make wood and other porous materials gleam like gold.  ABS isn't really porous, but I rubbed n' buffed n' rubbed n'buffed and it turned out about like the Liquid Leaf.  Not my favorite, and with all that rubbin' n' buffin' it's hard to be precise.

Vitrail Gold Glass Paint:  I tried this one because I like putting LEDs inside my pendants and I wanted to test out something translucent.  This paint is translucent all right.  It's really thin and kind of runny and looks like gold paint, and not like metal at all.  I could see using this as an undercoat on the lower layers of ABS, to let the light through, but then covering the rest of the pendant in enamel or something else.  Didn't blow me away.

I didn't bother with oil paint or watercolors since they're really not made to be metallic.  End result: I like the enamel the best, and it's also the cheapest so that's a win.  It's easy to get and comes in thousands of colors.  For big jobs the metallic spray paint works great, but for most stuff I'll probably be using enamel.  

3D Printed Neopixel and Trinket Necklace

I got an UP! Mini 3D printer for Christmas this year.  Wowza.  I'm SO excited.. I haven't stopped playing with it since just about the minute I unwrapped it and I'm having tons of fun.

I printed a mermaid seashell, then I printed Elsa's crown from Frozen which I found on Thingverse.  I'm such a girl.

I've been making necklaces lately (this LED Turtle necklace that I made as a Christmas gift is my favorite so far).  It's a challenge to fit all the electronics and the battery and microcontroller into a small enough package that sits comfortably around my neck, but I'm slowly getting the hang of it.

I decided I wanted to design and print a pendant that is just the right size for a neopixel ring and Trinket microcontroller, with enough space for a small rechargeable LiPo battery and a nice flat back that closes up and looks pretty.  The ABS plastic filament my printer uses diffuses light really nicely so I decided to try using multiple thicknesses to add interest and texture.

This is harder than you'd think.. I've never done 3D design before and it makes me think in ways I haven't had use since high school geometry.   But it's also much easier than you'd think because there are some awesome free tools out there that had me up and running in minutes.

I have been using Tinkercad and I like it so far.. I've got a lot to learn but after 5-10 different attempts I ended up with a pretty delightful 3-D Printable necklace enclosure.

It's got a hole for the USB port for charging.  It has another hole for the wires to come out at the top.  It has a front side which is rounded to hide the electronics and a back side which is flat and smooth against my neck when I wear it.  (next step will be to learn how to make them snap neatly together, but hey, give me a minute, it's only my first day).  It also has a pretty cutout pattern of lines and circles to diffuse the light in an interesting way.

I printed it out, then painted it gently with gold leaf paint to give it some sparkle and more definition.  The paint is opaque so it really brings out the design.

For the electronics, I'm using a Trinket 3v and a LiPo charger, both of which I removed the battery connectors from and soldered directly to the pads instead.  (Those little connectors are SO BIG when you stack them up!  The components stack quite neatly without them)

I'm using a 12 Neopixel Ring and a single LED from a Neopixel strip in the middle.  The code is my new favorite "Holiday Twinkle Lights" sketch using FastLED.  I made this one gold and white fairy lights since it looks so nice with the gold leaf paint.

I'm also using a magnetic clasp as an on/off switch, which seems to be my new favorite switch method for necklaces.  It's super elegant and clean.

I'm pretty proud of this!  My first 3D Printed Design Thing and it feels so professional and slick.  :) :)