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

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.  :) :)

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Animated Glow Fur Neopixel Scarf Tutorial

So, this is exciting.

I've been invited to become a contributor to the Adafruit Learning Center -- Adafruit's online shop is where I buy most of the supplies for all the light-up costumes I've been making lately.

Adafruit's tutorial style is right up my alley.  They have a good number of beginner-friendly projects and a lot of the guides focus on LED wearables and cosplay.  The firewalker shoes and sparkle skirt tutorials are what got me all excited and interested in making LED costumes in the first place, and the Arduino lessons and project ideas made it actually possible.  I've opened up a whole new world of fun and learned so much this past year and I'm super excited and grateful to be able to contribute to the site that got me here.

My first tutorial was just published yesterday: Animated Neopixel Glow Fur Scarf

Check it out.  It's a pretty easy project -- beginner level sewing and beginner level soldering, with copy-and-paste-able Arduino code that I made pretty easy to customize.  I'm extremely proud of it.

Let me know if you make one!

Monday, November 24, 2014

LED Isis Wings - Arduino Controlled Magic

My latest project is officially finished!  I made my first set of LED Isis Wings and they are, of course, my new favorite thing ever.

Here they are in action:

The iridescent Wings of Isis are gorgeous on their own, but with the lights they're really stunning.

The wings have 120 neopixels controlled by a Teensy 3.1 running Arduino.  They've got bluetooth control (controllable by my Glimmer the Mermaid android app!) and also a clicky thumb switch for changing modes on the fly.  It's on the left, because I am left handed and I like things to be custom like that.  

These were pretty labor intensive.  I needed them to be really lightweight and also not mind being whacked into things (and people.. you'd think with 120 lights people wouldn't walk into you, but never underestimate the lack of awareness in people who are busy texting).  

I started with individual neopixels from Adafruit and soldered them together into 12 strands of 10 pixels each using 30AWG silicone coated wire.  Then I cast each pixel in quick setting Amazing Resin, to keep the pixels from shorting if they touched each other and to provide a lot of strain relief and whack-relief.  The resin is white, and I used all white wire, so the light strands really disappear against the white iridescent fabric in the daylight.

Then I laid them all out on the wings in a starfish pattern and used E600 fabric glue to secure each light to the wings.  Finally, I used my sewing machine and ran a zig-zag stitch over the wires in between each light to securely fasten each strand to the wings.

That was the easy part.  Fabrication always comes easier to me than wiring and coding, but the geeky techie stuff is getting a little easier with each project.  

This was my first time using the Teensy micro controller and I must say that I am a convert.  This tiny little chip has acres and acres of memory and is really easy to set up and use.  It just works!  I like that very much.

The HC-05 bluetooth module I'm using is not quite as delightful.  It works, no problems there, but I have been unable to get it into AT command mode despite all my (albeit possibly feeble) best efforts.  I am having no problems getting it to control the wings for me, but I can't change its name, which means that as I make more sets of these wings I will have multiple devices all named HC-05 -- which makes choosing the correct one from my android tablet rather problematic.  I also can't access some of the other higher functions like using it in master mode instead of slave mode, which sort of bums me out since I had some ideas for that.  Oh well. 

For power, I'm using a Tenergy Li-Poly 11.1V / 2200mAh battery that connects through a 5V step-down converter.  It runs the wings for several hours as long as I'm not screaming at full brightness most of the time.  I'm pretty happy with the performance.  

I used clicky connectors for everything that attaches the wings to the project box, so the project box can be taken off entirely if I need to wash the wings or if I want to mix and match controllers with multiple sets of wings -- since LED strands tend to break no matter how robust you make them, I think this will save my butt at some future date when I turn the wings on right before a gig and realize one of the strands is out.. I can just swap it out with a different set of wings.   

Each LED strand is connected to its own pin on the Teensy, so I can run matrix-style animations that march from one side of the wings to the other.   

The code I'm using relies heavily on the wonderful FastLED library.   I've got about 10 modes so far, and am planning to add a lot more.  The "fire" mode is currently my favorite, but in five minutes it'll probably be "rainbow with glitter" again.  I also added a mode I call "Gandalf" -- glowing bluish white tips -- which just makes the nerdy little girl in me wiggle with delight. 

I think my favorite mode is whichever one is currently running, actually.  

The coding is the hardest part for me, and probably the least interesting aspect of the wings to anyone who's not a coder.  My hubby just rolls his eyes whenever I spend 3 hours trying to get an animation juuuuust right -- it looks the same to him as it did before I started.  But, it makes me happy, and I'm learning a lot, so I'm going to keep tweaking on it.   And I'm continually amazed and impressed with the FastLED Google+ Community for all the coding help and sharing that goes on.  These guys are doing Internet the right way.

And, if and when I can get the lights to dance seamlessly with the music, I will have Made Good Art.  :)

Isis wings traditionally strap around the performer's neck for support, but with this giant battery and all these lights they are WAY too heavy for that.  I felt like I was being strangled with all that weight pressing right on my throat.  So I made a little backpack with clear straps to house all the electronics and the battery, and lined it with duvetyne fire retardant cloth just in case my battery decides to get antsy and explode or anything.  

All together I am pleased as punch with how gorgeous these are.  I've got lots of fun modes working and have choreographed my first full-song-length animation sequence.  I have a show on New Year's Eve booked where we'll be dancing with two sets of wings together and I can't wait to get to choreographing that piece.. I suspect it's going to be spectacular.