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

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.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

LED Steampunk Aeronaut Costume - Android, Adafruit, FastLED and Steam powered awesomeness

Halloween costume #3: Aeronaut Erin and her magical arduino powered flaming rocket pack.  :)  
Featuring   interactive steampunk goggles, a glowing fairy bottle, my glowing soul caster on my wrist and my "secret of nimh sparkly" necklace, and of course my brand new LED isis wings running FastLED.  

The rocket pack is made out of plastic soda bottles and the aviator cap is made from craft foam.  The goggles change color depending on which way I'm facing and have a pendulum effect that reacts whenever I turn my head.  I'm wearing 4 different arduinos, one accelerometer, one bluetooth module and 5 different batteries, and all together I'm rocking 180 LEDs.

The outfit lasted all night without me having to change a single battery or fix a single flicker.  This is a major accomplishment!!   I am so proud.  :) :) :)  



Friday, October 3, 2014

Steampunk Festival Belt with Pockets - Leather and Embroidery

This upcycled leather Steampunk Festival Belt is really fun.  It's got a steampunk octopus.  Who doesn't love a steampunk octopus?  It also has a steampunk dragonfly on the other side, and tentacles embroidered on the iPhone pocket in the back.   It has magnetic snaps to keep the pocket flaps in place, and zippers inside to keep your stuff in place in case of handstands or sudden drops in airship elevation.

It's made from two colors of leather (upcycled from used leather jackets), a gorgeous coppery fabric, and faux leather for the side pocket flaps.  All the creatures are embroidered on.  For stamina.

I wear one of these every day in lieu of a purse or backpack and I absolutely love it.  It has enough space for my moneys, my lipstick, my business cards, and my phone (fits an iPhone 4 or 5, I haven't tried it with a 6 or an Android phone), with two extra small secret pockets behind the phone pocket for frequent buyer cards and hair ties, or of course, spy documents.

I made this for me, but then realized it isn't .. quite .. me.  It certainly is someone though.  So I'm going to sell it.  It'll fit hip size 35-45 or thereabouts.   I'm asking $150.  Send me an email if you'd like it.

I have listed it on Etsy too.

Pictures!  (click to embiggen)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Secret of Nimh Sparkly LED Necklace

So, I have been making stuff.  I never stop making stuff.  I just haven't been posting about it all.  :)  Too busy traveling the world as a Mermaid, I think.

But this one is so much fun I want to share!

This necklace reminds me of the sparkly in the Secret of Nimh cartoon.  I mean, I've always wanted a Sparkly for my very own...  hasn't everyone?

I started with a neopixel.  I did a resin cast, embedding the neopixel inside.  Then I glued a small neopixel ring on the back of the hardened resin jewel and wired it up to the embedded pixel.  I love the neopixel rings, but  trouble is that they leave a dark spot in the middle, so adding a single neopixel in the center makes the whole thing glow more evenly.

I wired it all up to a beetle board.  These are super cute and teeny tiny, though they are a bit fiddly and sometimes I want to smash them with a shoe.

I tested lots of different LED code effects before I found this one on the FastLED forum and tweaked it so it gave me the look I wanted.. clouds, sparkles, fades, and the whole thing slowly cycles through the rainbow, giving me every color over the course of several minutes.   It runs on a small LiPo battery glued to the back of the beetle board.

I looked through my "steampunk junk" drawer and found the little pocket watch blank -- I probably got it at Michael's or a halloween store at some point.  I took off the back and the flip cover and used a dremel to rout out the inside metal tabs, and the whole necklace assembly fit perfectly right inside.  (I was tempted to leave the flip cover on, because a flip cover pocket watch necklace would be super cool too, but I decided it's better in it's constantly open state and who wants to walk around with a covered up LED necklace anyway?)

The new thing, the bit I'm proudest of, is the magnetic clasp / switch.  This has always been an issue for me with making LED necklaces.  Well, two issues -- one, where do you put the switch so it's not visible or rubbing against your neck, and two, how do you have an open-able clasp if the wires are going around your neck?  With this solution I fixed both problems in a most elegant way.

The magnetic clasp is a super simple solution, and much less expensive than buying an on/off switch.  I'm considering adding a non-wired magnetic clasp in there too, in case I want to wear this necklace when it's turned off... but.. why on earth would I want to do that?

Before you ask.. yes, I have considered making these for sale.  But, my MO for any type of thing I make seems to be this:

1. Make a whole bunch JUST FOR ME until I have way more than I can use
2. Make them for my friends as gifts / giveaways until my friends get sick of them too
3. Make them for sale, if I'm still excited about the process and if I can guarantee they won't break.

That's the issue with LED clothing, costumes, jewelry, etc... it breaks!  It breaks all the time.  I'm convinced that this is why it's taking so long for cool LED glow fur and costume bits to make it out to the retail stores.. I have to fix on my LED costume bits so often, and the fixes are usually pretty tricky and involve soldering irons and replacement wires and parts, that I just couldn't justify selling this stuff until I feel super confident it won't just fall apart.

Here's a picture of the guts.  I might add some kind of cover back there eventually but then there'll be issues with plugging it into the charger, so I've just left it techie-looking for now.  :)  And it's nice and smooth on my neck, and doesn't seem to want to spin around, so maybe I'll just leave it.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Glowing Soulcaster Wristband - Inspired by the Stormlight Archives

I'm listening to the audiobook verion of Stormlight by Brandon Sanderson while working on things, and woke up this morning gripped with the inescapable need for a Soulcaster of my own.

From Wikepedia:
Soulcasting is a practice where objects are changed from one form to another. It has been shown to turn rock into smoke, purify the blood from poisons, and create food, and it has many other uses. Soulcasting is done by means of a device called a soulcaster that is powered by gems imbued with Stormlight. The type of gem placed inside the soulcaster determines what the caster can transform. With each use there is a chance of the gem cracking and being destroyed, especially when a large amount of matter is changed.
I think that sounds like a pretty useful thing to have.

So without further ado, I busted out the big box o' steampunk junk and the soldering iron, pulled out a few neopixels and an arduino micro controller (that's where the magic comes from) and came up with this lovely thing.

It's got three glowing gemstone spheres, set in brass for stability and maximum power transfer.  The straps are soft suede leather and it closes with two ornate brass buttons.  

The gemstones glow quite brightly fading between all the colors in the rainbow.  And of course, when I'm using it to transmute one kind of matter into another, they flash with a searing brightness.  

This thing is delighting me a whole lot.  It's also going to make a fantastic steampunk costume accessory.  What kind of mythical creature might steal and wear a soulcaster?  Are they of use to mermaids or fairies?  Maybe to this Steampunk Fairy.   What would you transmute with your very own soulcaster?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Glimmer the Mermaid - Geeky Coding Updates

Now that my LED Mermaid Tail is functional, I've been spending every waking minute adding bells and whistles, animations and robust-ification.  I've got a pool lined up for my very first swim-test on Friday and I'm both terrified and deliciously excited.  Will it all short out?  Will I electrocute myself?  Will the bluetooth controls work through a couple feet of water?   And how is the tail going to swim?

For all the questions, I am getting really confident and happy with the software side of things.  I discovered the FastLED code library for Arduino, and it's completely blown my mind.  I'm an artist and a performer first and have just started coding Arduino fairly recently, so doing much more than simple color changes was a bit beyond my abilities.  This code library has given me dozens of sample animations to tweak on and play with which has made the Glimmer tail so incredibly complex and effective, SO quickly.  

Here are a few of my favorites so far:

I'm also dipping my toes (fins?) into the Android pool and working on making a pretty Android app for controlling the tail.  I've got several different environments I need to think about.  Animations for a live appearance need to be different from animations for a photo shoot, and when I do a performance, those animations need to be different yet again.  I need brightness controls too, for battery life management and so I can effectively match different performance or photo environments.  

This is really new territory for me.  Android coding is HARD, you guys.  But the Internet is amazing and wonderful and beautiful, and people are so incredibly supportive and helpful, so I'm getting there.

Of course I want buttons that go "boink" when you press them and all kinds of animations and sound effects and junk, but for right now, it works and it looks pretty... so I'm happy.

Tonight I'm doing a sunset photo shoot at the Richmond Marina, and Friday is my first swim!!  I can't wait.  :)