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

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.  :)  



Friday, April 4, 2014

Glimmer the Mermaid -- LED Mermaid Tail and accessories

I haven't posted in the last few months because I've been pouring all my energy into creating this.


I call her Glimmer the Mermaid.  :)

(She's even got her own Facebook Page so that makes her "real")

I made the LED swimmable mermaid seashells at the end of 2013, and wore them to the NC Merfest convention and they were a huge hit.  When I got home, I decided the shells needed a light-up tail to complement them.  The rabbit-hole opened up, and I dove right in.




The end result is absolutely stunning, and I am completely delighted with it.  This was the most learning-intensive and difficult and frustrating project I've attempted in.. well, since college, I think.  I have had to learn so much in so many different fields, and I've encountered so many amazing people and communities along the way.

This tail uses about 180 Adafruit Neopixels and an Arduino Micro to control them.  It's got a bluetooth feature -- I can control it with my android tablet and change the animations and brightness of the lights.  I plan to add audio sensors and possibly motion or color sensors as well (that'll be phase two, I think).

It is designed to be swimmable.  I'm doing the first full water test probably next week, and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I used enough glue that nothing shorts or zaps me.  Nothing has so far,  and all the partial water tests I've done have worked fine.. but strapping a big battery and a bunch of electronics on, and then going for a swim, makes me a little nervous.

Mermaid in the bathtub!


But.  Swimming Mermaid LED Tail!!!

This is a neoprene tail painted with Jones Tones.  I used the same basic method for the tail as I used for my last neoprene Ariel Mermaid Tail, but I spared no expense this time.  I used a competitor monofin (which I like SO much better than the Rapid).  I made the scales larger and added lots of rhinestones and gems and lace.  When the lights are off, it almost comes across as "Mermaid Wedding" -- but I love the fanciness and I love how the predominantly white color scheme goes with the lights, whatever color they are.

The lights on the top part of the tail are individual neopixels cast in resin for diffusion and waterproofing.




 The lights on the bottom are neopixel strips encased in Dragonskin silicone.   This keeps them flexible (almost to a fault -- I have broken them a couple times already!) and very waterproof.

Also I made a glowing tiara with more of the resin cast neopixel "jewels".  Because Glimmer needed a glowing tiara.


All together, the outfit is just stunning.  I never want to take it off.  This tail is significantly heavier than my other tails have been (oof, abs!) but it should be close to neutrally buoyant in the water.  

I got to wear it to the A's Game season opening party at the Oakland Coliseum this past week. They put me by the sushi bar, HA! 

Glimmer was very well received.  Although, with that particular audience, most people seemed to be more excited about the light-up seashells than the fancy animated tail.  (Men.  What can you do?)




Once all the bugs are worked out and the swimmability tested, Glimmer will be available for all kinds of wet or dry events and appearances.  I'm also hoping to do a lot of photo shoots as the weather gets nicer.   I want to do sunset beach shoots, and underwater cave shoots, and fancy swimming pool shoots and snowscape shoots.  I just want to wear it everywhere.  :)  


Wednesday, January 8, 2014

LED Light-up Underwater Mermaid Seashells

My current plan for world-domination through illuminated fashion: a programmable LED swimmable mermaid tail.

Electronics and water don't play well together.  I am starting small, though I have to admit the more I play around with LED wearables, the grander my vision gets.   I'd better get started on this tail soon or it's going to have so many bells and whistles that it'll never get finished.

I just got back from NC Merfest (blog entry about that very soon!) where the Mermaid Atlantis and I showcased our newest collaboration: glowing LED mermaid seashell bras.

Atlantis specializes in silicone cast seashells and they're really gorgeous and durable.  My initial idea was to encase the LEDs and electronics in silicone, thus waterproofing and diffusing them in one easy step.  However, after a few prototypes we changed the design a bit (LEDs too close to the surface of the silicone shells read as "glowing nipples" which was NOT the effect we were going for!).  

The result is a super cool, swimmable waterproof seashell bra that looks and feels amazing underwater!



The shells are Mermaid Atlantis' "D Shells" product - slightly larger than the standard "C" shells she sells, and a bit thicker.  I encased the LEDs themselves in plastic to keep them waterproof and add to the diffusion, and then set them on the bra behind the seashells.  

The LEDs are Adafruit's neopixels - they're incredibly bright and are run from a Gemma and a very small LiPo battery.  The electronics live in a small waterproof case which is hidden at the back of the neck (beneath long flowing mermaid hair).  I haven't tested them for depth yet, but I swam down at least 8 feet and they continued pulsing and glowing in a most delightful way.  :)  And the nice thing about this setup is that they're programmable - I can change the color or pulse rate or brightness in just a minute or two.

We also wore them with matching slinky sequined Mermaid dresses at the Merfest's Masquerade Ball and felt like we absolutely stole the show.  :)  

Video of lots of mermaids swimming at MerFest!  You can see me swim by in the shells near the end.





Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Silver Glow Fur Jacket

Today I finished my first glow-fur project.  It's a glowing silver-and-white fur lined jacket, and the cuffs and collar fur glow with delicious rainbow colors and animations.

I used Adafruit's Gemma chip along with their neopixels and neopixel strips.  The jacket is powered by a lithium polymer battery that's surprisingly light and really strong.  I think I'm hooked on lithium polymer.  This thing is awesome.

This jacket was kind of a nightmare to make.  Electronics can be so petulant if they don't get exactly what they want, when they want it, and prototypes are notoriously fiddly anyway even without the electricity to muddle things up.  I remade almost every part of this jacket at least twice, and I'm still not 100% satisfied with it, but I am 500% HAPPY with it.

The cool thing about using the Adafruit pixels is that each one is individually addressable.  What does that mean?  It means that I can plug this jacket into my Mac, and tell it what color combinations I want, or what animations it should run, or how bright it should be or any number of wonderful things.  If I want it fading from purple to red to purple I can do that, or I can let the rainbow colors shine.  

I've also got the option of adding on motion sensors, color sensors, or GPS sensors (so I can have it light up when I get to Starbucks, or whatever - I haven't quite figured out the why's of that one yet).  There's so much to learn.  It's a little overwhelming. 

video
But right now I have a sparkly rainbow light up jacket.  Squee!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Adventures of The Inappropriate Giant Purple Squid Pillow

I woke up in the middle of the night and heard a very odd sucking noise in the bathroom.  Bleary-eyed, I stumbled in there and saw something purple and squishy slurping up out of the drain.  I don't know how he got there or where he came from, but soon my giant bathtub was filled with purple madness.  He sat there, blinking innocently at me.


I backed slowly into the hall, giving him space.   He seemed harmless enough, and only a little bit lost and confused.  Even in my bleary-eyed state I could see that he seemed tired.  


I invited him downstairs and offered him sustenance.  It seems he was more in need of a comfortable, safe place to rest and refresh his obviously gigantic and under stimulated brain.


I could see his eyes light up with wonder and fascination as he paged his way quickly through Bilbo's Unexpected Journey.  His large cranial cavity began to pulse excitedly as his tentacles flipped the pages with rapid excitement.


He slurped into the office and began researching, muttering quietly to himself as he gathered his thoughts.  I tried to peek over his shoulder but, since he lacks shoulders, I couldn't catch a glimpse of his focus, though I thought I spotted him plotting a course on Google Maps to a dark, watery garden.


Determined, he slurped into the garage and tried desperately to make a break for freedom.  He was thwarted only by his inability to find the button for the garage door.  I did not offer my assistance.


Distracted for a moment, I turned away.  When I looked back, the giant squid had appropriated a more suitable mode of transport.  The last I saw of him, he was pedaling quickly and expertly down the street, heading into an unknown adventure.