We’re lit! Neopixil go time!

IMG_4563This is a  shot before I added the outer part of the vest which covers the wires, and before I sewed on the data lines.  You can see they are held on by pins.  I’ll try to capture a video today to show you how we’ve programmed the lights to change, and I’ll do a follow up blog with the details of how we made decisions and problems we overcame.

But it’s working!!  Thankful today for a patient husband, willing to teach me about electronics starting with what is a circuit.  I did all the wiring and sewing but I could not have done it without his 35 years of expertise, guidance and humor. (not to mention his tools, like wire strippers, soldering gun, and stash of wire.)

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Don’t Cross Power and Ground!

My husband has said that to me now at least 100 times, even though we are not at the point of adding any electronics to our attempt at a twinkling holiday vest.  That said, we have progressed with nary an accusation by either one of us accusing the other of knowing nothing about each other’s field of expertise.

vest2The lining of the vest is ready.

We are getting ready to prep for wires, and so I thought I would share with you some of the baubles we brought in.

neopixel2This is a packet of 20 neopixels.  (A neopixel is a light). They snap apart like plastic toys.

And here is what my husband has been telling me.  As you can see, each neopixel has 4 places for wire.  Power and ground must be on opposite sides and they must never cross as they travel from one neopixel to the next.


The other holes are for the software to speak to each pixel.  Input is info coming in, output is info being passed on to the next neopixel.  It’s all fascinating and new to me since I have never had any experience with electronics…not even the slightest bit.

flora1The “flora” is basically the brains of the operation.  It also has a neopixel in the center.  These things are bright!  However, they may lose some brightness as they move farther away from the power source (battery – which has a limited life).  This explains why my husband suggested using guage wire (covered in plastic) as power and ground, and conductive thread only as data in and out. Still to be determined there.

My next step is to draw up the layout on the vest with each neopixel in position.

I have requested non-leaded solder which for some reason makes my husband want to cry.  Apparently leaded solder melts like butter.  Silver solder requires much more heat and is more difficult to maneuver.

I leave you with this thought, today, which came on the packing slip from Adafruit.



LED DIY Wearables. Um, yeah.

Stop the presses. Hold your horses. Shut the door. Turn out the lights.

Because I’m starting a project I know so little about it’s scary.  And turning out the lights might actually be a good thing.

Luckily, I’m embarking on this project in partnership with a husband who happens to be an electrical engineer–a hardware guy. Someone who’s heard the term neopixel before.

And I, well, I know how to sew.

Together we’ve decided to create one of those DIY wearables the “kids” are building these days.

Go ahead.  Google DIY Wearables with LED.  It looks like fun, right?

I’m not starting totally clueless.  I purchased this book (Getting Started with Adafruit Flora by Becky Stern and Tyler Cooper) which, frankly, I only understand half the words on the cover.  However, diving into it is much easier with a handbook, and I do have someone to consult when I’m completely baffled.



The first decision we had to make (as a couple) was what project to work on, and then how it would be lit.  After doing the research, I settled on a simple serged vest, to which I will add a lining.  The lighting would be sewn to the lining, and the lights will shine through the top layer.  That’s the plan.  For now.

vest1The pattern I’ve chosen is Modern Silhouette Vest from Amy Barickman.

The fabric is called Maker, from Art Gallery Fabrics.  Seemed appropriate.

Problems encountered so far:

–I wanted to run a string of lights from front to back on the vest in two places…not cheap to purchase those light strips by the way.  They come in meter long sizes. However, the strips are encased in hard plastic which is just not going to lend itself to the shape of a vest. Or a human being, for that matter.

–So I modified the design to have an all-over sprinkling of lights which I can program to patterns and colors.

–The battery is rather heavy for what I’m looking to do, so I might have to design a pocket in the lining to hold the battery, or we may actually need two batteries. This is something I’ll have to modify along the way.

Things to figure out next:

–How to attach all those lights. I think they must be hand sewn with conductive thread, and all connected to one another.  This is where my partner comes in.  He’s here to make sure I don’t electrocute myself or start the dang vest on fire.

–How to program and what sort of controller to use. I have to get into a few more chapters in the book for that.

Stay tuned.

This could get interesting.