Friday, July 11, 2014

Light it up!

Usually when I start a new project, I have at least something of an image in my mind.  Well, this time, I have started with an idea, and I'm still trying to get to the image.

I want to do something with fireflies, glittering and flittering across the surface of the quilt.  But in a subtle, lovely way. Not tacky.  And I have decided I want to do this with LED lights.

I found a neat website, SparkFun, where you can find LEDs and all the accessories you need, and read lots of tutorials about how to make it all work.    Also, check out Sew Electric. These tutorials are designed for kids, and may especially appeal to girls or anybody interested in sewing as a way to learn about electronics.

This is what my setup looks like, on a scrap of fabric I grabbed from my cutting table:

The red cord connects it all to my computer, the purple circle is a tiny computer called a Lilypad, and I've hand-sewn a connection to an LED with conductive thread. When the project is done, it will have a battery rather than being connected to the computer, but I haven't figured out how to put the battery in yet. And this is nothing like what the finished quilt will look like- it's just a way to experiment with the LEDs.

It started off pretty easy- I made my LED blink on and off by following a step by step tutorial.  But then it got tricky.  I wanted my light to fade slowly in and out, and then pause for a few seconds before turning back on. The fading took a few hours of Googling.  That 2 second pause?  It took me two days- but I actually wrote 2 lines of code myself to make it happen!  

In this video, you should see the light gradually get brighter, then fade off, then go black for 2 seconds.

If this video doesn't play, you watch it on YouTube.

Learning new things can be fun and exhilarating, but it can also be super frustrating.  When I was trying to figure out if the thread I bought will work to carry enough current through the surface of a large quilt, reading a suggestion like this filled me with dread:  "Your safest bet on a complicated project is to calculate the resistance your circuit can handle using Ohm's Law."  What?  Should I just give up now?  But, I figured out that if you can calculate how many strips of fabric it takes to make a binding, you can calculate resistance with Ohm's Law.  

So I'm excited to be embarking on a new project.  I'll keep you posted as I learn more.  If you have experience with e-Textiles I'd love to hear about it!