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!


  1. Best of luck on this unique idea! Thanks for the comment on my blog post too. You asked what was at the baseboards at my solo show, "Last Words". These are artificial flowers collected from cemetery dumpsters. Each blossom is carefully dissected to remove the fabric ... which is then washed in the guest bathroom's tub and dried in a giant gauze bag in the dryer or spread out on towels on the bathroom floor. I've used these petals in the creation of several garments that were made on water soluble stablizer, including "The Leaf Dress" which has won awards in a couple competitions like the International Wearable Art Award in Fort Moody, British Columbia. I've used these flowers for a couple store front window installations and last year's South Carolina fiber invitational. I've also used these flowers for my only performance art piece called "Ophelia". I LOVE THESE FLOWERS! LOL! Each one was brought to a cemetery as a token of love and remembrance but then tossed into a dumpster and intended to be spilled into a landfill. By rescuing them, I feel I get the "love and remembrance" as well as the good vibes of recycling. Basically, they make me happy! Thanks for asking.
    PS If you google my name and the title "Leaf Dress" or the title "Ophelia", you can probably find images of these artpieces.
    PSS GO BUCKS! I was born in Columbus and graduated in 1980 at age 20 from The Ohio State University with an undergraduate degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I headed Block O in 1978.

  2. I love your ideas, and admire your trying a new technique to make it happen.
    Leeanna Paylor not afraid of color

  3. Ang, you never cease to amaze me! This is an awesome idea! Hope to see it at retreat.