Sunday, July 26, 2015

AdaFruit Sparkle Skirt

This year, my library was awarded a grant to start a makerspace. I am project lead on this endeavor, and though the grant allows for training on makerspace projects, I have been trying to expand my knowledge by doing projects for myself.

My husband showed me this really neat project from Adafruit a few years back: Sparkle Skirt

At the time, it seemed a bit daunting. But, in our supply kit provided by the grant, we received some neopixels and Adafruit Gemmas. So, at some point, we'll have to do a wearable electronics program to use these supplies. 

I have been keeping my eye open for awhile for a lined/lacy overlay skirt, and finally found one on sale at Fred Meyer for $10. I thought that wasn't too much of an investment in a skirt in case I really screw this project up, so I bought it. Then I bought the electronics components for ~$100. So, the pressure to make this work was back on.   I had a knee surgery scheduled for May 19 and thought the recovery time would be a great opportunity to work on this project.

May 18: Supplies arrive!
I bought my supplies (not pictured, the actual battery BECAUSE I FORGOT TO BUY IT!)

May 22, 2015: Test the Flora and neopixels
Well, first thing's first: I needed to make sure all my electronic components worked before I took the time to sew them into the fabric. 
I had a challenge getting the Flora and the Arduino IDE to communicate. My Flora connects with mini USB, but it didn't come with the cord. So, my husband dug one out for me. So, I used some alligator clips to connect my Flora to a neopixel, uploaded the neopixel test code and...NOTHING HAPPENED!  

Well, something happened: 

So, I stressed for a bit. Then thought a bit more, then did some troubleshooting. The lights did come on on the Flora board, but I thought maybe the neopixel was too much for it. However, with the neopixel unattached, I still got errors uploading to the board. So, I asked my husband for a different USB cord and it worked the first try! The other USB cord went into the trash. So, for the time being, we can either charge our PS3 controller, or I can code my skirt. It's a tough decision to make.

I used this process to test my Neopixels.

May 24, 2015: sew Flora, accelerometer, front 7 pixels' data line to skirt

I sewed the Flora and accelerometer to the skirt. I already messed up because in the tutorial pictures, they used thread to tack the Flora down using one of the GND pads.

So, I did the same.

But when I looked at the wiring diagram later, I noticed they had an extra line of conductive thread coming off that GND pad to the neopixels on the back of the skirt (notice the green line on the left side of the Flora?).

So, I later cut the regular thread and tacked down that side using the TX pad next to the GND.

Next, I wanted to test my lines for the Flora and accelerometer. Hooked it up, loaded the sample accelerometer code in the tutorial and opened the serial monitor in the Arduino IDE:

Ah, yeah! Worked on the first try! WHOO!

Then I started in on sewing the front seven neopixels. This is a very tedious process. I used the process outlined in the video for the Amplitie. I sewed data lines first: 1). lay out pixel locations, 2). use a shorter piece of conductive thread and start on the fabric between two pixels, 3). sew to one pixel's data line, then double back to sew to the other one, 4). double back one more time to end in the middle again and knot off the thread.

This was my progress after seven hours of hand-stitching:
Note the top right pixel. It's going to be the bane of my existence in this project...

May 26, 2015: sew GND
 I took a break from my skirt, but I had the goal of getting this ready to show off for the Adult Craft at my public library on May 30. Back to work. But I only made it through the GND for the front seven pixels.  I sewed ground with one lllloooonnnngggg piece of thread. It was kind of unruly.

May 26-June 4, 2015: ...
Life kind of happened. I didn't get my skirt even close to done for my May 30 deadline.

On May 27-29 I prepared to lead kids through a library program using Arduino Nano to create robots with servo motors:

There were only a few robots that refused to cooperate:

The adult craft on May 30 was super fun (even without a completed skirt). The library director showed participants how to make decorative tiles using alcohol ink:

On May 31, I worked on a project for the upcoming community program, Geeks United:

On June 1, we had the maiden voyage of our retro-fitted Bookmobile as the Maker Bus to the KidU camp at Idaho State University where we had the kids work with circuits:

AND Summer Reading Kick-Off:

Did I mention that I was recovering from knee surgery on May 19?

Okay, so my NEW goal is to have the skirt ready for the community event Geeks United on June 5...

June 4, 2015: sew VBATT on front seven Neopixels and first test!
Today I made it through the power side of the Neopixels. It didn't quite take me seven hours, but still took long enough that I didn't even get started on the back of the skirt.  I was a little worried about spending all this time sewing and then plugging it in and not having any response. I wouldn't even know WHERE to start with troubleshooting it. Looks like a normal skirt:

HOLY COW! It worked!

You can kind of tell in the picture that the top right Neopixel isn't behaving (it's not even on in this picture). And it wasn't. It flickered a lot. I thought it'd be okay, because it turned on when I stretched the fabric out, but it ended up being a bigger problem later as it connected the back pixels to the front.

OBSERVATION: the fabric of the slip on my skirt is very stretchy polyester. I used an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric tight, and sewed tightly, but still ended up with some loose connections at the end. I was worried I'd have to rip out the entire GND and VBATT lines as sew them as one long strand again, but found I could rip out the troublesome lines and knot a new piece tightly to the ground and power and still get the connections to work.  HOORAY!

Okay, okay, so I was happy that the front of my skirt worked. I was not happy that I was only half-way done. I did not make it for my NEW June 5 deadline.  But, that's okay. My NEW NEW deadline is July 18 because I have an adult craft planned that involves sewing circuits. So, summer progresses....

June 12, 2015: sew back Neopixel data lines
Pretty straightforward. It took me an afternoon, but I was distracted watching anime, so it probably would have gone faster if I focused.  I tried to layout the pixels so I wouldn't sit on them.  the pixel in the top left is my troublesome light.  I was so young and naive back then...

June 22, 2015: re-sew the Flora, add GND and VBATT to back Neopixels
Today is the day I realized I need that GND pad and had to re-sew the Flora using the TX pad.

I have also gotten quite good at sewing in circuits. I was able to accomplish both power and ground in one day!

A picture of how the GND on the left-side of the Flora connected to the pixel line and my little battery pouch. I sacrificed an old tank top to provide the fabric needed for my battery pouch.
The Neopixel test code was already on the Flora from when I tested the front pixels WWAAAYYYY back at the beginning of the month. I hung my skirt up with a piece of fabric between the layers to keep the lines from touching and plugged in my skirt.

The front pixels lit up, but NOTHING on the back worked. I stretched the fabric and did a lot of observing on what lines were tight and which were loose and how I could get the back pixels to sort of flicker, and finally realized how much that one top right pixel on the front of my my skirt was impacting everything else. I decided that day that I was going to have to rip out the thread on this pixel and start over, but I also decided that day that I would work on it a little later. I was a bit discouraged, to say the least. And, I was out of thread. So I had to order more and wait for it to arrive...

July 4-8, 2015: re-sew troublesome Neopixel
I worked my way through re-sewing the data line, GND, and VBATT on my problem pixel. I was very relieved to find out that I only had to rip out the circuit back to a Neopixel I knew was working and knot on a new piece of thread to reconnect my problem pixel. Instead of a straight stitch, I worked with a staggered stitch which works much better in my stretchy fabric.  Maybe someday I'll go back and re-stitch all the circuits....

I tested the skirt again AND EVERYTHING CAME ON!

Feeling confident, I decided to upload the complete code that incorporates the accelerometer to make the pixels flash with movement. I uploaded the code and only the front pixels worked again. So aggravating! My NEW NEW deadline of July 18 was quickly approaching.

July 18, 2015: Contemplation...
Today was the day I needed to take my skirt to work and show participants what you can do if you learn to stitch soft circuits. My skirt lit up and was neat, but I really wanted it to use the accelerometer.

I studied the code for a really long time. I updated all my Adafruit libraries in the Arduino IDE. Then I studied the code awhile longer and FINALLY noticed this number (highlighted):
Of course I had seen the note before, but it hadn't clicked what it referred to until that moment. I looked at my skirt again. When it was turned on, only the first 6 pixels reacted to movement. Well, I had a few more than 6 pixels sewn into my skirt.  Hmm...let's change that number to 12, which is the real number of pixels I'm using...


Friday, March 13, 2015

Nerdopolis T2R2

This month, I spent my time making a set of crochet kokeshi dolls. The pattern was really fun and practicing embroidery was really good for me!

Description of how event theme is met: Pi is the ratio between a circle’s circumference and its diameter. I made an amigurumi doll, which began its life as a circle. I also crocheted a flat bottom for my kokeshi doll, so she’s always standing on a circle. 
Photo of project: 
Team shout out for Nerd Cred: (Optional) 
My doll is dressed in red. Elektra from Marvel comics prefers to wear red as well. 
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Description of how event theme is met: I crocheted a second kokeshi doll in a light purple the same color as an orchid. She also has a dainty budding flower stitched on the sleeves of her kimono. 
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Photo of project: 
Team shout out for Nerd Cred: (Optional) 
I have decided that the jackets on the uniforms of the boys at the Ouran High School Host Club are purple (not blue), just like my doll’s kimono! 
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Description of how event theme is met: Yay! Spring! I crocheted an amigurumi kokeshi in a bright green and yellow for the new flowers that will soon be coming up in my part of the world. I also added some big bright flowers to her kimono for extra spring-time fun! Her hair is also short because I always cut my hair short in the spring.
Photo of project: 
Kokeshi set
Team shout out for Nerd Cred: (Optional) 
Fuu from the anime Samurai Champloo also wears a kimono with a big flower print on it. 

Description of how event theme is met: For this project, I took my inspiration from my own hometown. I grew up in a rural town in Idaho, located right next to the amazing Snake River. 
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My project features a girl in a blue kimono. I also embroidered a river into her dress and some green grass growing alongside the flowing water. Blue always reminds me of the river. I still live by a river, but it’s much smaller than the Snake River and I miss it sometimes.
Photo of project: 
Kokeshi set
Team shout out for Nerd Cred: (Optional) 
My doll’s kimono is a bright blue like Bubbles from the Cartoon the Powerpuff Girls 
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Description of how event theme is met: I took my inspiration for this project from Japan. 
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My project represents Japan in several ways: 
1). it’s an amigurumi, from the Japanese art of creating crochet stuffed toys, 
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2). features a girl in a cute kimono, 
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3). the style of embroidery I used on her kimono is inspired by a traditional Japanese stitching called sashiko
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and 4). my project is inspired by kokeshi, a Japanese doll, which features an enlarged head, minimal facial features, and usually lack arms and legs.
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I learned during this project that the dolls have large heads and no arms/legs to make them easier for children to hold. Usually arms are painted on, but I felt crocheting some arms would be alright. I also learned that kokeshi usually have the same shape, but their design varies and the more creative, the better! Many thanks to my knowledgeable teammates jiccholisajedi and loreoflore for their input!
Photo of project: 
Kokeshi set
Team shout out for Nerd Cred: (Optional) 
My girl’s kimono is the same shade of dark blue as Nightcrawler from the X-Men comics and cartoon! 
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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Nerdopolis T2R1

Only one submission from me this round. Next month I'll do better!

Submission 1: Wildcard: Nerd Love
Rav handle: zombearthur 
Team Name: shady cels 
Craft: crochet
Description of how event theme is met: 
One of my first love affairs with video games was the NES version of Bubble Bobble. I loved the kawaii dragons and the fact that they capture enemies with bubbles. What could be better? In honor of this video game, I crocheted Bub (the green dragon) from Bubble Bobble. 
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Photo of project: 
Bubble Bobble: Bub
Team shout out for Nerd Cred: 
Bub is a green dragon. The green I used reminds me of another dragon; Shenron from the manga/anime Dragonball Z. 
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Recycled Book Crafts (Library Program)

So, I'm trying to be clever and crafty with the overabundance of Reader's Digest Condensed Books donated to the Library recently. I started an adult craft program to repurpose them. Every Monday night, we do a different craft using books or their pages. Here's what we've done with the books in 2014:

September 2014:
 eReader Cover:

Stash Box (I gave mine to my niece for her Birthday as a jewelry box):

Secret Compartment:

Picture Frame:

October 2014:


Treat Bags:

Paper Mobiles:

November 2014:


Snowflakes & Gift Bows:

 Card Display: