Red And White LED Dresses

I’ve been experimenting with electronic fashion since about 2012. In that time I’ve never produced a finished garment that someone might want to wear. I’ve just created example pieces showing the techniques and/or capabilities of the technology.

This year I wanted to do something different and have something real to show at the many maker events I go to throughout the year. The problem is that I only have a limited set of hand sewing skills. The solution was to find a person to collaborate with.

That person has turned out to be my mother, Dolores Fitzsimons. She has over forty years working in the Irish fashion industry as a pattern maker and designer. I think that makes her very qualified to help me implement my design ideas.

Initial Research

We began by looking at some of my existing example pieces. We found the LEDs to be a bit harsh and they would need to be toned down a bit in a finished garmet. Experimenting with placing layers of different fabric in front of the LEDs, gave some promising results.

We visited some local fabric stores in Dublin, and found that Organza fabric produced a very appealing diffraction effect when a clear LED light shines through it.

So after some more design discussions and these visits we decided to start off with something small and design a dress for a young child.

Little Red LED Dress

The outer layer is an interesting red Organza fabric with a textured silver swirl pattern, with red netting layered on a red cotton fabric. The electronics are 24 red LEDs, driven by a 3 SEWIO8‘s and a LilyPad Arduino USB micro controller.

The dress should be suitable for girl about 3 to 4 years old. More details of the design and construction can be seen in the photo album.

White LED Dress

The second dress is made with a body of white Duchess Satin, a sheer neckline in white Organza and a multi layered flared over skirt in white Organza. The dress body is fitted, has princess seams and a curving high-low hemline.

The electronic are 28 SEWRGB pixel’s which circle the body following the curve of the high-low hemline and a LilyPad Arduino USB micro controller.

The intention wasn’t to make a wedding dress but it could be used as one. More details of the design and construction can be seen in this photo album.

Upcoming Events

We planning to create another garment, but this coming weekend (April 26-25) I’m heading to Newcastle for Maker Faire UK as part of TOG

In May (May 17-18) I’m heading to Maker Faire Bay Area for the first time, one of the reasons for wanting to create some real garments.

Later in the year I’d like to show my designs at Dublin Maker and Maker Faire Rome.

New York Trip

Early last week I got back from a six day trip to New York city with Jeffrey Roe from TOG to attend the Open Hardware Summit and World Maker Faire. It was an exciting, informative and exhausting number of days.

Thursday was the Open Hardware Summit at the Eyebeam Art + Technology Center in Manhattan, organised by the Open Source Hardware Association. It was a very intense day with thirty three talks, thirty eight demos and nine posters and a number coffee/lunch breaks giving opportunities to talk with other delegates. Highlights for me were the talk from Bre Pettis – Challenges of Open Source Consumer Products, the many talks about the use of Open Source Hardware in science and the demo of UmTRX: The open hardware for a GSM base station.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday were spent at the Maker Faire site at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Friday was setup day and it felt exactly like being back home in Ireland as it rained most of the day.

We brought four types of projects with us to represent some of the activities we’ve undertaken at TOG.

UntitledI brought a Ten Time Scale Giant Arduino Starter Kit project, which I initially started for the Dublin Mini Maker Faire.

UntitledJeffrey brought materials to make two improved version of the Interactive Buzzer Game which uses a Arduino for time display and hit counter and capacitive touch sensing to allow the hand-held loop to be wireless.

We also brought two wearable pieces; chebe’s blue led matrix top and a proof of concept design which uses an add-on board which I developed for use with LilyPad Arduino wearable circuits.

I also brought a small selection of my more portable LED displays including a new 32×40 RGB panel with I assembled during EMFCamp.

We planned to spend Friday assembling and Giant Arduino and Buzzer Game and finishing off some of the code. But due to it raining most of the day, a mini maker faire producers meeting and the meeting the maker mixer evening we only got a small proportion of the preparation work done.

Saturday morning was a rush to get as much done as possible before the gates opened, along with sourcing some final materials and a tarpaulin to provide protection in case it started rain again.

I was not able to finish the Giant Arduino Stater Kit due to the time constraints and not having a suitable soldering to solder wires to the copper pipe used in the headers. But the resulting board really looked like a Giant Arduino. Jeffrey had some issues with the hardware not having enough suitable components for two game and having time to soldering it all together and time to tune the software.

Otherwise the day went very well with lots comments like “thats a big Arduino” and “you came all the way from Ireland to Maker Faire”.

In the evening as we were leaving the Maker Faire we bumped into some of the members from Alpha One Labs hackerspace and we joined them for some food at a BBQ place in Brooklyn.

For Sunday Jeffrey was able to make significant progress with the hardware and software for the buzzer game so with a little bit of tunning he was able to get one the games working successfully. Unfortunately an intense thunderstorm blew in and left makers and visitor running for cover, luckily the storm only lasted about 10 minutes.

UntitledAfter the rain a flock of TOG Ducks made a visit to our stand.

Later in the day I got a quick chance to look around the Maker Faire myself, though it was so big I missed some of the projects from the crafters.

After the Maker Faire we were exhausted, we packed our bags and went to bed.

On Monday we got the subway to Manhattan to do a quick bit of sightseeing. It was a bit of an unplanned track by foot from Central Station to Central Park to Penn Station. Then back to the hostel to collect our bags and then to JFK airport for the airplane back to Dublin.

Some personal notes to work on for next time:

  • At events like the OHS I must be more willing to start conservations. I would like to see the other participants as my peers, in theory we have lots of things in common.
  • Keep the number of projects that need work at the Maker Faire to an absolute minimum, preferably no major work on site.
  • Take time ot visit the other makers, schedule to have at least three makers per day at the stand.
  • Try to meet up with other makers/hackers/hackerspaces outside of OHS/Maker Faire.
  • Know when a project isn’t going to be ready and be willing to scale it back.
  • Take more photos and video of stand and the visitors.
  • Eat, drink and take breaks more often.

Some of the trips I’m planning/thinking about for later this year and next year include 29th Chaos Communication Congress in Germany, UK Maker Faire UK, Maker Faire Bay Area and OHM2013: Observe. Hack. Make. in The Netherlands.

And finally I’ve joined the Open Source Hardware Association as a General Member.