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.

Introducing the Mini Mood Light v1

Over the coming months I will use this site to try and document some of my previous electronics projects, as well as covering my future work and activities.  Kicking things off I’ll introduce the Mini Mood Light v1 kit.

Most of my recent projects have involved light emitting diodes (LEDs), you could possibly go as far as saying I’m obsessed. Some of my recent projects required hundreds and thousands of LEDs.

For the beginner working with a standard LED is relatively simple. It just requires a LED, a voltage source (battery) and a resistor with the correct value (ohms law is your friend). Working with a Tricolour or RGB (Red, Green and Blue) LED is a bit more complicated.

To achieve the larger range of possible colours with a RGB LED you can use pulse-width modulation (PWM). PWM is used to control the intensity of the LED by rapidly turning it on and off and by varying the amount of time that the LED is on or off. With a RGB LED the human eyes and brain are able to combine the different intensity of the individual red, green and blue LEDs into a particular colour.

The Mini Mood Light v1 provides a simple way for you to experiment and learn about working with RGB LEDs. The circuit combines two independent RGB LEDs, four buttons and a micro controller (MCU) on a small circuit board.

The Mini Mood Light v1 uses a MSP430G2211 MCU from Texas Instruments (TI). This MCU doesn’t contain any PWM hardware, but it’s relatively straight forward to implement PWM functionality in code using a loop and a comparison. The following fragment of C gives a very simple implementation.

int pwm = 128;
while (1) {
    enable_led();
    for (int i = 0; i < 256; i++) {
        if (i == pwm) {
            disable_led();
        }
    }
}

The combined pins of the MCU have a maximum source or sink current of 48 milliamperes. Reasonable luminous intensity for a typical LED is achieved at about 20 milliamperes. Which for the six LEDs in the Mini Mood Light that make up two RGB LEDs would exceed the maximum current rating of the MCU. To overcome this a Darlington transistor array (ULN2003A) is used as a switch to control the LEDs. With a suitable resistor setting the current for each LED to 20 milliamperes.

Four tactile buttons are connected directly to the MCU and can be sampled and debouched by polling or using a timer interrupt within the MCU. A 3.3 volt low dropout linear regulator (MCP1702), reverse polarity protection diode and a number of decoupling capacitors round out the circuit.

The Mini Mood Light v1 kit is being used as a hands on activity during a set of electronics workshops I’m giving in the TOG Hackerspace in Dublin. The workshops called Building it! are part of their Science Week 2010 and Innovation Dublin Festival 2010 activities.