I'm prepping some deerstalkers for sale today. These are finished and will be "tagged and bagged" after I shoot a few for updated store photographs. "Tag and bag" means I go over each hat one more time for quality control purposes, measure it, tag it with the size, and then put it in a sealed container to keep it away from the light and dust. When someone places an order, I know which size to pull without having to handle several hats. Then I look the hat over one last time for defects, then run a lint roller over it before packing and mailing. 

I should have some updated pictures in the store before the day is out. 

Belay that. The blog got borked and I've just fixed it. Watch for updated pics soon.

Wearable Electronics!

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I've been busy working on FenCon and other projects. 

One of those other projects is wearable electronics. I see a lot of potential for nifty hats and other accessories, and I thought I'd start with the Adafruit Chameleon Scarf

It certainly was a learning experience. I made version one of the scarf, which is shorter than the one in the link. Here it is in the daylight:

Pardon Madeline Bassett. She's a bit dusty.

Here's the scarf in the dark. I had to up the ISO on the camera in order to get a steady shot, so pardon the artifacts and general ugliness in the picture:

The cool thing about this scarf is that it can change color. Unfortunately, every other shot I took of the scarf in different colors came out red. Grr. Here's the heart of the scarf, the Adafruit Flora processor:

The wires connect to a 3.3v LiPO battery. Rechargeable, of course. The next piece is underneath the processor:

This is a color-sensing module. Shiny, huh?

Also, pardon the raw edges on the twill. I fully expect I'm going to have to pull bits of this apart and redo them, so finishing the raw edges will come last.

The lights are sewable NeoPixels. These things are cool. If you're afraid of working with LED lights because you have to use a resistor and do the math to get everything correct, these are for you as they have the proper circuitry on board. They also have a wide range of colors and brightness levels. That's all set in the software.

Software, you say? Eeek! Oh, just grab their version of the Arduino development environment and some sample code (the IDE comes with lots of samples to get you started) and just dive into it. The scarf code is on their site.

This is billed as a weekend project, and it may have been if I'd have had a free weekend to devote to it. Still, I learned some cool stuff, and I'd like to pass it along for people considering this or other wearable electronic projects.

  1. This may not have been the ideal project for me to get my feet wet. (Short circuit!) I should have started with something smaller. But that scarf was calling my name.
  2. Not all conductive thread is alike. I started off with some I got in a Sparkfun ProtoSnap LilyPad E-Sewing Kit that I had purchased locally. My next batch of thread was from a local electronics store. It was better, but the best I've had so far is from Adafruit. The thing with this thread is that it frays and beards like crazy. While the thread doesn't carry enough current to shock you, it's like working with live wire in that it shorts easily. I had serious bearding issues early on and spent a lot of time troubleshooting the circuit. Sometimes I had to pull up a run of thread and re-sew it. Because of the fray factor, all knots need to be sealed with either Fray Check or clear nail polish. There's definitely a learning curve here, and I suggest if you want to do anything with conductive thread that you start with a small project that's easier to troubleshoot. With 12 NeoPixels, a processor, and a sensor, troubleshooting was a bit of an adventure.
  3. The instructions don't say how wide to cut the fabric. The first scarf was fairly narrow, and I discovered there was no way I could pass the components through as I turned it inside-out. The next version was 10" wide (4.5" or so folded and sewn), and I think it still could have done with another inch at least. Consider this if you're making the scarf. I still had trouble getting the components through, but it seems to work...mostly. ;-) (A connection or two seem to still be causing intermittent trouble.)
  4. Test, test, and TEST again. And then test some more. 
  5. If I were to do this again (and who says I won't)? I'll definitely do version two, which is longer and has more NeoPixels.

So, you may ask, what's next? Oh, I have a couple of projects in mind. Stay tuned!

Steam Cat At SoonerCon

Steam Cat will have items for sale in the art show at SoonerCon 23 in Oklahoma City, June 27-29.

And here is a special deal for SoonerCon attendees: I'll waive the shipping charges and delver your merchandise to the convention. To take advantage of this special, please email with the item(s) and size(s) you'd like. I'll send you a PayPal invoice for the amount, then bring your purchase along to the convention. If you use the PayPal shopping cart I'll refund any shipping charges if I deliver in person. Do not select the option for in-store pickup, as that triggers Texas-specific sales taxes, and you don't want to mess with that. It's easier for both of us if I refund the shipping.

Now go forth and shop!

Back From Dallas Comic Con

Thanks to everyone who stopped by our booth. We enjoyed the lovely compliments on our work. We particularly enjoyed the sales. ;-)

If you were planning to buy something online from us this week, here's the story. I've put the shop page back up with some items I have in stock, and this afternoon I'll inventory the deerstalkers and get them up in the shop. I don't want to put up something I don't have available to sell.

If you were looking for the cloaks and the Time Travel merchandise, please visit Mystik Merchant. If you're looking for the crochet goods, Whispering Leaf has 'em.

Please use the Contact link for questions and special requests.

New Chopstick Cases

Like to eat out but hate restaurant chopsticks? Carry your own!

They'll even hold your fancy geek chopsticks!

Or, use it to protect other items from dust and scratches in your bag:

Priced at just $10, they're sure to go fast. See the styles in the Steam Cat Shop.

Anatomy Of A Hat Makeover

What follows is a work in progress, but I thought it might be interesting to show a little of what goes on in the Steam Cat Labs.

It all started when a friend gave me this hat:

Gwladys Pendlebury (my model) does not do this justice. It was fairly ratty looking, and the fabric was rotting in places. Of course, I needed to decide what to do with it. How about this?

(But of course. The link is now gone. Let's just say I had the Dowager Countess in mind.)