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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- Test, test, and TEST again. And then test some more.
- 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!