Jellies are amazing! LED umbrellas, also amazing. Be amazing and make a Jellybrella!
I've been wanting to put together something like Leslie Birch & Becky Stern's Florabrella or Honghong Lu's LED Umbrella. I've been greatly inspired by Ctenophores, otherwise known as Comb Jellies. Turgan put together this great Jellyfish costume, also inspired by comb jellies but I thought I'd go the way of the umbrella.
From Berkeley.edu, I learned:
- Ctenophores have eight rows of fused cilia arranged along the sides of the animal, which beat synchronously and propel ctenophores through the water. //This is perfect since my umbrella has eight tines!
- Many ctenophores, like various other planktonic organisms, are bioluminescent, able to give off light. //Also perfect since my LEDs are also able to give off light!
- Many ctenophores have two long tentacles, but some lack tentacles completely. //I'm going to interpret this however I want and make a cross between a Comb Jelly & a Sea Nettle because tentacles are beautiful.
Special credit to Aaron Liddiment for having developed a great example sketch that turned out to be perfect for this project!
Step 1: Gather Materials
You will need the following materials:
Soldering iron, solder, ventilated workstation, etc. This is what I have at my workstation: helping hands,soldering iron, Hakko Brass Sponge Solder Tip Cleaner, an old wood cutting board, and a nearby fan.
4 meters of LEDs. I used Neopixels or "ws2812b" LEDs, which are programmable and come in densities of 30-144 leds/meter. 30 LEDs/meter work well and can be purchased from Amazon. If the linked ones are no longer available, search for "ws2812b" with "IP67", which refers to the flexible waterproof casing on the lights.
Battery. I've got a handful of these to use.
A micro- or mini- USB cable to connect your trinket to your computer. I recommend an older usb 2.0 cable. If a new one gives you problems, try running your cord through a USB hub.
At least 3 colors of wire - I LOVE this silicone wire from adafruit but you can use any wire you feel comfortable with. You can use one color for everything but it will be easier if you get multiple colors.
Tulle. I used 5 yards of metallic tulle from the bolt, 1 x 25 yd roll of glimmer tulle, & 1 x 15 yd roll of sparkle mesh. I would recommend getting WAY MORE tulle; I may add more later.
- Other: 1/2" elastic, zip ties, hot glue or e6000, hair dryer, thread
Note: the links I'm providing are for reference. I'm not affiliated or benefiting from any of them.
Step 2: Prep LED Strips & Wires
Cut 8 strips of 15 pixels (or ½ meter) each. Even though I could fit 16 pixels on each tine of the umbrella, I decided to go with 15 pixels because there are solder joints every half meter pixels as it is.
Cut the following lengths of wire
- 7 lengths of 3.5” long of – wire (Grey)
- 7 lengths of 3.5” long of + wire (Orange)
- 4 lengths of 3.5” long Data wire (Green)
- 3 lengths of 14” long Data wire (Green)
- 6” (or longer) lengths of each of the wires (Green, Orange, and Grey)
Arrange the strips. It was helpful for me to lay them out flat on the table with piece of paper in the center to write notes on. Pick one end point with “Data In” as the start. Put a piece of tape on it if you’re having trouble remembering. Trace from the starting point to the “data out” of that strip, moving clockwise and tracing each strip from the data out to the data in.
Step 3: Solder Strips Together
Prep the wires
- Slide a couple pieces of heat shrink onto each strip.
- Strip a small amount of each piece of wire.
- Connect all of the – (Grey) wires from end to end, in a zigzag pattern.
- Connect all of the + (Orange) wires from end to end, in a zigzag pattern.
Solder. Don’t forget: tin your wires and the pads on each strip.
- Solder the 6” lengths of each of the wires onto the starting point.
- Solder the – (Grey) & + (Orange) wires onto the strips.
- Solder the short data (Green) wires to the interior connections where the data out to data in.
- Solder the long data (Green) wires to the exterior connections where the data out to data in.
Step 4: Test and Complete Strips
- Test the strips.
- Upload the Neopixel strand test or the FastLED Demo Reel to test that everything was working properly. I just used my Arduino Uno to keep it easy.
- If something goes awry, trace your data lines and double check your solder joints.
- Insulate it.
- Squirt hot glue or e6000 into the ends.
- Move the heat shrink over the ends and heat it up. I like to use a hair dryer.
- Squirt a little more in there and let it set.
Step 5: Code and Install Strips
- Upload Code.
- I’m using the FastLED library and the LEDMatrix Example 2 from https://github.com/AaronLiddiment.
- Adjust the orientation of the pixels and update the matrix width and height. I used the vertical zigzag orientation.
- Make sure that the LED Pin is correct (Pin 5)
- Lower the brightness to 50 or less
- Comment out the flag code
- Optional: Slow down the movement by playing with some of the other variable.
- Connect the board.
- Connect Data In on the Pixels to Pin 5 on the Teensy
- Connect 5V on the Pixels to the JST Breakout Board +
- Connect GND on the Pixels to the JST Breakout Board –
- Connect the JST Breakout Board – to GND on the Teensy
- Connect the JST Breakout Board + to the 5V on the Teensy
- Install the strips
- Sliding the strips inside of the umbrella.
- Use zip ties to hold the strips in place.
- Trim the ends of zip ties.
- Turn it on and smile.
Step 6: Add Some Jellyfish
Make a giant shower cap. Measure the approximate diameter from the tip of the umbrella down to the end of one of the tines. Mine measured about 25”, which worked out perfectly.
- Using the zig-zag stitch of your sewing machine, stitch the elastic near the edge of the circle. I tried to keep it imperfect, and left about ½” of allowance from the edge. My elastic was pretty weak but it worked out alright.
- Install the cover and make any necessary adjustments.
- Use safety pins on the “shower cap” to mark where the tulle hits the tines. You’ll use these later to attach the tentacles.
- Remove the cover and set it aside.
Step 7: Add Some More Jellyfish
- Make interior tentacles. I wanted to make both interior and exterior tentacles for my jellybrella, with the internal ones being bigger and puffier. I decided to use the metallic mesh and tulle from the rolls for this.
- Lay a few layers of tulle on top of each other. Using a long basic stitch on the machine, stitch the tulle down the middle. I stitched the whole thing together as one piece. Test things at the beginning to get the right tension to result in some gathering.
- Divide the end product in half and cut & then again, so that you have four (4) pieces.
- Use safety pins or stitch them to the inside of the umbrella.
- Make exterior tentacles. I wanted my exterior tentacles to be thinner relative to the inner tentacles. Since I’m making them thinner, it will be easier to create a swirly effect as well.
- Divide up the remaining amount of tulle (from the bolt and roll) into 8 pairs of long thin pieces, about 2 yd. long, each.
- Feed the layers into the sewing machine, using the same long stitch used for the interior tentacles. Since I was going for thin, I scrunched, folded, and twisted the pieces together as they were going through the machine. I tried to make them all slightly different.
- Once the layers have been sewn, tug on the ends of the threads to gather the fabric. The ends of the thread can be tied up if they feel loose and then trimmed.
- Stitch the exterior tentacles onto the “shower cap,” where the safety pins were located.
- Install the cap and exterior tentacles. Use safety pins or stitch the base of the tentacles to the ends of the tines if the cap appears saggy.
- Turn it on and party!