The desire: to build a programmable LED matrix that is ultra-portable.  

The solution: using conductive thread, sew an 8x8 matrix of LEDs into collapsable umbrella, then add  a MAX7219 LED Controller, a voltage converter and an arduino mini pro.

The result:  a twinkling blue light show that can fold up to go with you virtually anywhere.

Step 1: Materials


Here's what you'll need (In the photo, clockwise from the umbrella):

- The umbrella: I found a clear "bubble" umbrella at Target for $17.  This turned out to be absolutely perfect for this project.

- Arduino pro mini 328 5V/16MHz: Shown here with headers already attached. The Lilypad arduino would have also worked just fine. The pro mini and the Lilypad are so small partially because they exclude the USB circuitry necessary to talk to your computer, so something like the FTDI board below is also necessary with these boards to hook up the arduino to your co

- FTDI Basic Breakout: This small board hooks up to the arduino mini pro on one end & to a mini usb on the other end. You attach the FTDI board to the arduino to program it, but once programmed, you can leave it behind.

- MAX7219 LED display driver: This is a great little chip that takes care of multiplexing the LEDs. It 's drives a 64 led matrix. One major drawback is that the intensity is set for all LEDs; it doesn't allow setting different LEDs to different intensities. More info available here.

- Protoboard:  I decided it would be easier to hook up the MAX7219, resistor & capacitors via a protoboard than directly on the umbrella. I ended up using a smaller one (1.75" x 1.75") than what is pictured here. 

- LEDs: I used 64 clear blue "super bright" LEDs from SparkFun. I recommend using diffused rather than directional clear variety since your umbrella will be viewed from every direction.

- Solder

- Heat shrink tube

- Headers: 90 degree headers used on the Arduino - it comes without headers attached. Also used to make battery removable.

- Wire: I used standard 22 AWG solid core wire. Using two colors is definitely helpful in keeping track of what's what.

- Conductive thread: I used the heavier 234/34 4ply thread & went through almost an entire 75 yard spool. This was my first time using conductive thread & I found it easy to use. 

- Heavy sewing thread: I used some heavy sewing thread to attach the circuit boards to the umbrella. I tried using clear plastic thread (like thin fishing line) but it did not work well for me.

- Lithium Polymer Balance charger: this special charger is required for the battery I selected...

- 11.1V 900mAh Lithium Polymer battery: This is almost definitely overkill but I wanted something light & compact that would power the umbrella all night long. 

- An old nylon strap & some velcro: I sewed these together to make a holster for the battery.

- Small metal rings: I soldered these to the ends of the wires coming off the MAX7219 board to make it easier to attach to the conductive thread. I happened across these amongst jewelry making supplies in the craft section of a big box store.

- zip ties: to help hold the battery in place

Not Shown:

- Lilypad slide switch: to turn the umbrella on & off

- 1 resistor: 1kO  (rset on MAX7219 circuit diagram)

- 2 capacitors: 10uF & 100nF

- An old car cigarette-lighter phone charger: this is a great trick I picked up in the comments right here on Instructables!. Crack the case off a car phone charger and you have a low cost 12V to 5V converter/regulator, suitable for powering the arduino. 


- Sparkfun electret mic & op amp breakout board: to synchronize LEDs with music

<p>I should have said '... am having difficulty ....'</p>
<p>Nice project!</p><p>Can you advise me?</p><p>I'm planning to build something using MAX7219s but am difficulty understanding the theory behind the calculation of Rset. I assume Rset sets the forward voltage and current through the LED array. Assume that Vf = 2.0 V and If = 20 mA, then then RSet must drop 3 V (if Vcc = 5 V) @ 20 mA = 150 ohms. But the table on Page 11 of the MAX7219 datasheet says that RSet in this case is 28k ohms.A huge difference I don't understand!</p><p>Any help most welcome. </p>
im not really sure if it is posible to do a matriz of stripes, https://www.sparkfun.com/products/11750, and it also can help to make it waterproof with the right enclosure for the components
Wow!!!! I saw this <a href="http://www.skyspanstructures.com" rel="nofollow">commercial about umbrellas</a> that looked a lot like the lights one! I want one!
also, athough I know it would help, I do not know anything about electronics. Is this project something someone who has zero knowledge of electronics should be able to attempt? or should I save my money and not bother ordering the parts?
This is great! I walk stilts for a living and need a lite up umbrella for my costume.! I would buy yours if it were for sale haha. Thanks for posting.
Great post! Thanks for sharing! I'm gonna try making one using an LED sequencer and 12v led strips cos the arduino stuff costs too much and it's complicated for me. This one from www.ledsequencer.com would work great!
Great Instructable. I know you posted this sometime ago but did you write any sketches for the mic input.
This reminds me of the luminescent umbrellas in the movie &quot;Blade Runner.&quot;
I saw an item on thinkgeek.com that was a replica of the ones from Blade Runner.
That's just a visual joy! And yes, shades of BladeRunner... I'd like to see one of those umbrellas reproduced actually...
Like it! very good idea
Nice one, maybe you should really think about making it somehow waterproof then. Would help seeing ppl during rainy days/night better. BTW: regarding the LED driver two comments: You mentioned that you would like to add local, or at least string dimming. I know two parts, one is similar to the MAXIM which can do this: AS1115-18 (Here you can do the dimming per string) <a href="http://www.austriamicrosystems.com/eng/Products/Lighting-Management/LED-Driver-ICs/AS1116 ">http://www.austriamicrosystems.com/eng/Products/Lighting-Management/LED-Driver-ICs/AS1116 </a><br> AS1119 (This one can do 8bit PWM per LED and drives up to 144LEDs, but it is completely different from programming.)&nbsp;<a href="http://www.austriamicrosystems.com/eng/Products/Lighting-Management/LED-Driver-ICs/AS1119">http://www.austriamicrosystems.com/eng/Products/Lighting-Management/LED-Driver-ICs/AS1119</a><br> BTW: For MAX7219 there is cheaper 1:1 drop in called AS1106 or AS1107 from austriamicrosystems too. And for free samples two sources always come handy :)
Great suggestions, Forcebringer, I'm definitely going to check those out.
you should of mounted the LEDs on the underside of the umbrella so it wud be waterproofed. Great instructable though!! :)
Can you actually use this in the rain?
No, it would probably not react well to water. Its really non-functional as far as traditional umbrella uses, i.e., keeping out rain or sun.
love this! but it's way beyond my skill set! lol Nice job.

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