This tutorial explain my preferred method of implementing LED strips inside clothing. This method works especially well in pieces of clothing which have room between outer and inner layers, light colored and somehow transmitting light. The best is white faux fur which is also very nice to pet.
It is important to have an easy access to the internal part of the cloth, as the durability of the system inside greatly depends on the ease of assembly. Some pieces are more easily handled when removing the internal layer and then sewed or glued back.
Finally, before choosing the amount of LED's for your project, mind that there's a direct link between the amount of light the cloth project and the batteries life span.
Step 1: Materials: Everything You'll Need
About 2 sqm of non stretchy, thick light color fabric - this would be the base layer for the LED strip.
About 2 sqm of synthetic sofa stuffing (Polyester) - the thicker the better, this would diffuse the light and make the clothing evenly lit.
WS2812B LED strip - I used 5m of 30 led/m non-waterproof
Arduino - I used Pro Micro because its small like the Pro mini but have a direct usb connection
Electrolytic capacitors - 1x10uF, 1x220uF
Button - optional light patterns changing button
Wire Crimps - optional for ensuring the wires stays connected to the board
Step 2: Preparing Base Layer With LED Strips
Cutting the fabric
First, you need to figure out the layout of the parts which are going to be lit up.
Then, cut the Fabric in that shape. I chose to lit just front side of the coat and around the neck. You should leave some margins to fit the fabric inside and attach it securely.
Cutting LED strips
Next, you need to decide the density of the LED strips of each piece of fabric. The more strip the better light resolution and brightness, but more power consumption out of the battery pack.
Cut the strip at the desired length for each strip and place them on the fabric. Pay attention for the cutting line between the LED's. its essential for the soldering later.
Plan the connectivity
Before soldering the LED strips to one another, plan careful its route. Addressable strips have a direction and you have to make sure that the final position of the controller is comfortably placed close to the beginning of either sides' strip. The other side will have to go around the neck or through somewhere else back to the controller. I would strongly advise to sketch in advanced the connectivity of the strips before cutting and soldering them. It is also recommended to count the LEDs on every strip and write down on the scheme (starting 0), it would be necessary later for the animation program
Soldering and glueing the LED strip to the fabric
Measure the distance between two strips and cut the 3 wires cable accordingly. Leave the cable which connect the beginning of the strip to the controller, we'll cover that later.
once the strip are connected to each other, carefully glue the strips to the fabric. It is recommended to peal off the the sticky strip on the back of the LED strip first. it would make it more durable. Mind to put a beefy chunk of glue close to the soldering of the cable to the strip, thats a sensitive area for movements.
Step 3: Apply the Diffusing Layer
This step if fairly straight forward, just cut the Polyester stuffing layer exactly like the base layer and glue it using the hot glue gun.
As for the neck strip, I rolled the stuffing and wrapped the base layer around it to get better diffusing.
Step 4: The Electrical Circuit
Positioning the pocket for the board
First, decide where you'll place the board. Then, measure the length of cables from each LED strip beginning. After you cut the cables, solder one end to the LED strip and crimp the other side (use this tutorial to learn how to).
Assemble the circuit
The control circuit is a 5v Arduino Pro micro based. It is driven by 3 AA batteries which gives 4.5 volts. As a result is it important to connect the positive (+) wire to VCC and not the RAW pin which regulate the power to 5v (and thus require 5.5-12v).
I choose the connect each LED strip to a different data pin to enable versatile animation programming.
In addition, there's a button connected to digital pin 3 (and ground) which allows to switch between animation.
use the scheme and the pictures of my circuit to make your own.
- place the smaller capacitor under the controller - it would save some space
- Place the bigger capacitor as close as possible to the strips power output
- Mark on the screw terminals +,-,Data so you wouldn't confuse which one is what.
- Check for short circuits (i.e the positive and negative are connected somewhere) before switching on the circuit!!
Step 5: Program and Animation
If you're not already familiar with using the ws2812b LED strips and the Arduino environment, I strongly recommend to go over this first. Upload the attached sketch to the Arduino.
A note about the program: as my programming skill are pretty bad, my brother wrote the code. Its not perfect at the moment as it is being developed. Please mind that switching between animation is not smooth and might require several button presses. I will update the code later on when it is sufficiently improved.
note 2: any different set up of LED strips, number of pixels in every segment or different number of segment within one strip line will result in weird looking animation. If you can't edit the program or code a new one, I suggest to stick this tutorial's setup.
Step 6: Tests and Final Assembly
before inserting the LED's inside the cloth, turn it on and see if it works. every change would be much harder after the lights are inside.
You could see that I tested it before applying the Polyester stuffing, it doesn't matter.
Assemble everything together
Sew the fabric layers within the cloth while the LED are facing outwards. I used sewing machine but hand sewing is perfectly fine. sew a pocket for the circuit and battery pack. I recommend of protecting the circuit with two pieces of cardboard (wrapped in duct tape).
You're all set up! enjoy.