Introduction: World's Thinnest Programmable Leather Bracelet!

Picture of World's Thinnest Programmable Leather Bracelet!
Button-schemer, by Aniomagic, is such an amazing little widget. It's an ambient program reader the size of a nickel which is programmable with specially timed flashes of light. With it, we will make the world's thinnest, programmable bracelet.

I've already found a whole bunch of uses for the bracelet: it makes me visible during night bike rides on the way home; it makes an awesome raver strobelight (I have a special accelerometer built into mine); I can set it to count down how many minutes I have left during a presentation; it reminds me to move my car after two hours so I don't get a parking ticket ; and it makes a handy flashlight in a pinch.

And the really cool thing is, if I need to change its behavior, I can do so really quickly and easily whether I'm on the desktop, handheld or phone. I write and upload programs directly from a web-browser, and a scheme interpreter flashes a part of the screen like morse code, which is read by button-schemer. This way I don't need special software or any extra hardware. Because of its built-in light sensor, it can also respond to other lights in the environment, or - get this - program another bracelet!

As we all know, one recurring problem with wearable electronics is how do you program it if you don't want to bring your whole development system and hardware with you? How tiny can it be if it contains extra hardware to talk with your computer? Another problem is the need for bulky battery holders. Read this tutorial to see some of our solutions to these issues.

To make your own, you'll need our kit (it's the tiniest you'll find anywhere), but this tutorial has a ton of ideas about making your own wearable electronics. For instance, designers should aim for ultra simple wiring, perhaps making a system bus so that end-users would need only two wires throughout their garment. Right now, even simple computational projects need a lot of different stitches (which must not cross). This project also hints towards the future of mixing craft with programming, so it's worth reading even if it's just to gain insights for your own unique projects.

Step 1: Preparation

Picture of Preparation

First, a few words about the button-schemer system.

It's designed to be very easy to hookup but it's picky about what it's connected to.

- The two holes on either side of the button-schemer connect to lightboards and switches only, and you can use more of both in your design, for some kinda weird bike-wheel-flashing-light project.

- It has a voltage booster to make the lights bright on a CR2016 battery, and it runs until all the juice is gone.

- The switch has a 1K resistor. This is because lightboards and switches use the same line. Take note if you plan to use your own switch.

Ingredients (all from Aniomagic Store: )
- button schemer
- 4 lightboards
- 1 button switch
- pre-cut piece of leather
- matching brass snaps
- conductive thread
- thin battery (CR2016)
- adhesive-backed liners.

Everything listed here comes in a kit, and the leather strap has the snaps already attached. We've also laser cut holes in the strap because leather can be tough to sew through, and it strips conductive thread, reducing its conductivity.

Step 2: Building - This Takes Less Than 20 Minutes.

Picture of Building - This Takes Less Than 20 Minutes.

Remember to test your circuits often as you build, to minimize the cost of errors. The button-schemer comes pre-programmed with a "heartbeat" pattern that turns on all 5 lights in succession.

That said, sew down the + and - holes, leaving about 3 inches each to make into a "battery holder." Quickly use a bit of tape to connect the two strands of thread to the battery. You should see a flashing pattern. This must work before moving on.

Step 3: Lights on Left

Picture of Lights on Left

Next, sew on the lightboards left of the button schemer.

Tip: tape down the previous thread so it doesn't get in the way or fray.

Use two separate stitches. It's important for the lightboards to be oriented like this: the one closer to button-schemer has the plus facing up, the other facing down. To test, connect to the battery as before, you should see pattern start at the schemer, then move left.

Step 4: Lights on Right (and Switch)

Picture of Lights on Right  (and Switch)

Now connect the lightboards right of the button-schemer, as well as the switch. (you could also put the switch on the left too, or leave it off entirely). You could also experiment with a tilt switch or some other sensor. Remember the switch needs a 1K resistor or else it will short out the electronics (or not be sensed correctly).

Step 5: Making the Battery Holder

Picture of Making the Battery Holder

One major goal is to keep the bracelet thin, so any type of traditional battery holder would be way too thick for us. We use a bit of adhesive-backed liners to make really thin, yet sturdy battery holder.

Peel off the paper backing from the liner. With the sticky side facing up, pass the minus conductive thread through the hole, fold the liner and press it to the leather. Then wind the thread on the adhesive side into a small coil. Place the battery down, minus side down, and press it until you feel it make good contact with the thread. It should stay stuck.

Then, make a slightly larger coil with the plus conductive thread on the small disc, sticky side up.
Press it unto the battery. Push the thread into the tiny notch so it doesn't stick out.

Step 6: Finishing Up...

Picture of Finishing Up...

Seal the back with the longest adhesive liner.

Et voila
The world's thinnest, programmable bracelet.

And how do you program it? Heh heh, that's the real icing on this cake: head on over to and play with the web-based interface.

Why not USB or bluetooth? Hah! Where are you going to fit all that? If someone has a source for USB or bluetooth chips that fit on an SOT-23-6 footprint, I'd love to hear about it.


OdusakinA (author)2016-02-02

Please I want to know if this gadget is still available. Please help get in touch via my email addresses,

dark clerick (author)2009-07-02

could you get this stuff from a store like radio shack?

aniomagic (author)dark clerick2009-07-02

You can't really. Radio shack (and many retail stores) don't carry this sort of stuff. You can get LEDs and batteries, but not conductive thread, specialized sewable chips and lights. We hope in the future that craft stores will carry this, but for now you can only get them online from vendors like Aniomagic, Sparkfun, or Adafruit. They should have what you need in one place.

nemoskull (author)aniomagic2011-09-29

for the conductive thread, try a Jo-anns fabrics, or even the walmart fabric department. sometimes they have stainless steel thread, of some metallic thread that is somewhat conductive.
keep in mind, i have never used these. i am new to this etextile thing. it sounds cool!

dunnos (author)2009-06-24

wow, i am most definetly going to try and get the parts! its awesome! so all the parts are from 1 source? maybe i can get my parents to cooperate and let me buy them :P

aniomagic (author)dunnos2009-06-24

Hello... how experienced are you with circuits and etextiles? If you're new, then I'd suggest starting with the basic Sewing Kit (which allows you to experiment with basic circuits), before moving up to the button schemer. We have all our supplies in one place, and can answer any questions you might have. It is always a good idea to ask your parents to look at our site and decide what is appropriate for you.

dunnos (author)aniomagic2009-06-25

being a kid doesn't make me a beginner >:( anyway, i own an arduino and designed and built several BEAM bots also, if i let my parents decide i will probably end up with the wrong parts :0 is there a possibility to get all the parts cheaper? i dont get much allowance and $40 is a bit expensive for me. I know i can get most of the parts from school but i don't know about the button thingy. Thanks in advance!

aniomagic (author)dunnos2009-06-25

You're absolutely right about that: being young doesn't make you a beginner. Your experience will certainly help you learn this new medium. However, if you are new to _etextiles_, its much more productive to start with a basic kit so your mistakes are easily fixed. Sewing with conductive thread presents its own set of challenges, even for experienced circuit builders. You'll need to learn to be careful about shorts when you twist the cloth, make knots that don't easily unravel, deal with resistance in the thread (it's not a perfect wire), learn how to insulate properly, and so on. As for parts, if you already have some LEDs and 3V batteries, then you'd only need conductive thread, and a schemer. Cheers!

dunnos (author)aniomagic2009-06-26

Oh, I'm sorry, I guess I read it wrong =/. I am new to etextiles but I also sew alot and I am pretty handy with that kind of stuff.

Anyway, just for the sake of having fun, is there a way for me to make my own schemer? For thread I think I can use some copper wire strands thingy's (I am SO clear here :P) . What do you think about that? would it work?

nemoskull (author)dunnos2011-09-29

just my 2 cents. can you program AVR, a.k.a. ardunios, or the like? thats what this is. a simple one cost 4 dollars, 2 if you pay for shipping. if you have an old computer with a parallel port, you can make a programmer with just a printer cable and a few resistors. not very reliable, but it works. once you got some basic code down, its just a matter of imagination.

DrCoolSanta (author)dunnos2009-09-20

I'd just suggest you to get the supplies as mentioned. The thread is designed to be used for these purposes and copper wire won't be a very good alternate.
You know you are a beginner, start with the right material I leave the author to do the detailed stuff, this is just my opinion.
Also a schemer, no, just don't.

mistercow.pnoy (author)2010-09-11

Really amazing thing. I wish I had a good use for it to have an excuse to make one. I have a few questions though.

1)How long does it last per battery.
2)If it's programmed via Morse code, is there a key or something breaking down the commands into their Morse dits/dashes so that you could conceivably reprogram it manually with a flashlight or something?
3)Is there a possibility of using rgb LEDs?
4)Is it possible to put a cluster of LEDs on the board in the middle making for a brighter center light?

bobalini (author)2010-07-20

where and how did u hook up the accelerometer please tell i wanna make wanna for a girl on our first date.

blackdogg (author)2010-04-08

Ive a Lego spybot lying around on my desk, its programmable using a lightswitch but it respons tu the pc at first and doesnt accept the code, it turns of instead of playing the code, I allready added a led to the motor and the lights on top do all just turn off...

BEAST14 (author)2009-06-25

I went to the website and it wouldn't let me drag the colors to the bracelet. I am currently using a super slow computer, could that be the problem? I will try again once I get back from my vacation.....stupid slowness......

Briguy9 (author)BEAST142009-07-20

Slow computers can do anything they want (not you, them), except listen to you and be faster.

Briguy9 (author)Briguy92009-07-20

We've all been there.

flydogfly (author)2009-06-25

Great instructable I made it and works GREAT

aniomagic (author)flydogfly2009-06-27

Oh cool! Any issues at all with reprogramming?

flydogfly (author)aniomagic2009-06-29

no it seems to be working just fine with me

BEAST14 (author)2009-06-25

This is one of the coolest things I have seen in months. I believe that you are going to win the contest. I am going to go right now and find everything that I need and build one for myself.......maybe two.....

mman1506 (author)2009-06-24

what else could you do with the chip.a;so what kinda microcontroller is it running on

mman1506 (author)mman15062009-06-24

with dome mosfets i could make an awesome robot

mman1506 (author)mman15062009-06-24

and its 2 outputs putting out a low voltage im guessing

aniomagic (author)mman15062009-06-24

The outputs are multiplexed, many many times a second; sometimes one is high, then its low, or both on, etc. That allows you to turn on lights and detect switches with the same pair of wires. This makes me think you'd want diodes with your mosfets...

aniomagic (author)mman15062009-06-24

You can drive motors with it, but like you said, you'd need transistors/mosfets. The PWM logic is optimized for vision, so it might be too fast/jerky for movement... you can always smooth things out with capacitors, though. Button-schemer is designed to be an easy way for e-textile designers and weavers to quickly program patterns of light, so the language only supports terms like "fade-left 1", "countdown 4". In other words it is not general purpose. The advantage of this approach is several-fold: you don't have to master PWM (led fading) magic; the programs can be really short ("fade-left" using C could be at least a page long); so you can get on with your design quickly. Button-schemer uses a PIC16F684. Ultra-low power in sleep mode.

tcup (author)2009-06-23

Wow! I visited your site, I have a lot to study on there (I'm technologically challanged with most things). I can see this incorporated with my crochet. The grandkids would love it.

shakna (author)2009-06-22

Holy crap... It really is small isn't it? Useful, and fantastic use of the limeolight idea.

acaz93 (author)2009-06-21

wow ! so you just beam the program into the chip ? that's awesome !

aniomagic (author)acaz932009-06-22

Yeah... currently it's just so frustrating when you want to reprogram your wearable on the go... So we took the mimeolight idea further so you could beam new programs. I'm working on a series of animated shorts that would contain programming instructions that could be beamed to the bracelet. To you and I, it's just a movie... but your wearable would react differently! :-)

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