Introduction: Bedtime Board Using LilyPad Arduino

For a class on youth and technology, we were assigned to a project using the LilyPad Arduino, a microcontroller board for making e-textiles. I decided to make a hanging board with a starscape that would light up and play a lullaby. I used cardboard, black cotton material, felt and silver beads to create the actual board (I call it a Bedtime Board). Check out the final product below. 

Materials you will need

For making the board:
-1 piece of cardboard (I used the top of a paper box so my board would look more like a canvas)
-Black cotton material (20"x20")
-Several different colors of felt ( I used blue and purple) for stars
-Piece of white felt (for moon)
-Adhesive velcro
-Needle and thread
-Copper wire (or any conductive wire) 12"

For the electronic part:
• LilyPad Arduino board
• LilyPad LEDs (6 white)
• Li-Po battery
• Conductive thread
• LilyPad tone for sound
• LilyPad FTDI basic
•  Mini-USB cable
• FTDI driver

Step 1: Making a Plan

I mapped out the general look of the board (size, number of stars, colors, placement, etc.). I then mapped out how and where I wanted to include aspects of the LilyPad. I drew a basic sketch, outlining where my LED lights would go, and where the actual board would fit on the board. 

I then mapped out how I would sew to connect the LEDs to the board and complete the circuits. This prevents getting circuits crossed or having to sew inefficiently to complete the connection. To ensure that my negative lines didn't intersect with my positives (which would prevent the circuit from working) I used the back of the board for the negative lines and the front for the positives. The circuitry sketches I used are attached. 

All of my negative lines (from the LEDs and the tone button) went back to the same petal on the board-- which I label as "Ground" on the sketch. 

Step 2: Building the Board

Begin by cutting out stars from the different colored felt. I used about 10 stars to cover my board. You can use a pattern or hand-draw your stars to make them more unique. If you want to add beads or sequins to your stars, sew them on with a needle and thread. The beads will add some shine to the stars even if they don't have LEDs on them. 
After finishing the stars, lay them out on your black material. Make sure 5 of your stars cover the 5 places that you've mapped out for your LEDs. Other than that, you can put the stars wherever you want on the material. I suggest leaving 4-5 inches around the boarder of you material empty--this will most likely wrap around the sides of the board anyway. 

Now you're ready to attach the LilyPad!

Step 3: Attaching the LilyPad

The plan for the board is to light up and play a lullaby when turned on (we'll get to the actual coding part next), so you'll start out by attaching the LEDs to the stars and then connecting the petals of the LED to the petals of the LiliyPad board. I sewed my LEDs on in a couple of different ways.
Initially I sewed the LED directly to the star, and then attached the star to the black material with the conductive thread as I connected it with the LilyPad petals. With a couple of the stars, I attached the LED directly to the material, sewed the connection, and then attached the star on top of the light with velcro. The second option makes the LEDs less visible, but gives the board a cleaner look. You can do either or both. 
Sew all of the positive petals of the LEDs to a corresponding petal on the arduino board using the conductive thread and following the pattern of cicuitry you have created. 
You will attach the negative petals with a separate piece of conductive thread, punching a needle-sized hole through the cardboard. Leave a few inches of thread hanging through the hole (you'll attach this to the copper wiring). 
Across the back of the cardboard piece attach the piece of copper wiring. I used tape to hold mine into place. Tie the loose end of thread from the negative petals to the wire. You will attach a new piece of thread to the end of this wire and push it back to the front side of the board, where it will attach to the ground petal of the arduino board. This will ground all of your LEDs and complete the circuit. 
After doing these steps, you should be able to turn on the arduino and see your lights blink (that is, if you have uploaded the code from the next step). 

Now on to the tone!

You're lights should be all set now, so we'll attach the tone button, which will play the lullaby. In order for everything to work correctly, ALL of the negative petals need to connect back to the same ground petal (hence the funky copper wire trick on the back). This include the negative petal on the tone button. It helps to place the tone button close to the ground petal on the arduino to keep the sewing to a minimum. Using the conductive thread, attach the negative petal to the ground petal and the positive petal to a nearby empty petal on the board. 

If you've already uploaded the code, turn on your board and test it out. All the lights and sounds should be working now. If something isn't, double check that you've got a solid connection between the petals on the LEDs and the board. Sometimes wrapping the thread around the petal a couple of times will strengthen the connection. 

Step 4: The Coding

...And the fun part. 

The code I used for my board is attached. You can copy and paste it into the arduino program (free download from on your computer, attach your board using the mini USB cable and FTDI driver (free download from and upload the code to your board. 

For the blinking lights aspect of the code, I used a modification of the blink sample on the arduino program and this tutorial to get a random blink and modify the amount of time each light is on. 
For the sound, I used this tutorial to give me the basic outline of my sound. I then adapted it to play the correct notes from Brahm's lullaby. 

*note: my approach to the sound portion of the coding was a little complex and required that I do some extra working finding the right notes, frequencies and duration of each note. I was unable to find existing code for this specific song, but you could probably find some for other lullabys. 

Step 5: Wrapping Up

Attach the non-LED stars using adhesive velcro to fill in the rest of the board. Using the white felt, cut out a circle for the moon  that is slightly larger than your arduino board. Using adhesive velcro, attach the moon on top of the arduino board. You'll have to unattch the velcro to turn the board off and on, but it covers the mechanics of your project. If you have spare blue felt, you can cut out a cloud shape and have this hovering over the moon. It will cover up the tone button, which is nice. 

I sewed on small silver beads all over the board to give it some shine, so feel free to do this to fill in any blank spaces. 

After everything is put together and working, wrap the excess material around the sides of the board and staple it into place. Everything should be snug and secure.  On the back of the board, use your extra copper wire (or any kind of wire) to make a little hanger for your board. Bend the wire into a U shape and secure it to the board (I used tape again, but staples might be a bit more secure). 

And just like that, you are done!

Here's a video of the finished product. 

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