Glowing LED Ita Bag




Introduction: Glowing LED Ita Bag

About: I love doing fun projects with LEDs!

Ita bags are a popular way for fans, especially in Japan, to show their love for an anime/character/ship. These bags have a clear protective pouch for displaying charms, badges, etc, so you don't have to worry about them falling off.

My philosophy is generally, "Can I add LEDs to it? Yes? Okay, let's do it!" So of course I needed to add LEDs to an itabag for my growing collection of merch.

In this Instructable, I'll show you how I made a glowing ita bag to display my Yuri on Ice charms. This tutorial assumes you have a basic understanding of how to work with WS2812B/Neopixel LEDs, Arduino, soldering, laser cutting, and sewing.



    • Scanner
    • Laser cutter
    • Soldering iron
    • Basic electronics tools - needle nose pliers, flush cutters, wire strippers, etc
    • Hot glue gun
    • Sewing machine and basic sewing accessories (iron, pins, etc)

    Step 1: Prepare Heart Vector for Laser Cutting

    In order to get a vector to laser cut in the exact shape of the heart on my ita bag, I scanned the bag. Yes, this was pretty ridiculous, but it worked. I placed a piece of cardboard inside to ensure good contrast for the heart. I also pressed down on the front of the bag while scanning to get the best result.

    I am using the Aliexpress bag linked previously, so if you're using that bag, you may be able to re-use my vector file. See the next step to download the files.

    Open your scan in GIMP or similar editing program. Use the thresholding tool to get the heart black and the bag white. Then manually clean up the image with a paint tool to get rid of the stray white pixels from the glitter and the dark pixels from the stitching. Crop the image so you're left with a black heart on a white background.

    Open up Inkscape and import your cropped heart image. Right click and select Trace Bitmap. It should work with the default options since everything's already black and white. Hit ok! This will create a vectorized image on top of the original bitmap, so move the vector off and delete the bitmap.

    Now adjust the fill and stroke settings. Change the fill to none, the stroke paint to black, and the stroke thickness to whatever is required to do a vector cut. In my case, that's 0.001 inches, but I made it thicker for the screenshot so you can see the lines. You can also rotate the heart if it's not quite at the right angle. Double click until the rounded handles appear around the vector, and drag to rotate until it's aligned properly.

    Step 2: Laser Cut the Heart

    I used a 75W Epilog laser cutter to cut my heart out. If you're not familiar with how to laser cut, please look up another tutorial on that.

    I've attached the vector cut settings as well as the vector file I used in a few different formats.

    Once your heart is cut out, remove the protective paper backing.

    If you do not have access to a laser cutter, you can print out the pattern and trace onto cardboard, foam board, wood, etc, which you can cut by some other means.

    Step 3: LED Build

    Before you do anything, test your LED strip! I used an Arduino Uno at first because I wasn't sure how long I wanted my wires to be. If you want, you can skip straight to using the Circuit Playground -- see the next step for details on how to hook that up.

    Set up an Arduino with strandtest and wire it to your LEDs. The schematic is attached. You can use solid core wire or male/male jumpers and poke that into the holes in the connector - no soldering required for testing. Once you're sure all the LEDs are working, proceed.

    Arrange your LEDs on your acrylic heart and tape them down temporarily with kapton tape or masking tape. You'll have to cut apart the LED strip to get a heart shape, so be prepared to do a LOT of soldering. Also make sure that you keep the direction of data flow correct.

    Once you've got your LEDs arranged, tin all the copper pads at the end of each LED segment. Be careful not to melt your acrylic with your soldering iron.

    For connections that are very close together, you can use male headers as connectors rather than trying to cut and strip tiny wires. Use needle nose pliers to pull the header pin out of the black plastic harness. Clip it to a shorter length if needed. Use one hand to hold the pin in place over the pads with the needle nose pliers and the other to hold the soldering iron. Press down onto the end of the pin with your iron until the solder flows onto the pin. Do this for the other end as well. Then add some more solder to each side to make sure you've got a good connection. Reflow the solder again while holding the pin down with the pliers to make sure everything's flat and you've got a good joint.

    For longer connections, just use wire as normal. Strip and tin each end, and then solder to the tinned pads.

    I recommend hooking up the strandtest Arduino periodically to test your soldering as you go.

    After you're done, I recommend adding some hot glue for strain relief to protect the connections.

    Step 4: Program Circuit Playground

    Follow Adafruit's tutorial on setting up Circuit Playground for the Arduino IDE.

    Install the FastLED library. In the Arduino IDE, go to Sketch > Include Library > Manage Libraries. Search for FastLED and install.

    In your Arduino directory, create a folder called ItaBagHeart and copy the attached code file into it. Open it in the Arduino IDE and upload to Circuit Playground.

    If you set up the LEDs exactly as I did, you don't have to change anything. But if you have a different number of LEDs, you'll need to edit NUM_LEDS and NUM_OUTER (the number of LEDs in the outer heart). Feel free to edit the colors or animations in any way you like.

    I'd like to give some credit to the following for giving me a great starting point for the animations: Erin St Blaine's circuit playground sparkle skirt and Tweaking4All's FastLED animations.

    Step 5: Finalize Circuit

    Now let's make the final connections!

    Make an extension cord. Cut 3 long wires of equal length for power, data, and ground. Make sure it's long enough for the wire to reach from the bottom of the ita bag front pouch and into the main backpack. Strip and tin the ends of the wire. Also get the spare connector that came with the LEDs and strip and tin those wire ends.

    Solder the wires together, making sure you stay consistent in your power, data, and ground wires. Also add a 470- ohm resistor to the data wire. (It's not 100% necessary but it's best practice.) Put heat shrink over the soldered connections and shrink. You can also place heat shrink around all 3 wires periodically to keep them neatly held together.

    Solder the other end to the circuit playground - ground to ground, VBAT for power, and #6 for data.

    Lastly, put some hot glue over the connections to add strain relief.

    Now you can plug in your battery and see if everything works! Use the left button to cycle through the animations.

    Step 6: Make LED Diffuser

    LED effects look best when diffused, so we're going to make a small pillow to place over them.

    Load up the vector file with the heart design again and change the paper size to Letter. Rotate the heart so it fits on the page and print out a few copies. Cut out the heart. This will be your pattern for cutting out fabric and batting. I noticed that the design is very slightly asymmetrical, so line the pattern up with the acrylic and note which side of the pattern is the front and which is the back to keep everything aligned.

    Pin the pattern on to the quilt batting and cut out two hearts.

    Pin the pattern on the muslin/white fabric, but do NOT cut directly around the pattern. Do a rough cut out of the muslin with at least 1" around the heart. Trace the heart pattern onto the fabric with a pencil. Now, cut around and leave approximately 1/4" seam allowance. Make 2 of these.

    Carefully align all your layers - one muslin, two batting, one muslin, and pin together.

    Sew with a straight stitch directly onto that pencil line you traced earlier all the way around the heart. When you're finished that, go around the outside edge with a zigzag stitch to protect against fraying. I am not good enough at sewing to figure out how to get all the seams inside in this case since it's a weird shape, but feel free to do that if you know how.

    Step 7: Make Charm Display Base

    Next we're going to make the heart that we'll pin the charms to.

    Place your pattern underneath the fabric and carefully arrange it with respect to the fabric pattern. In my case, I have text, so I wanted to make sure the text was straight across the heart. Pin the pattern to the fabric and cut out around it with about 1.25" extra around the heart. Trace around the heart pattern on the back side of the fabric with pencil.

    Break out your iron. Press back a hem of 1/4" and pin in place. Make relief cuts as necessary when going around rounded edges. Sew your hem down.

    Cut out a heart shape from the interfacing. The shiny side will attach to the back side of the fabric, so make sure you pin your pattern on in the correct direction.

    Put the shiny side to the back of the fabric and line it up with the pencil outline. Grab a press cloth (I just used a scrap of muslin) and dampen it. Place the cloth over the interfacing and iron until it sticks. This will help strengthen the fabric for pinning charms to it.

    Step 8: Attach Cloth Pieces to Acrylic

    Now we need to attach the cloth to the acrylic using velcro. First attach the pillow to the front of the acrylic. I used two dots up top. Try to line up the pencil-traced/sewn edge of the heart with the edges of the acrylic.

    Next we need to wrap the decorative fabric around and make velcro connectors for that, too.

    I didn't completely wrap it tightly around every curve, but that's ok. The excess won't really show on the bag.

    Using this technique, you can easily swap out ita bag sets. Make one cover for each character and swap out whenever you like!

    Step 9: Pin on Your Charms

    Take your charm base fabric off of the acrylic. Arrange your charms on the heart however you like. Disconnect any extra straps so they don't get in the way. You can use your needle nose pliers to open up jump rings to get rid of keychains.

    Use safety pins to attach the charms. Poke the pin through from the back, place through a jump ring, poke it back through, and close the safety pin.

    Once you're done, re-attach it to the acrylic heart with velcro.

    Step 10: Ita Bag Complete!!

    Connect all the electronics. Insert the heart into the front pouch of the bag. In order to do this, flip over the top of the backpack towards the front so you can slide it in more easily.

    One last step - use a couple of velcro dots to attach the back of the heart to the backing of the pouch.

    Now you're ready to show off your love to the world!

    I'd love to see your ita bags. If you use my tutorial, please let me know!

    All files can also be found on my GitHub.

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      4 years ago

      Hey there, I'm new to this side and only logged in inspired by your
      work. I want to do something similar but have no idea about programming.
      I also don't have access to a laser cutter or have a heat shrink or
      experience with this.

      That's why I'm searching for an easier
      method and other effect so I thought I might get help from you. First of
      all there is only one effect I wanna have.

      I thought about buying the Adafruit Circuit Playground Express and
      programm it with makecode but I dunno how and if this effect in pink is
      possible. Then I would have to buy neopixels and ad them like you did,
      although I would use already connected neopixels I found on a webside.

      then would only have to ad a battery and a connection to the battery.
      Thats the first method. Would be glad if you could say something about

      Second method is following:

      already have a led strip that does the effect in white but its not
      Neopixels, there are 3 pixels before it departs and it would be hard to
      put it around in the edges. It's also connected to a 12 V power supply.
      So I thought about using the case with the chip at least, thats already
      programmes in the effect I want and ad Neopixels but because of the
      difference in power I dunno it this is possible. This is the case with
      the chip inside

      To this I wanted to ad that power supply

      I would only have to put pink fabric over it and it lights in pink but
      this method is very unknown of the outcome so I thought about asking
      someone with experience in technical things but I have no such person
      around me. That's why I'm now asking you.

      I hope you
      may help me out of my problem and can tell me about how to do it in an
      easy way without needing special tools, high crafting skills or
      technical knowledge.


      Reply 4 years ago

      Hi there! I'll try to help you as best as I can.

      You don't need a laser cutter. You can cut the heart shape out of cardboard with a knife if you'd like to use that shape. You can do heatshrink either with a lighter or with the upper part of your soldering iron (not the tip). You can also get a cheap heat gun for about $10-$15.

      I don't know that much about MakeCode so I can't help you programming that. However, one of the effects I include in my code is basically that pulsing light in a single color, so you'd only have to edit the color used by that effect.

      I do not recommend 12V LEDs for this project if you want to use it with a microcontroller. You need a MOSFET for each color channel. It's a much more advanced circuit. See here: Additionally, my code would not work with those LEDs.

      Something that might work for you: there are pre-existing remotes/controllers for 5V and 12V LED strips. No programming is required. Just search for "5V LED controller" and "12V LED controller" on Amazon or AliExpress. This one looks like it might do what you want.,searchweb201602_3_10152_10151_10065_10130_10068_10344_10324_10547_10342_10325_10546_10343_10340_10548_10341_10545_10084_10083_10307_10059_10314_10534_100031_10604_10103_10142,searchweb201603_36,ppcSwitch_4&algo_expid=2ae5b7c3-2fac-45df-8bd9-76a5e244edbf-7&algo_pvid=2ae5b7c3-2fac-45df-8bd9-76a5e244edbf&priceBeautifyAB=0


      Reply 4 years ago

      Dear brightcolorfulflickers,

      thank you for your help and
      telling me about the code you used. I wanted to know if there is also a
      difference when I only do the outer frame of the heart and not adding an
      inner heart like you did for the 1. Option I told you. The other thing
      is that I don't need a heat shrink if I use the neopixels in the photo I
      showed because they are already connected with cable. I only would have
      to ad a plug so that I can connect it with the chip.

      The 2. Option...

      link you send me is nearly the same product I have. But it's only the
      effect in white. The remote controll I have looks like this

      But the LED strip itself looks like this:

      cut it on the black line of the golden parts if I remember correct. And
      they are to far appart to put them in a heart shape. The LED strip you
      recommended me looks the same. That's the greatest problem, that they
      aren't single pixels.

      I'm looking forward to your answer

      Thanks in advance



      Reply 4 years ago

      Hey there,
      me again...

      Sry, but the server seemed to have some problems and posted the above twice. So I deleted the double post but there is something to option 2 I saw yesterday and so I add something

      It's about an LED strip with the number GS8208

      They are 12V single pixels but I don't know if I can combine these. The LED strip I have looks like WS2811 and has this as an ending to connect it with the controller case. The ending of the WS2811 LED strip looks like this

      So I thought using this as the start and 3 pixels of the WS2811 and then go on with the GS8208 because they have the same voltage.

      I also found someone who wrote about the GS8208:

      So the option 2 would be... 12 V battery case > Control Panel Case > 1 part of WS2811 (which contain 3 LED lights)+plug to control panel case > go on with GS8208 around the heart and my remote control to switch it on or off.

      I hope I dpn't overstrain you or ask to much you can't help me with. But equal the outcome, I hope I can at least get an answer ^^

      Thanks in advance and thank you for your help you already gave me.


      Reply 4 years ago

      Yeah I tried to reply but I couldn't either yesterday...

      I really don't recommend using the 12V strips for portable use. they're more intended for use in cars where you have a stable 12V supply. You don't wanna be carrying around a 12V battery. Also you'd need to level shift the signal from the microcontroller to 12V.

      If you only want an outer heart, my code will still work. There is an option to change the total number of LEDs and the number of LEDs in the outer/inner heart.

      Maybe look at these LEDs:


      Reply 4 years ago

      Hey there,

      I want to order my products soon but I have a question avout the programm you used programming the Adafruit Playground and the neopixels. You wrote you used FastLED Library and posted a link but... I get redirected to a side where you download a .zip and a tar.gz file and I don't know how to open the second file.

      Can you say me more?

      There was also the question left if you may help me if I have problems understanding the code after reading the instructions on the github side.

      Hope to get an answer.

      Thanks in advance


      Reply 4 years ago

      Installing libraries is a basic Arduino skill. Please click the link to Erin St Blaine's tutorial as it includes instructions. Again, this is the sort of thing you need to search out for yourself as it's not specifically related to my project.


      Reply 4 years ago

      Hey, me again ^^'

      thank you so much, I dunno how I should make up for your help... Maybe by sending photos to you if it's ready, if you like ^^

      Okay, I consider not to take the 12V ones. But I don't need the first link because I already found a shop in my country that sells these already connected neopixels WS2812B and you can select yourself how much neopixels you want to have in the LED strip (I thought about 27).

      But about the code...

      It's the ItaBagHeart.ino file, right? Which programm do I need? And can I ask you directly if I don't understand how to change the code or have problems changing the code? Would the code only work with the Adafruit circuit playground or also with the Adafruit Corcuit Playground Express?

      Because there are already neopixels on the chip itself, if I saw it right (did I?)... Maybe I should buy the chip first, try it out and then I can buy the rest of the parts in my country (neopixels, battery and plugs)? Or I just buy the Circuit Playground Express - Base Kit... That's why I asked for the chip part because it would be cheaper buying most of the parts in my county because of customs...

      Thank you so much till now that you help me a lot.

      Looking forward for your answer ^^



      4 years ago

      Thanks for the tutorial, this is awesome! I have a question though, is there a more cuttable alternative to acrylic for the heart that you would recommend? I have resin readily available but was thinking there might be a plastic that's a bit easier to cut than acrylic. I do not have access to a laser cutter. Thanks!


      Reply 4 years ago

      Well, it doesn't have to be plastic. If you had sturdy cardboard or foamboard that would work too. You can trace the pattern and cut with a knife.


      5 years ago

      Can you use a different Arduino board (i.e. trinket) instead of the UNO? Mainly concerned about space/formfactor etc. :) I'm pretty new to arduino myself! Thank you!


      Reply 5 years ago

      I only used the Uno for the purpose of testing the LEDs while soldering. The final installation uses a Circuit Playground. A Trinket would not have enough memory for the code I wrote.


      5 years ago

      That's so cute! And the CircuitPlayground board is my new favorite toy. Great project!


      Reply 5 years ago

      Thank you! I love Circuit Playground too. It's so convenient having buttons, LED indicators, sensors, etc, all together in one board!