Introduction: Make a Friendship Finding E-Textile Monster Hoodie With Neopixels

Got to keep warm this winter, and what better way to do that than to find more friends to cuddle with during the snowy months. The Monster hoodie will find all the friends you need by testing them with its touch sensitive paw pads and lighting up with happiness when you have found a keeper.If you like this project, please take a moment to vote for it in the Winter Wearables Contest.

The Arduino coding works on the basis of one patch grounded, and the other patch connected to an analog input pin pulled up to 5 volts. When both pads are touched by the same object that can conduct electricity (someones cheeks, a circle of people holding hand-to-paw, touching the paw pads together, or even a banana), the Neopixel lights turn on underneath the monsters "skin". The Gemma from Adafruit is great for this project, as it can run all of the lights and the sensitive pads with microcontroller pins left over. Stay tuned (or skip) to the end of the Instructable for a list of links for all of the materials, code, etc. that I used.Sorry for the lack of in-use photos, selfies only go so far.

Let's get started!

Step 1: List O' Supplies

Here is what you will need to finish off this project:

  • Outer fabric, soft and fuzzy, enough to wrap over your head and down to both of your hands
  • Inner lining fabric, make it silver if you are into that sort of thing
  • Accessory fabrics: any other colors or bits that you might want to use
  • Pillow to rip the guts out of. Or, polyfil stuffing if you want to buy some!
  • Time and patience and cats


  • Gemma sew-able microcontroller
  • Many Neopixel LED's (24)
  • Conductive fabric
  • Conductive thread
  • a decent sized rechargeable battery (20ma x # of neopixels (24) = 480 mAh or bigger, never all full white)
    • flexible wires (if you don't want to sew with the conductive thread a lot)
    • solder (only needed if not sewing neopixels)

Step 2: Gather Your Materials

Decide on the type of materials you want to use. I had half of a blue fuzzy blanket that had already been used for a different monster project, so went to Jo-Ann's Fabric and Craft store to pick up several more colors in 1/4 yard increments. Four colors and $7 later, (Christmas fabric sales), and I have what I need to begin. If you are not as stubborn as I am, I suggest that you use polar fleece, as it comes in tons of patters, relatively cheap at 1/4 of a yard, and most importantly, doesn't unravel. I wanted to use just a slightly fuzzier fabric with added several more hours of hand-sewing to the project.

Grab a favorite hoodie (yours or someone else's), tape together some paper to draw on and spread the hoodie out on top of it. Grab a pencil, and trace the hoodie with a little extra for seams. My seams tend to be about 1/4". Cut out your new hoodie pattern.

Step 3: Measure Twice, Cut a Bunch

By draping the measuring tape on my arm, I can figure out how wide I want the material/scarf portion to be. Yep, not just a hoodie, but a scarf too. Scoodie (Scarf/Hoodie) just sounds odd.

Also drape measuring tape the distance that you want the scarf part to fall, I want my hands ti fit in the pocket paws comfortable, so I measured to just beyond my finger tips.

Tape more paper to the hoodie pattern, and use the numbers that you got with the measuring tape to sketch abut the right size and shape. Cut the pattern from the paper, grab your trusty sharpie and trace the pattern on the fabric many times, remembering to flip from front to back. Outside (2, front and back), Lining (2, front and back).

Cut them out with the good fabric scissors.

Step 4: Need Deep Pockets? DIY!

Using the paper pattern, figure out how deep you want the pockets (reaaalllyy deep!), and draw a line across the paper at that point. Cut it out of the paper, trace on the fabrics like the main hoodie, remembering to flip the pattern over to get matching sides, and cut 4. Outside (2, front and back), Lining (2 front and back).

Step 5: This Little Piggy Went to Market...Time to Make Toes!

Adorkable toes for paw pads. Draw them on the pocket paper pattern, cut them out with the (paper!!!) scissors, and then trace them out on the fabric. Polar fleece only needs two sets cut out. My fabric unravels, and therefore needed a front and back for each set. Permanently mark the fabric, remembering to add a little extra for seams, cut out with the fabric scissors.

Step 6: Let's Get Horn... Er, Let's MAKE Some Horns

Draw up some horns, keeping in mind the side to side distance (you don't need any lawsuits for poking someone's eye out because your horns were too long!). I shortened my original drawing, and added extra girth to account for stuffing the horn to make it three dimensional. To check, I cut two out of paper, cut and folded every-other-direction the paper all the way around the edges that would be sewn, and popped open the paper horn. Like the shape? Go ahead and trace out four (2 front, 2 back), and cut them out of the fabric. Add fancy stripes by drawing directly on the horn pattern, adding seam thickness, choosing colors, and cutting lots o' small parts out.

Step 7: Add a Dash of Original Dr. Who Seasoning...

Prepare yourself for a long stint of hand-sewing. Or, better yet, make it out of polar fleece so you don't have to double everything up for nice edges. Yes, I have a messy desk. Cast stones if yours is any cleaner. I also have many hobbies that stick to the desk.

Sew, watch, sew, watch, etc. etc. etc. (6 or so episodes later), finish the current crop of hand-sewing. I added a small bit of pillow stuffing (literally stolen from a pillow), to each toe and the horns.

Step 8: Conductive Fabric for Friend Sensing!

Time to add the conductive fabric! This is silver impregnated nylon fabric that is conductive. It will tarnish more over time, as will all silver-based electronic textile materials. I can change the code to work with more resistance when the time comes, but I chose this fabric for its' soft quality and stretch-ability. It is a knit fabric, and will fray if the edges are left untreated in some way. I chose to cross stitch all around the edges of the conductive fabric to make a pretty border that will keep it from unraveling. Stitch together the paw pads, and add a small amount of pillow stuffing.

Step 9: Gratuitous Cat Non-Helper Photos

Time to design and cut the spikes out. Or not. Lilybug decided it was her moment in the spotlight, and then proceeded to attempt to eat all of my tape (No, that is definitely not my hand waving the tape in front of her so that she can play with it. Not at all. Well, okay, maybe a little. Cat photo shoot time!). Place and tape together more paper underneath the hoodie, and draw out what you want the spikes to look like. remember to add extra for the seams! Repeat the same steps from before, i.e. cut out paper, trace with marker, cut out of fabric, repeat.

Step 10: Ain't No One Got Time for Floppy Horns

These here horns need to be completely 3D, and won't be sewn into a seam making them flop back and forth. To do that, they need bottoms to keep all of their stuffing in long enough to be sewn on to the hoodie.Trace the bottom by holding the horn upright on yet another piece of a paper (good thing I have an engineering student at home who generates lots and lots of scrap paper). Cut out of paper, trace with pen on fabric, and cut out of the fabric. By now you may have noticed that I am not that in to pinning things. Sharpies are faster!

Step 11: Pinning Is Fur Reals

I disdain pins for patterns, but for the sewing component (especially with shifty nylon fuzzy material), pins are a necessity. Pin everything the way it is supposed to go when turned outside in. If you can't figure it out, pinch the seams in your hands on the inside until you get the outside to look correct, and then carefully turn it inside out so that everything is correctly arranged. For example, I held the two halves of the hoodie together on the inside (seams turned in to grip), and then inserted the spikes. It looks weird to sew i that way, but it works. Optional step: Look up the directions on how to the thread the bobbin on Grandma's inherited sewing machine, like you do every single time.

Step 12: Optional Step: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

In the last step, you may have noticed that the pocket and the lining are completely sewn together. Don't do that. Or do, and spend half an hour picking out the stitches with a seam ripper. Only the top of the pocket is sewn together with the front sides facing each other. Turn right sides out, add strengthening detail stitch about 3/4" down from the top of the pocket. This will keep the pocket from getting stretched and having a saggy lip. Nobody like saggy lips.

Step 13: Go 4 It, Connect Four!

Outside fabric, Inside fabric, and the two pockets all need to be pinned together to sew. Remember to leave a space un-stitched so that you can turn the monster right-side out.

The first two pictures show how the pockets will be sewn in. Pin it, and then turn it right side out to make sure that it is correct. I've had enough stitch picking for one day! Turn the front sides together of the outside fabric (with spikes, and the inside fabric, and pin remembering to tuck any fur strands inside the seam, or you will end up wasting a lot of time pulling the fur out of the seam when it is turned right-side out. Start in the center of the hoodie, and go down one side, and then flip it over and start from the center again to do the other side. This keeps the material lining up well, so that if you do end up extra material that is not lining up, it won't end up distorting the entire hoodie.

Step 14: Last Major Seam

I left the bottoms of the pockets open, so sewed down the two front pieces and now pinned up the two back sides, ready for sewing. See how neatly all the fur is tucked? Well, more or less. After this seam is done, flip the entire piece right-side out to check if anything went wrong, and fix it. Now, flip it back inside-out, it is time to add the wizardry!

Step 15: Add a Bit of Heart...or Two

Pull just the pockets right-side out, to add the paws and conductive thread that will make them work.Sew the paw pads by sticking yourself a bunch of times with the needle. Okay, maybe don't do that. Hold or pin the paw pad in the correct place, and do a ladder stitch. At least, that is what I call I it. The lovely paint image above is a visual. Tie a knot, and stick it in somewhere that you won't see it. Now stick the needle in to one side, grab about and 1/8th of an inch of fabric, and pull the needle back out. Now go across to the other material, and do the same thing. It is basically an exploded running stitch. Stitch about 6 stitches, pull it nice and tight, and then double one stitch to hold that set. Continue all the way around. This is how the paw pads, toes and horns are attached.Sew them on now.

Using conductive thread, sew into the conductive fabric enough to make a good connection. I did five columns and then wove 4 rows in the columns. Overkill. Enjoy the lovely illustrated picture.

Step 16: Neopixel Time

Test hook-up a neopixel to see how it will look placed behind the fabric, and then decide where you want to put the rest of them, the Gemma microcontroller, and the battery. It would have been a good idea to make some sort of access pocket. Hindsight.... Again, overkill with the battery. It happened to be close by. For touch activated lights, a much smaller size of battery would work, since it is not lit all the time and drawing current. About 480Mah or bigger, not this heavy behemouth at 1200mAh.

Gemma's are programmed with Arduino code, with the free coding environment, Arduino IDE, that can be found on the Arduino website. Gemma needs a special driver, and it might be easier to install Adafruit's Arduino copy, found here:

Gemma Neopixel test code can be found at:

Don't be afraid, it is highly commented to help a newbie to Gemma's understand how they work. So, although it looks like a lot, it is mostly comments.

Here is some test code with no comments:

Step 17: Pick Your Poison

Sew or solder all of the traces to the neopixels, making sure all of the Data In arrows and Data Out arrows feed into each other correctly. I am using the flexible wearable wire that Adafruit sells, but I think it would have been easier to only solder the data In/data Out pins, and sew the power and ground. Knotting the stainless steel thread sucks, and there aren't many knots needed for Power and ground, just a continuous line. If you knot, make sure to secure it in some way, such as thread glue, nail polish, or a lot of back-stitching.This picture is before I soldered on the ground traces a.k.a. wires.

Step 18: Test Before Committing

Very Important step! Skip at your peril. Nothing sucks as much as taking apart a beautifully constructed project because there is a wiring mistake or dead pixel. Make sure that all of your neopixels work with your circuiting before sewing them down (you can use the same test code, you just need to read the comments to find where to change the code to the amount of neopixels that you have). Once they all work, sew down the neopixels, making sure that you have enough extra trace (thread or wire) to take into account the stretch of the fabric. I only sewed down all of the neopixels themselves, and left most of the wires free so they could move with the fabric.

Admire all of the pretty colors once you have turned it right-side out and all of the LEDs are working.

Step 19: Touchy Feely Code

I have chosen to host my code on Codebender, which works well as a browser based coding environment for the Gemma. I tested my code on both a Lilypad USB and a Flora, so I could make sure that I was getting input through the serial communication, but they were driving me nuts since windows kept hopping ports, with a load fail rate of more than 80%. Gemma worked more times than most, since I manually reset it to upload code. If the Gemma's red led is not blinking after you hit the reset button (just dimly lit), the driver is installed incorrectly, or try a different USB cable, it might help. Any other problems, check out forums for advice.

Code link:

Step 20: Giggle Manically Like the Silly Goose That You Are When It Finally Works

Hunt down kitteh's for a photo op and bribe with treats to get them to wear hoodie. The only one that would have anything to do with it (otherwise than the Lilybug nightly inspections), is Bagel, who no longer cares, as long as there are treats to be had.

Adjust the threshold of the if/then statement (currently at 800) higher to make it more sensitive. The idea is for the neopixels to light up when receiving a high enough input to register, but turn off otherwise.

Much thanks to Adafruit for all of their cool supplies that I can't seem to stop buying, and Codebender, which is trying to make it easier to load Arduino programs, as well as open-sourcing the information.

Step 21: Go Forth and Touch People!

Winter Wearables Contest

Participated in the
Winter Wearables Contest