Neopixel Millennial Word Clock Dress

About: This author has not updated their profile. They might or might not get around to it sometime. If the kid wants a unicorn... Dangit, we're gonna make that happen. What little I know is dangerous, the rest I...

Word clock. Dress. Ok, it really doesn't tell time... It's just a statement piece.

It is backlit with Adafruit neopixels and driven with an Adafruit Flora making it another artsy wearable.

The dress and dressform are Caitlin's. I just "electrified" it.

1. I get into trouble when I try to make ladies' garments.

2. Which means I get into more trouble when I try again to make ladies' garments.

So, here is my contribution to keep Adafruit Wearable Wednesdays alive. This ible will gloss over a lot of details and is really only meant for inspiration to try something different.

Step 1: You Need an Outline to Start...

Essentially this project is making a backlit panel that lights up the words of your word clock.

To get the effect of backlit words, I was thinking of what to make the light filter mask out of.

I wanted it to be flexible and move with the fabric of the garment so just creating a transparency slide would not be good.

I did have a can of as-seen-on-TV pipe leak sealant spray that would have enough gunk to block light. I could spray over cut out letter stencils. Setting up a silk-screen print would be a lot of work.

But luckily, I have a Silhouette stencil cutting machine. Less of a mess. If I use the iron on heat transfer vinyl material, it would be even easier to apply.

I went with the create my word mask in GIMP open-source ware. I chose to vary the different fonts for each word.

Play around with what words you want to use. I knew that I would not be attempting to light up individual cells or letters so simple words in a bold font would work best.

It's been a while since I used my cutting machine so I had to waste a sheet of heat transfer material in testing how deep to set the blade, which side to cut through, and figure out I would need to mirror the image to have it cut correctly when the stencil is applied to the fabric.

After the stencil is cut, you have to "weed out" or pick and remove the material that will open up the space for light to shine through.

Iron on the heat transfer design to a piece of fabric. It will take a while with an ordinary iron since pro heat presses that T-shirt makers use get a lot hotter and cover a larger area with pressure. Let cool and then peel off the backing plastic carrier sheet.

Step 2: TSA Does Not Approve

For those of you new to the whole microcontroller/Arduino thing, the number of choices to buy and use have exploded in recent months. Since you can now get Arduino compatible boards with wifi or bluetooth built in and capability for advanced sensors like SD cards, GPS, heart rate monitors, muscle sensors or brainwave sensors, everything can be paired with an app. I am going to stick with basics here.

Because I am a poor boy from a poor family... I will just sequence the segments of neopixels that I want to light up. I have no add-on real-time-clock module for the Flora and haven't really worked with the bluetooth module to give it IoT(internet of things) goodness.

To make the display, I sandwiched a layer of fiberfill batting between the light filter word mask and a backing piece of fabric. The batting will help diffuse the light to evenly light up the word.

Sew seams to create individual rows or channels which will contain the light.

I just hooked up several remnants of my 2 meters of 60-leds/meter neopixel strips which have been sliced and diced so many times. I have 4 strips of about 30 neopixels and 2 strips of 10 neopixels. Each strip is controlled by a separate pin on the Adafruit Flora. I physically put the two shorter strips end to end on the bottom row of the display.

Slide each of the neopixel strips into the fabric tunnels.

Set up your IDE to work in detecting your board and run the strandtest sketch to test out your neopixels. Map out which segments of the neopixel strip correspond to the words you want to backlight and program that in. I used the brute force method of coding to light up the left and right half of each row. I can then light up each block in sequence to form the word clock sentences. If I wired up all the rows sequentially, I probably could have better used array addressing to light up the neopixel matrix.

The layout of the word clock is only a regular size letter page which spans about 10 neopixels. Continue for a word wrap dress.

Step 3: Time Keeps on Slipping...

The dress had a silky top layer but did not lay flat enough against the light panel to make the words distinct. It is a cool effect to have a glowing message appear when you do not know it is a light up dress.

Secure the battery pack and all the electronics bits.

Experiment with what fabrics make a good top layer. Maybe something more sheer or apply the light mask to the back of your outer fabric.

You can attach the light panel anywhere under the dress. You can make a time slip here.

Anyone want to illuminate a poem or lyrics to a song? I leave it up to you'all to figure out where you want to go from here...



    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest
    • Remix Contest

      Remix Contest
    • Epilog X Contest

      Epilog X Contest

    2 Discussions


    2 years ago

    if this is for millennials, then it would give everyone a trophy, take selfes and move back in with their parents after dropping out of first year community college.

    or go to war. Millennials like going to war. I remember when the judge told me I should go to war.

    1 reply