A dress for a little princess

Hi all,

The dress, a joined effort project turning into a nightmare… 😉

Ok the thought was simple… Make a dress with lights included.
Seemed simple enough. 

It all started out as my wife bought some fabrics to make some new clothes for my daughter. At some point she had bought a fabric with a print showing children looking through grass for fireflies. A I just started with electronics and so on my direct idea was.. hmmm would be fun to build some lights in that.
And as the st Maarten festivities were coming up at school, I thought it would be great to have her wearing a nice dress made by both mom and dad for a change 😉

So I turned to the wonderful world of the internet and checked what could be found related to wearable’s and electronics. Keep in mind that I’m only doing electronics as a side hobby for around two years now and mainly related to guitar effect processing.
But I found something called LilyPad. LilyPad is a small micro controller made for use in wearable’s and low power consumption. And as the wonderful world of Chinese product clone overflow is now only a mouse click away I thought… lets give it a shot.

First start with some of the information I found and the idea’s around it.

LilyPad : [provide some background and idea’s on lilypad]

Others : [some details for the led’s, and so one]

The dress [ some details on the fabric and dress]

So looks nice.. let’s order. And there the first issue popped up. 

Without paying to much attention to the details I ended up ordering the following :

ATTiny85 TinyPad : [provide some background on TinyPad]

From the high level specifications all looked ok. However.. never looked into the details of for example the chip speed. There are two versions… The 5v 16mhz and the 3.3v 8mhz.. For something simple I needed of course the 3.3v version.. But of course.. I ordered the 5v. And never even realized it till I got to the moment I started it all up.

So what did I do. I started with my trusty Arduino Uno as a base. I have a proto shield and it has proven itself to be rather sturdy in relation to the other board I own. 

So the first attempt was hooking up 6 normal orange LED’s onto a cardboard with a picture of the fabric. Just to give myself an idea on what it would look like in the end.

[ image / video ]

As you can see it looked quite nice. However at that point the new ordered controller had not arrived yet and even the fabric itself was still on it’s way. But it was a nice start and gave me the confidence it all would be ok.

And then the time was there all orders had arrived and yes… I now had all the tools I needed to get it working.
The micro processor, the lights, switches, wire and the battery snaps to keep it all small.
So on to the testing phase and the wife working on getting pockets in the dress to fit it all.

[ images on the building / rough setup for the dress ]
[ the test movie ]

Well doesn’t that look nice.. The light effect itself was not what I wanted yet but hey.. it is working.
So back to the drawing board and started to hook everything up and got ready for the first test.

Switch on and…….. nothing… nothing… absolutely nothing.. So the first time I actually even re-thought of actual power consumption was due to the fact that the controller started but after that it was blank.. nothing not even a flicker of the leds.. pfff.. why.. and of course only two days left.. :S
And the annoying thing was I checked and calculated up front, but based upon wrong microprocessor and wrong code.. 🙁

So back to the drawing board checking how much current I needed. So I ended up wiring more batteries in series to provide the required power and updating the code to use no more than 2 active leds at the same time.
Because two RGB leds at the same time consumes around the same amount of power as the original test with the normal 6 led’s.
So code rewritten, circuit updated and new batteries added. And yessssss… it works…. FOR 15 SECONDS IT DID and then… it all stopped. One led stayed on and the program stopped. By now it was time to hurry as the festivities were already the next day. So it became a light night exercise.. And you know.. I never got it to work.. 🙁 The really sucked and I got quite annoyed that at the last minute I just couldn’t get it to work. but I didn’t want to see my little girl anxiously waiting for her new dress, and ending up going to school without anything. 

So the final sprint.. 
With only two hours to go.. I got my spare TinyPad, hooked up 5 normal orange led’s as in the test setup and reverted back to a fast blinking pattern to just give her something that would have some form of relation to the original idea.
It worked and it was finished in time.

She was happy and was able to show it to her classmates. so in the end successful project.. But I can’t help thinking how it would have been if it working like I wanted it 😉

[ the final effect ]

But.. I’ll be doing a new attempt once I have a bit more spare time and other projects finished. So keep watching and I’ll let you know once it starts getting shape.

For now.. time for the next project 😉




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