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Your Help Needed!

A Make reader named Monique is about to get married. She would like to adorn her dress with LEDs. She’s just not sure how to. She wrote to us for help and we thought it better to go to you: How would you tackle this problem?

Moreover, we thought to gamify it. Send us your answers or post in the comments below. If Monique chooses your solution (and, we’re afraid, if you reside in the U.S.), we’ll send you a free copy of Kate Hartman’s new title, “Make: Wearable Electronics.”

Ready? Monique writes:

I want to put LED lights on my wedding dress . . . a lot of them. I don’t know what kind to get, or what type of battery power I will need. I would like the dress to change colors, and cycle thru patterns. I really don’t know anything about LED lights or programming anything. Can you recommend something for me to complete my project?

Monique likes the look of this dress. How would you do it?

0 thoughts on “Crowdsourced Wedding Dress!

  1. I would check out Adafruit’s neopixels for the led’s, they’re not the only kind that will work, but are a good pick. There are also arduino based driver boards for them that have fairly good support to help you get the effects you want.

    Unless you’re using it in total darkness, I’d avoid the EL Wire and panel stuff, it’s just not bright enough. LED’s will work much better, with much more punch.

    You will need to either learn a bit of Arduino, or get some help with that part, but that’s the easiest path for this sort of project anyway, as you need something with a little brains to it.

    As for power, I’d probably advise going with some form of lithium rechargable. You could use flat cells or perhaps a garter arrangement under the dress for 18650 cells. If you use AA’s you’re going to be using a lot of them, and they’re heavier.

    Finally you’ll also need a power driver to give you a stable 5V from whatever batteries you use. Adafruit has all of these, although some math may be needed to make sure you have enough amps available.

    1. What you should in particular look for are Lilypad-type LEDs, as these have a much lower profile than normal and don’t need soldering: the stitching mounts are also the terminals.
      The alternative is to go for surface-mounted and micro LEDs such as you find here.

    2. [Trying again, this time in the correct spot!]
      Hi @Rocketryguy: Monique has chosen your answer as her favorite one! Congrats, and many thanks for taking the time to weigh in. Please write to me, giles.gretchen[at]gmail.com so I can get you a copy of ‘Make: Wearable Electronics.’

  2. I had tons of fun modding a “sparkle” wedding dress for my BFF using a microcontroller, accelerometer, conductive thread, and programmable LEDs. http://youtu.be/1-zmlfjEzhs

    We bought a used dress specifically for its layers and construction. We must have looked pretty silly reaching under skirts with an LED light in the store! Since conductive thread isn’t insulated, this design requires your dress isn’t so full it folds back on itself or your thread will touch and short. We hide the microcontroller on the backside of the opaque layer with LED neopixels, but did have to fix the reversed +/- with some crafty needlework. The battery goes in a little sewn pouch. Be sure to have an extra charged battery (or two) on hand for the big day.

    The best parts of this dress are (1) you can change your LED program easily and (2) no one will know it’s there until it’s time to switch it on and shine. My BFF’s new hubby was so surprised when the sun went down!

    Weddings are such a great opportunity to do something extra special. Can’t wait to see what everyone else posts!

    1. The answer to shorting is either to cover the stitching, running it along a seam, for example, or to use one side of the fabric for each polarity. You can do that by machine stitching with the conductive thread in the needle and ordinary thread in the bobbin, and the tension WAY off so the bobbin thread comes right through the fabric and simply tacks the conductive thread down on the surface.

      1. Rahere, thanks for the great tip. I’ve never tried machine sewing with conductive thread. As a relative beginner with the old needle & thread, those 20+ LEDs took a long time to hand stitch. Next time I’ll shorten my project time – & not the LEDs!

  3. In terms of design, that looks like some geek planned it. All legionary squares! Hmm…

    What you might prefer to think about is to work on different lines, firstly sculptural, sketching out “idealised” lines adding verticals thinning the waist, for example, and then in terms of random fill, such as this one. The former could, for example, be used to add scallops to a plain dress. Or you could just go for a cummerbund, or…

  4. Hi @Rocketryguy: Monique has chosen your answer as her favorite one! Congrats, and many thanks for taking the time to weigh in. Please write to me, giles.gretchen[at]gmail.com so I can get you a copy of ‘Make: Wearable Electronics.’