LED Dress Project Proposal
Made by Kimberly Huang
Write about the big ideas behind your project? What are the goals? Why did you make it? What are your motivations?
Before we learned how to use soft circuits during the second class, I had once tried to put LEDs inside a costume to make it glow (linked here: http://bit.ly/1RYpxlK). Because I didn't know how to use different conductive threads and materials and I was afraid of using them on the off chance that I would get hurt, I asked a friend to help me basically hard wire it, using insulted wire and LED strips. However, I was unable to make it work and could not figure out why. Therefore, I want to create an updated design for the dress so that I can get the LED strips to work correctly the future. Furthermore, I want to use some of the other techniques that we touched on in order to create details on the dress in general. The purpose of this proposal is to take an old costume that I have made and modify it in order to incorporate new techniques that I have learned over the course of this class. My initial sketch for the project can he seen here: http://bit.ly/1Nxh338
Outline your approach to the project? What ideas did you generate and how did you refine or reject them? What did you research and explore? what were the design choices? What challenges were encountered and how did you resolve them?
Soft circuits have become more and more prominent in the last few decades with the rise of technology. That technology has allowed fabrics to be woven with conductive material, make conductive threads, and essentially make lighting or something electrical part of clothing. Due to its woven nature, most fabrics end up having a similar feel as taffeta. However, the question of how to wear these fabrics in different weathers is still being worked on, as well as the concern about wearing something conductive. These issues are continuously being addressed by those pushing the industry forward. Common materials used for conductive fabrics are copper, silver, and nickel. Thread can be most commonly found using stainless steel. Some typical switches used in circuits are snaps and pins, and I will be using the former in my dress, considering it already went with the design.
1. For my project, I knew it would be easiest to connect my LEDs using a parallel circuit, as opposed to a series circuit, since the former would be easier to connect and would be less taxing on the battery. However, just due to the sheer amount of LEDs that I want to put in made me decide to use 2 9V batteries, which I believe should be enough for the project. I plan to put them vertically around the dress, with 8 strips in total. After doing the research, I realized that having the one horizontal strip on the bottom as I initially drew could potentially be dangerous, considering that it is right at the end of the dress and would touch the floor. Therefore, I eliminated it from the design. The LEDs I would use would be something like this ( http://bit.ly/1qoKMpu), which require 12V to run. Therefore, I decided that the least bulky way to get the minimum voltage was to stack two 9V on top of each other using connector caps such as these ( http://amzn.to/1S29zdD) to connect them to each other. To go along with the colors of the dress, the circuit would be completed using a silver coloured conductive thread.
2. For making the gathering and manipulating the form of the dress to have a wider and more ruffled frame, I decided to focus on gathering the dress at the top, where the bottom part of the dress meets the top corset. The gathering also serves a functional purpose where it makes the dress easier to get into. Since I used organza for the first dress I made and it worked well, I want to use organza for this one as well, specifically silk organza. After gathering it in a way I want at the top, I'll put in snaps that correspond with where the dress meets the corset. That way, if the gathering comes apart when I attach the two pieces, it's still possible to fix it (I do not plan on sewing the gathering in place because I want it to be flexible). The snaps can also hold the gathering in place a bit. The snaps I want to use can be found at any arts and crafts store and I want to use a mix of clear snaps and metal ones (metal for completing the circuit, clear for attaching the dress). The clear snaps also ensure that I don't accidentally short the circuit if those snaps come into contact with the lights or the conductive thread. The snaps I am looking at are like http://bit.ly/1U2sWEN and http://bit.ly/1XEL0E3.
Detail what you created. What methods or techniques did you use? What tools and technologies were involved? Include images, code or video.
Since the fabric I wanted to use was fabric that I bought back at home in New York, the best I could do was make a diagram of what I was planning to do, so that I can describe it in detail. The drawings are http://bit.ly/1Snrx9k and http://bit.ly/1WBgUmB.
The dress has two layers of organza, a blue on the bottom and a white on the top. Due to the way I'm attaching the snaps to the bow to complete the circuit, the LEDs will be attached to the outer layer of fabric, which is what is shown in the drawing. The two snaps connecting to the battery will be on the outside of the fabric and the main circuit will be created by connecting one to the bottom negative side and one to the top positive side of a LED strip. Then, each of the other LED strips will be connected in parallel to the first strip, where the tops will connect to each other and the bottoms will connect with each other. All of the connections will be made with conductive thread and can be sewn in with a machine.
For the wiring on the batteries, I would lay the caps across the two batteries so that, once I solder one of the cap's wires together, the batteries can work together. Then, the loose wires will be intersected with conductive thread (sewn by a machine) to connect with the hand-sewn snaps. The weight of the bow should not be a problem, because there will be support from the underlying petticoat and pins to keep the bow up. The bow will be made from charmeuse satin and will be about a foot wide.
The materials that I will use, other than fabric, are sewing machines and soldering irons. I could also use a serger for the bottom of the dress. I'll be hand-sewing as well as machine sewing, and the LEDs will be attached by hand (most come with a sticky back, so there should not be a lot of trouble, but if there is, I could use some kind of adhesive). It would be a pretty straightforward process.
Reflect on the process of making this project. What did you learn? What would you do differently?
Considering that this project is an improved version of something I made in the past, I think I already knew what errors could arise from putting the LEDs in the dress. Therefore, I thought about the project a little more before planning how it would work. I learned through this class that there are a lot more efficient ways to do wiring in fabric other than hard wiring through the use of conductive thread and fabric. Since this project is a second go-around at one of my projects, I don't know if there is anything I would do differently yet, especially since I have not been able to make it yet. However, I do have a few concerns regarding the design.
First, I don't know if having the LEDs put on the outer layer of fabric would be as nice looking than if it were under two layers. In the first dress I made, the circuitry was showing, since organza is a very sheer fabric. The LEDs I linked above seemed like they were less noticeable and brighter, so maybe that will fix the problem, but the illusion is to have a glowing dress and not something so obvious. Secondly, while I think the weight of the battery should be fine in the bow and I think the placement of it is good (since the bow is attached afterwards anyway), I do think that it will be too bulky or again, obvious. Maybe it is possible to put the battery pack in a battery holder such that I don't need the snaps to turn it on and off. If I keep it in a removable pack, I can move the battery to different places, which can also solve the problem of having visible circuitry from the LED strips. The only thing that will need to be changed is getting the conductive thread to the battery. While I do have some issues with my current design, it was fun redesigning something with the new things that I had learned from this class.