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Hardware Hump Day: LED Constellation Hoops

Check out these super cute DIY constellation embroidery hoops!

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Over the past few years I have noticed a resurgence of the New Age movement. Many of my friends (me) have begun collecting crystals, sage smudging and blaming bad days on Mercury in retrograde --- although I admittedly don't understand what that even means.

A few months back, I was meeting with some of my team here at SparkFun, and our very creative Sr. Marketing Manager, Chelsea, came up with a brilliant project idea: embroidered constellations using LilyPad LEDs for the stars. Given people's (my) recent obsession with all things space and astrology I decided to use the Zodiac constellation patterns and make one hoop for each sign.

Around the same time, I was experimenting with parts for the PomPom Headbands. I discovered that our LilyTiny --- a tiny, sewable microcontroller from the LilyPad line --- comes pre-programmed with really lovely LED animations. Each of the four digital pins has its own unique animation, such as pulsing, flickering, twinkling, etc.

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The necessary materials and build process are described in the video below.

We've also made a video diagram of how to connect this circuit.

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I am so happy with how these turned out, and they make an awesome gift for literally any occasion. These patterns are perfect for group crafting circles or workshops and look really wonderful hanging on a wall.

Which constellation would you want hanging on your wall? Any other ideas? Share with us in the comments below!

Interested in learning more about LEDs?

See our LED page for everything you need to know to start using these components in your project.

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Comments 10 comments

  • Oh, something I didn't notice in the blog or the video. Are the constellation patterns available for download somewhere?

  • This project reminds me of Shannon Henry's Sewing Electrified Kits which used constellation patterns and 3mm LEDs (also an option if you like to add a 3D element to your embroidery) - http://www.polymathdesignlab.com/etextiles/sewing-electrified alt text

    Another option if you decide to display permanently is to swap out the LilyPad Coin Cell Holder for a LilyPad Simple Power attached to a Wall Adapter - this will provide constant power and avoid having to replace batteries when they run out.

    The sky's the limit with celestial-inspired embroidery projects, I'd love to see some that everyone creates!

  • Nice video. Er, no, not nice. Super!

    Can you tell us who did the music? It was appropriate and nice also. It was so fantastic that I won't even mention the old joke about "New Age - Rhymes with Sewage" ok? Oh, I'm sorry, it just slipped out.

    Totally seriously, great job, Feldi!

    • Sure! We get our music from a site called AudioBlocks www.audioblocks.com This track is called 'Not A Cloud In The Sky'

      So glad you liked it!

  • Minor correction to the write-up, above. Looking at the flashing pattern in the video, it seems that you are using the LilyTwinkle instead of the LilyTiny. Otherwise different parts of the constellation would be blinking differently.

    Other than that, really good project idea and good video documentation of all the steps.

    My thought on how to super-charge this project (and make it more complicated and expensive) is to have the µC (re-prgrammed LilyTiny/LilyTwinkle or other small, sewable board) drive programmable RBG LEDs. (Something like what Adafruit calls NeoPixel or DotStar, I forget their "correct" names). Have a flicker routine flickering an array of values that mimic the colors and relative brightness of the actual stars in the constellation. A bonus is this enhancement would probably generate several bald yaks. ;-)

    Even more complicated, expensive, and probably more bald yaks: Hide a small solar cell between the fabric layers that powers it's own comparitor to switch a sleep interrupt pin of the µC to prolong the battery by turning it off when there is enough light.

    • Nope! I am using the LilyTiny. The LilyTwinkle also comes with animations pre-loaded but they were not the best ones for this design. The LilyTiny has more subtle animations that look like twinkling starts, while the LilyTwinkle has more of a pulsing firefly animation.

      Love your ideas for pushing this project further, thanks for sharing! :)

      • My bad. Now I see that different sections of the constellations actually are flashing differently.

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