Sunday, July 10, 2016

Light it up! - Color changing wig flower for Princess Serenity

Blogging has taken a back-seat to cosplay construction this spring. I have a lofty goal of completing my Princesss Serenity cosplay (that fully lights up) by July 1. I'm a few days from goal and feeling on-track enough to take a break to blog a bit about it.

I hope to cover all aspects of this dress creation, but for now I'm starting with the simplest part. Sailor Moon's Princess Serenity often has a flower in her hair in manga and fan art. I wanted lots of lights and saw the flower as another opportunity.

Project Materials used:
Supplies needed:
  • Alligator clips
  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Vice
  • Wire cutter
  • Wire stripper

New to electronics? I got my gear from Adafruit in Ladyada's Electronics Toolkit. Gave me everything I need for a great price.

The Build
Essentially, I sewed a neopixel attached to a Gemma into a flower. I'm not an electronics expert so I'm going to drop yet another link back to Adafruit. To learn all about neopixels, read their full guide.

I started by hooking up my gemma and neopixel via clips to work out the coding on the lights.

Wires everywhere! The neopixel hooked up to the gemma.

There's plenty of resource code in the Arduino library for color changing. I had to work out (with the help of my computer science husband) what colors I wanted to cycle and how fast to cycle them. I went with a six color rotation: blue, pink, purple, green, orange, white. Each color stays for around 5-7 second before taking another 5 seconds to shift to the next color.

The colors and timing is completely by feel. I spent around an hour tweaking both until I had a combination that I liked. I wanted it to shift fast enough that someone passing by would see the change, but slow enough that it doesn't look like a rave on my head. 

Flower color and placement testing.

Next, I started to sew/pin things into place. I knew I wanted the gemma on an outside petal so I could easily turn it on/off. The neopixel placement required more finesse. It can't go directly in the middle and shot out as that would just blind people. I conclude to put it towards the 'bottom' of the flower and shoot up through the petals. I sewed and cut the inside petals into better positions for the light. 

With positions marked, I took it all apart to solder the neopixel and gemma together. I ran the wire from my marked positions to get an idea for length, then added an inch. I don't want the wire too tight; I want it to flow.  

Flower with neopixel sewn in and gemma outside. Those are the thin, flexible wires from Adafruit.

The perk of using gemma and neopixels is that they are made for wearables, so you have these large pads you can sew though. I sewed the gemma and neopixel into place using the holes I did not solder. 

Gemma - sewable and small!

The gemma unit is on the 'top' of the flower. To hold down the petal hiding it, I used a small strip of velcro. The neopixel sits on the bottom of the flower. The wire to the pixel is all white so I can run it through the flower petals without bring attention to it. It meant for keeping careful track of things when soldering!

Wig Attachment

I feel like it's cheating on a Usagi wig as I knew I had buns that I could wrap the unit around. Another cheat was a lot of fan art with pearls wrapped around the buns. My theory was to make the flower a chain in a bracelet. I would hide a side release buckle behind smaller flowers to allow the unit to clip around the bun. 

The hair bracelet is embroidery floss with pearls and two small pink flowers, each near the larger white flower. One of the pink flowers hides the buckle I use to snap it in place.

My original plan was to make the battery unit a part of the bracelet with more flowers hiding it. However, I underestimated the weight of the coin batteries and had to make it a separate piece (but still attached because of wires and power - duh!)

I glued two more pink flowers on the top of coin battery pack to disguise it, then did a sew/glue combo on the bottom to attach a hair clip. The batteries now clip into my hair as extra decoration.

From the back, battery pack  helps to hide my natural hair color while powering the flower. 
The final result is a hairpiece that is sure to light up the night!

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