UX Lead with a passion for all things UX, IA, Product Design, and Music


Arduino Lilypad

A few weeks ago a couple other creative ladies (1 interaction designer & 1 visual designer) and I were feeling the need to do something creative, but also tangible, outside of our usual work. I’ve wanted to do more of the following lately: 1) sewing, 2) music, and 3) programming. It seemed like checking out Lilypad would be a fun challenge and hit all the birds with one project. Lilypad is basically Arduino, but instead of soldering, you sew the connections with conductive thread.

If you want to order Lilypad (and other fun electronics stuff) in the Netherlands, Pieter Floris is your man.

In the US, check out SparkFun.

We noticed that SparkFun organized starter kits in a friendly way which was nice since getting into this can be a little intimidating. However, Pieter was great and exchanged a few emails with us to make sure we ordered the right stuff to get going. He even threw in some freebies.

The best place to start is going through the tutorials that Leah Buechley put together - MIT site.

We’ve also discovered an awesome community and (free to download) tool at Fritzing.org. The picture on the right shows a screenshot of the abstract view of the prototyping tool. (download it here) Another view is basically like Omnigraffle, but with specific arduino and lilypad stencils, so you can draw your flow before getting hands-on. You can see Klasien’s lovely pre-sketch as well.

So we’ve all had a lot of (sometimes frustrating) fun figuring out the basics, but now it’s time to make something real. You can see the start to my pattern making, which I’ll start sewing next. I’m making a daylight alarm clock, which is technically pretty easy. How does it fulfill my 3 reasons for trying out Lilypad in the first place?

1) sewing: well, I get to sew an object of some sort to attach the Lilypad too, of which also requires stitching together the connections.

2) music: I’ll program a little song to play from the buzzer once a set light variable is met.

3) programming: I need to write the code that makes this all work… it’s a bit new to me and I have mostly some syntax issues, but initially it was super easy to get sensors working and output. The challenge is making one respond from the other and also start adding controllers like sliders and potentiometers.

So, next time I post, I’ll have something worth looking at. For the next few craft nights, less wine and girl talk, more making stuff.