Hand tools and fabrication machines
Make a mask that matches your Starry Night shirt and make it light up like a constellation.
This tutorial was conducted live for students at FIRSTWashington. The follow-along video can be found here. The mask was made double-sided.
In this tutorial, we used individual LEDs from Chibitronics or Sparkfun and the conductive tape from Brown Dog Gadgets to make customized soft circuits. I later iterated on a different construction using Effulgent LED thread. I'll write about both methods in the following instructions. Both are handmade processes, great for prototyping but not ready for production. However, my fashion brand, Art by Physicist, collaborated with Novacentrix on a scalable and repeatable solution using printed electronics. For people who want to buy a mask (or a shirt) with the soft circuit of their choice of constellations, instead of making their own, they can order from Art by Physicist here. If you just like the constellation fabric and want a plain mask without the electronics, you can order from here now.
I found a nice face mask pattern on Craft Passion. You can choose a type of mask there and download the PDF. I chose the one that's a double layer with a pocket design and a lining. I cut four lining pieces and two self-fabric pieces (the fabrics with graphics on) because I wanted to make a three-layer mask.
Alternatively, you can just prepare one layer of the self-fabric and one layer of the lining, if you are wearing this mask over another mask. As the masks we make at home are not medical grade, I'd highly recommend we make this as a decorative mask that goes over an actual medically protective mask.
Sew each pair together along the nose/mouth line. (Touch the front side, i.e., the graphics side, of the fabrics together so you sew along the backside.) If you have an overlock sewing machine, it'll make the edges even cleaner. But it is not required.
Sew the self-fabrics together, again touching the right/graphics sides together. You can pin them together first. I used the overlock sewing machine. But a normal sewing machine would also be fine since you will flip the inside out, and all the seam edges will be hidden inside. Do not sew the two cheek sides together yet.
I like using ribbons to tie the mask around my head (and they don't hurt my ears). Because we will add electronics inside the mask, we can leave one side of the cheek open so it can be a pocket but close the other side so the electronics won't fall out. I'll be adding electronics on the left side only, so I'm closing the left side. The ribbons are attached to each side differently.
The self-fabric has a longer cheek than the lining. Sew the ribbon for the left side with the backside out along the self-fabric. Then feed the ribbons into the gap so that the ribbons will be on the outside when you flip the fabrics. Then close the gap with a normal straight stitch. Flip the fabrics, and you will find the ribbons extending out nicely.
For the right cheek, we don't want to close the seam. We will sew the ribbon directly along the self-fabric's backside. Fold the longer end over to cover the seam and secure along the edges at both fabric/ribbon intersections. Now you have attached the ribbons and left an opening to access the side of the mask.
To make the masks sturdier, you can sew along the edges of the mask (except the opening end) and press it flat.
Now the fun part about constructing the circuit. We will make two types. Choose whichever that is suitable for your design. There are pros and cons in either approach, which we will discuss below.2.1 Design the configuration
Because this is a Starry Night fabric, I'd like to match it with a light-up constellation. The Big Dipper is a highly recognizable constellation, and the stars are in an easy configuration; I'll use it for demonstration.
If you use the individual LEDs with the conductive tape, you will first determine where to place each electronic component before taping them. Here I'm using the Chibitronics LED stickers. Make sure all the "-" signs are pointing in the same direction so you can tape them together easily. Then you will have one line going to a "-" sign on the battery holder. Each "+" sign should connect to either "+" sign on the battery holder so the LEDs are connected in parallel.
The advantage of using the LED stickers and conductive tapes is that they are very easy to apply to fabrics. The circuit is soft. However, the conductivity may vary, and connections may sometimes be unstable. As you can see from the picture above, one of the LEDs is not fully lit up at this moment, but it does light up if I bend the circuit a bit. The result of this circuit on the mask is that the light flickers as my face moves.
P.S. If you'd like to purposely add twinkle to the lighting effect, you can add a LilyTwinkle microcontroller that blinks the LEDs at random. See my Twinkle Nail Art project to learn more about LilyTwinkle.Option 2: solder the electronics
A stronger circuit would involve soldering. Effulgent has really nice LED threads that come in different colors. Since the Big Dipper is linear, you can easily use a string of 7 LEDs and bend it into the shape of the constellation.
Split the ends of the LED thread and solder each end to a thicker normal multi-strand wire. Counterintuitively, the red thread is the "-" end, and the copper/orange thread is the "+" end. I also added heat shrink tubing to protect the ends. Then solder the two wires to the corresponding pins on the battery holder.
The nice thing about the LED thread is that it is very thin, and you can attach it to the fabric by embedding it in a zig-zag stitching line. Either hand sew or use the sewing machine.
You can also do the same zig-zag to sew the wires and battery holders onto the fabric.
Comparing to the individual LEDs, the LED thread is a bit smaller and are not as bright. Also the design may be limited by its linearity, whereas the individual LEDs may give more design freedom.3. Assembly
Finally, you can place the soft circuit into the mask. Since my design is only on one side of the lining, I decided to cut off the extra bit. This depends on your design. I also used the overlock to lock the edges. Than insert the circuit from the pocket opening we left in the mask earlier.
Now you have a beautiful night sky for a mask that shows so much of your personality!
Don't stop there. How about making your own constellations! It may not be as straightforward as the Big Dipper, though, since a lot of the other constellations are not representable with linear circuit arrangements. That's when the products we developed at Art by Physicist X Novacentrix become brilliantly useful. :)