Exquisite LED Handbag in the Wild

There is a lot of spectacle on display at Maker Faire. But to be honest, what I love seeing the most are well-executed builds pulled off by passionate hackers. Such is the case with [Debra Ansell]. She wasn’t exhibiting, just taking in all the sights like I was. But her bag was much better than my drab grey camera-equipment filled backpack; she build a handbag with an LED matrix and did it so well you will scratch your head trying to figure out if she bought it that way or not.

Gerrit and I walked right up and asked if she’d show it to us. We weren’t the only ones either. [Debra’s] bag started drawing a crowd as she pulled out her cellphone and sent “Hackaday” to the 10×15 matrix over Bluetooth. Check out our video interview below.

I think what makes this really special is her work on obscuring the LED strips that make up the matrix. She laid out the LEDs, cut leather strips to perfectly space out each of the APA102c pixels, then proceeded to weave, sew, and glue the assembly together.

An Adafruit Feather board, with an optional Bluefruit LE, drives the display. It’s a sweet solution because it gets [Debra] the cellphone connectivity all in a single board. She doesn’t have this version of the bag up on her site yet but is working on it. For now, check out the earlier revision that puts a grid of LEDs behind grommets. A cool idea but I think this new version is much better.

She has a bunch of other great builds up on her website so make sure to browse around a little bit. I’m still delighted by [Debra’s] EtchABot which we looked at earlier this year. It adds automation to a pocket-sized Etch a Sketch, including erase functionality and she’s even selling a kit for it on Tindie.

19 thoughts on “Exquisite LED Handbag in the Wild

    1. I think the greatest complement is the screaming and the running away, but not being able to tell if it was manufactured is a close second.

      Definitely a very classy build. Sort out the communication problems she mentions, and Debra could commercialize that project. Some people spend serious money on purses.

      1. Sounds the greatest compliment of a build when people spend passion and dedication doing something with their heart, and not thinking making money out of it. Some people have more serious things in the mind on purpose. Feel free to scream and run away.

  1. the CAT CLUTCH (from america’s greatest makers, just finished its first season on american cable tv) is also along the same lines. I’m not into fashion stuff like that, but it does look like an interesting technical challenge to pull it off well. there was also a wearable on the same tv show that was arduino-based, iirc, and it used a high led density array on a shirt or top of some kind.

    1. I like the idea of a bag because you won’t notice the difference during normal use. Everything is inside of a special pocket in the bag and the outside appears and feels normal. This is what made kids’ LED shoes so popular, they’re no different from shoes without LEDs in them.

      On a shirt you’re sacrificing the comfort of a soft, lightweight garment for something that has LEDs, wires/threads, etc added onto it.

      1. that’s the trick with shirts; it sounds good until you consider all the wires, heavy items (added up), need to be safe (HAS to be a factor, just has to) and has to be washable and maintainable. I’m thinking that a shirt with leds needs to rethink the component concept from the ground up and not just glue or stitch on existing leds and wires. that’s not comfortable and everyone admits that.

  2. the execution is top notch, when off you can not tell that it is an LED-thingy

    the ONLY thing i think it’s missing is light diffusion,
    this could be as simple as hot-melt-glue “injected” into each eyelet,
    or maybe a diffuse plastic eyelet insert would match the style better
    (eyelet inserts would HAVE to be custom printed)

    next to her skills, i look like “a child with a soldering iron” EDIT: LED hobbyist

    ONLY times i get any real celebrity-like cheering is when everyone is already drunk and only notice my colour-organ LEDs (i concentrate on lumens and diffusion)

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