Help for an uber-newbie making a light up wig

Hello all! First of all I am a complete NEWBIE at this. I discovered the word Arduino about a week ago and have no clue where to even begin, but I still think it may be the answer to my problem! I am working on a costume for a children's entertainment company and am trying to create a very long, thick, glowing wig. Like this:

I have two battery powered strings of LED Christmas lights that take 3 AA batteries each. They are multi-function, so I know they will do the pattern I want, but I have to push the button several times to get to the pattern I want-- on each set. What I want is for both sets to fade on at the same time, then twinkle gently for about 40 seconds before fading off, at the touch of a button, or remote, or iPad, or what ever works. Oh, and did I mention I only have a little over a week to do it in? :O

Can anyone point me in the right direction? I need "For Dummies" explanations on everything, since I'm a girl (:D) but I'm pretty good at figuring things out. If I even knew what to start with it would be a huge help. Thanks in advance!

Hi Tess,

best advice I can give you for now is to read the tutorial and reference section of site and try to understand the sketches presented there. You don’t need to do all the sketches, only the ones you “feel” are relevant.

This free tutorial is also very good to get familiar with Arduino - -

Hope this get you started with the basics, and if there are questions let us know.

Thank you so much! That was a huge help in figuring out a starting point! Thanks for taking the time to respond!

I am on an EXTREME deadline, though... I'm not sure I can learn this in a few days. Is there anyone out there in the Midwest US who knows how to do this? I would be willing to send the supplies and hire someone! If you think you can help, go to my web site and use the contact form to send a message. Meanwhile I will keep studying!

You may be able to find someone close who is willing to work with you. That may help regarding the deadline. Location from site: “central Indiana”.

I’m moving your topic to this section to draw more attention…,26.0.html

but I have to push the button several times to get to the pattern I want-- on each set.

So do you want something to "press the buttons" for you a given number of times?


Well BalloonArt that is something New i saw , Nice artistic abilities .

Thank you! Yes, we have a lot of fun with the balloons-- they're a little more than the average balloon dog! :) Our other entertainment company is Princess parties-- hence the glowing wig in progress.

Thank you all for all your help pointing me in the right direction! And thank you Coding Badly for putting my post in the right place. I think I have found someone-- in my hometown!-- who can help. I'll post any questions we have here, though! I'll try to post photos of the finished project, too-- depending on how it turns out.

Rob-- Not exactly. The lights are set up to perform a different pattern with each press of the button. One press makes them blink, two presses makes them chase, etc. The sixth press causes the lights to fade softly on and off, which is what I want them to do. But it looks silly for the hair to blink and chase while I go through the patterns trying to find the sixth function. I want them to only perform the sixth function, at the first press, and then fade off at the second press.

My dream is for them be remote controlled and for them to twinkle as they fade on and off again when I press the button. I would also love to have both sets be controlled by one button. However that may just be too complicated, so I won't be too picky. I just don't want her hair to look like a Christmas tree with blinky lights-- a gentle fade-on-and-off would be perfect. If anyone has any advice I will be very grateful!

they're a little more than the average balloon dog!

I have no interest at all in balloons but what you guys are doing is fantastic, certainly not your average balloon dog :)

To be of any further help we need to see real data on the LED strips as it sounds like some hacking is called for. There's probably a micro in there so that needs to be replaced or circumvented somehow, but without a circuit and real data there's not much we can do.

Hopefully your local bod can figure something out, either reverse engineer the things or find a data sheet somewhere.

EDIT: When you power up the LEDs do they remember the last thing they were doing or just start and blinking or whatever the first one is. In other words if you get to fade in/out and cycle the power do you still have fade in/out?


No, they have no memory. I tried that. They go through 8 patterns, then off, then through the 8 patterns again. Pulling the batteries out and back in had no effect-- they go back to pattern 1 when the power comes back. We looked at them earlier and now I am looking for a data sheet. I think we've come up with a temporary fix which involves a potentiometer dimmer, so we could turn the dimmer to low/barely on while I find the correct setting, then turn the brightness up. Off to Radio Shack tomorrow!

This is an OK fix if it works, but I am still interested if anyone would like to try fixing up the remote control thing for me in the future. I'll post info from a data sheet as soon as I find it! Thanks again for everyone's help!

Here's the ones I bought: Don't think there's any real info there, but at least you can see what I'm working with.

Am a bit late in posting this reply! But, I think you have a better option than a LED. These are El glow wires, 2.2mm thick.