HELP: New E-Textile DJ Project Questions

(reposted from

Hello everybody. My name is Brandon. I'm a new Arduino fan and a club DJ. I have an idea for a project, but after reading several tutorials and buyers guides, I'm not sure how to go about building and programming it.

My idea: I want to build a jumpsuit that is based on a cross between Leah Buechley's lilypad driven e-textile matrix from her website ( and the one created by Marc DeVidtz (posted on Make at: ...mostly leaning toward the latter. Meaning I plan to create coveralls that will light up from head to foot in multiple patterns and colors. I prefer the inexpensive nature of Leah's tanktop using loose LEDs sewn in with conductive thread and almost all waterproof components, but I need the brightness and control options Marc used. Below I listed a few questions about what I want to accomplish...

  1. I will be using this suit to DJ in which means I need it to be at least hand washable (because I sweat heavily on stage), somewhat durable, and hopefully wireless to allow me to perform without getting the suit wiring tangled to my other gear. I like how the Lilypad Arduino is waterproof, but I don't know if it would be robust enough to incorporate the complex RGB LED color patterns Marc created on his suit (which I REALLY want to do). What Arduino board or board / shield combo would be more appropriate for this project? (Keep in mind I may want to expand later to allow the suit some possible DMX lighting control integration to sync with the color patterns from the club's lighting as a version 2 upgrade. I may create a 2nd identical suit for my DJ partner and resequence both suits to display an 8bit video game as one led marquee as part of another version upgrade.) I like Marc's use of the MiniPro and the WiFly that synchronized to his iPhone to control it. Anyone who could offer tutorials / ideas for what the best methods would be to create a SuperFlux RGB LED matrix e-textile that is durable, washable, wireless, and/or has the capacity for the Arduino to expand to alternating control modes both now and more pattern modes later would be very helpful.

  2. I would like to make this reactive to sound, but the Mic sensors I have seen on T-Qualizer shirts are usually easily overloaded in loud nightclub environments which causes all the lights to be lit constantly. How would I avoid the sound sensor causing this known glitch? Could I regulate the gain on the mic somehow?

  3. I want to program a few modes into the suit including strobe, color fading from one color to the next, and also the wave and equalizer patterns Marc used. What code should I use for these? Are there scripts readily available for these patterns?

  4. Marc's version used smaller pixel LEDs with their own individual break out boards for each cluster of 3 lights. Are these light clusters needed or can the same thing be accomplished using SuperFlux RGB LEDs instead? I want to sew in the SuperFlux style because it would in theory create a brighter end result. Besides, I want to use Marc's suit as a starting point, not copy it.

  5. Marc had an ad-hock WiFi Arduino to iPhone connection and an iPhone app was used to manually control the lights and switch colors with different sequencing modes. Problem: I have an Android phone instead. Is there a solution to mimic the same ad-hock WiFi link to control the suit from my HTC Hero? I have not found a Droid app for this yet. If possible, I also prefer to automate the sequencing modes to change on their own. That way I could focus more on my DJing and not worry if my audience is seeing the same lights over and over.

  6. I want to sew in over 1000 lights on the suit. How much power and resistors are needed to create the brightness I want (read: almost fracking blinding) using that quality of LEDs? I like Leah's tutorial that shows her example LED matrix sewn to a tanktop. The difference in her tutorial and my proposed project is she only used a fraction of the number of lights I want to use. Would I need to boost the power or use some sort of amplification to continue an even power current throughout the suit?

I understand that this is a complex ambitious project for an Arduino and e-textile newbie like myself. But I hope that with a bit of guidance the end result will be worth the time and effort. If I can accomplish all of the above on a modest budget around hopefully $500, that is an added bonus both my fiance and I could get behind. =)

Thanks in advance to anyone reading this who is willing to help.


  • Brandon
    2 Men and a Track
    Atlanta, GA

Number one, 1000 leds with rgb is equivalent to 3000 leds. At approx 35mA per led (off datasheet) thats 35x3000 = 10.5 amps of current for them all to be at white. At ebay wholesale prices, 1000 SuperFlux RGB LEDs are going for $420. that leaves you $80 for an arduino, all the 3000 channels of multiplexing and driver IC's as well as the wifi shield.

The bliptronics led modules he used are $4.90 each as well, butthese take care of most of the control issues and power supply

Ok. I understand it would create 3000 channels to control. Let's say I didn't have a $500 budget. Is this project possible if I used a single power supply and single Arduino control? Or... could most of what I want to do be accomplished using multiple Arduino controllers and multiple power supplies? My requirements and budget are flexible.

Any advice would be helpful.

Thanks in advance.

  • Brandon

I PM'ed you

This is easily possible using modules like the ones Marc used for his suit. They are IP66, so they are waterproof, but those LED modules use 12v. I assume the 12v modules were used because backing plate has two tabs which can be sewn into fabric easily. I use them but I get them from a different supplier.

This is easily possible using modules like the ones Marc used for his suit.

I was trying to get a brighter and less expensive version of the LEDs modules Marc used, if that is possible. I thought the SuperFlux type would offer me the additional brightness, less weight, and cost less than the modules he used. Having the suit be lightweight, flexible, and durable are key because I dance and sweat while I DJ.

I saw Marc at Dragon*Con and he did very well. I was impressed. They even put him on stage dancing next to the DJ in front of a massive cheering crowd. But (if possible - and I hope I'm not being too picky about this) I prefer not to carbon copy his design. I would rather use what Marc created as a base project that I feel can be improved by using more lights, more patterns, with brighter results.

Granted, I am still at the design phase of this project and am very new to this. If using the Superflux LEDs, conductive thread, Arduino board(s), power supply / supplies, and a portable device to change pattern modes is not possible, then I will reluctantly have little choice but to lean closer to using Marc's exact design.

...any ideas?

I've not used conductive thread, but I understand it’s tricky to work with. The cool thing about the LEDs Marc used is they are easy to integrate and can be readily sewn on. If using a more typical set up using TLC5940, 74HC595 or MAX72XX is used there is significantly more wiring involved as well as a higher component count. Really, there are many options here. It should be an awesome project. Another option could include EL wire or fibre optic glass strands.

Well said. I will look into those model numbers to explore my options. As reluctant as I am to use the exact modules Marc used, I am being advised he used the best parts and best lights for the task at hand. I was reluctant simply because I did not want to duplicate his suit and try to call it my own. I at least wanted to possibly use different LEDs to produce a different look. I am slowly learning there is very few plausible ways to do that.

I had originally thought to use EL Wire, but keep in mind this will be used for live DJ performances. I wanted to avoid the audiences seeing this as some DIY Daft Punk knock off, as they used EL wire for their Alive tour and for their cameo appearance in Tron: Legacy. Image is everything.