SparkFun Forums 

Where electronics enthusiasts find answers.

Have questions about a SparkFun product or board? This is the place to be.
What I am trying to do is wire an existing wig (like this one ... very-white) with fiber optics so that there are glowy strands throughout. I realized that there are fiber optic "hair extension barrettes" (glowbys) specifically made for hair, but I don't think they quite meet my needs--I would need like 5-7 of them, have to able to hide them just right and even then, the fiber optics would be more in clumps/stripes than what I want. My idea was to take waterproof flexible LED strips (just white is fine... multi-color is unnecessary) and place them under the wig (probably just one strip around the forehead would work, but I would have to see what works once I got everything together) and then connect fiber optic cables to that. Whatever arrangement I end up with, it has to run on one battery pack which has to be of a size and weight that we could sew a pocket for it into the back of my costume dress. The batteries would only need to last a few hours at a time. On the Adafruit forums, they also suggested EL wire/tape as an option but stated that I would need to be very careful to shield any connections since EL runs at a higher voltage than LED's.

The main concerns I have are going to be weight, functionality and safety. For weight, it needs to be light enough that I can wear it on my head. without headaches/neck strain and the battery pack needs to be light enough to be able to fit in a dress pocket without tearing the pocket or causing significant back/neck strain. However, the dress is not already made so, making the pocket a certain way to accommodate the battery pack/reinforcing the pocket, etc. is totally a possibility. For functionality the question is just mainly going to be whether or not I can Engage in normal activities with it on (standing, sitting, walk around, walking up stairs, eating etc) and how much said normal activities will wear the electronics down over time (I have heard that bending flexible lights too much can compromise their functioning and that EL fades over time).
For safety, I just want to make sure I'm not going to burn or electrocute myself or have wires catching on every doorknob or coat hook I walk by. I know LED's and EL don't put out much heat but are there other things that need to be taken in to consideration since they will be under a wig and directly on my skin/scalp/hair? Same thing for the wiring and battery pack.

As far as my skill level is concerned, I am crafty but have no experience with electronics (other than building my own PC in the late 90's) My husband, however, has a fair bit of experience with home projects. He can solder and has done things like making guitar effects pedals and so forth in the past, so he can most likely help me.

Any advice on options for ways to do this or methods or anything really is most welcome.
By macegr
Don't count out the fiber optic hair extensions just yet. While the existing form factor and mode of operation might not be exactly what you need, they're still a good source of fiber optic bundles in approximately the correct length and flexibility. Otherwise, you can expect to pay a LOT for bare fiber optics, and also spend a lot of time cutting fibers.

Using a strip of LEDs as a light engine is a good plan. They usually have 5050 SMD LEDs that are easy to butt up a bundle of fiber optics. EL strip or wire is dim to begin with...trying to get any amount of light into some fibers from that would be futile. There is a problem with configuring the strip as a headband under the wig. You will still get a decent amount of light leakage along the first couple inches of the fiber optic bundles. This means the points where your fibers are attached to your LED headband will be fully visible as bright, evenly spaced areas around your head. Maybe this is OK, kind of a garland or halo effect. But if you only want to have sparkly pinpoints of light from the fiber optics, you will probably need to put all the LEDs into a lightproof box or pouch, and run the fiber optics out of it.

Here are two projects that used the same concept of taking an LED strip and using it as a light engine for fiber optic bundles. Both used the OctoBrite CYANEA 8-RGB module, but the LEDs are similar to what you would find in an all-white strip.

Pehr Hovey made some suits for a couple of OK GO performances and a music video. There were fiber optics scattered across the surface of the suits, and the fibers all ran back to a light engine with an OctoBrite strip in it. ... for-ok-go/

I made a Viking-ish helmet with a fiber optic mohawk for a friend; it used four OctoBrites and some parts from SparkFun. You can see a lot of the construction detail in the article, so you can start to get an idea of what might be involved in your project.

To make this last a few hours, you'll probably want to use a belt mounted pouch for the batteries. Since most LED strips are 12V, an 8AA battery pack would probably do the trick. Worst case, you can stash another set of batteries somewhere for a quick change if they run down.
yeah, I wasn't sure if the EL wire would provide enough light and it looked like, even if it did, it might look too "cartoony". The way I interpret the available material, she glows with a natural light like a sun or a star or something. The only thing I liked about the EL wire was that it looks like it's fairly easy to do a splitter so that you could have multiple strands on the same battery pack (sternlabs and adafruit have tutorials showing how to do this). I could probably do a belt mounted battery pack, but it would still need to be under my clothes... Which brings up more questions... getting the darn thing to turn on/off, without half-stripping in front of large crowds and, how to anchor the wire to the battery pack safely to myself so it doesn't catch on things.

Last question, if I decided to go the difficult way around, where would I look for fiber optics? This way i can research options and see if there is something that better suits my needs (but i can always just buy the stinkin glowbys if it's easier... except that i don't think they're quite long enough)

Also, big thank you for your help. The helmet is truly awesome.
Also, I wonder about using something like this ... oup_ID=190 if I don't like the "halo" effect (iI would really have to see it to be sure what I thought of it) but still want the lights in a "headband" shape.

Also, they noted at adafruit that you can split LED strips just as well as the EL wire (yes, I realize what an amateur I am for not knowing how to split things, etc. But you have to start somewhere), so I see no reason to further consider EL.
glowbys are too short, but something like a lighting kit (like this looks like it might be a viable option for inexpensive obtainment of cables of proper length. and yes, I might have to cut them depending on what length kits i can find and what length i end up needing to match the wig and YES, I realize the need to cut carefully so as to minimize risk of light loss.
Yeah, posted the wrong thing. The point being, There are kits that would have fibers of more appropriate lengths rather than me trying to navigate wholesale fiber optics or harvest glowbys which are too short.
Yeah, I know i have posted a lot of questions about this, and I know I am *slightly* overzealous when i set my mind to a project (a friend recently described it as " mildly scary") BUT I saw this project and wondered if it would potentially be a better set up for what I want to do ... /?ALLSTEPS
She gets a fair amount of light out of just 2 LED's. So my thought would be to sew a few led's in different places in the wig with the conductive thread and then attach sparkle fiber optic wire... But the leds and attachment points might have to be in a cap or something under the wig so they're not horribly conspicuous. I thnk she basically used this and pulled out the individual fibers That's actually not that expensive.
Also if it's possible, i had wondered about creating the circuit like this ... /?ALLSTEPS and then I wouldn't even have to solder! (although i haven't ruled out soldering--it might be safer, less likely to fail, and possibly easier depending on the specific type of clasp used).

Also, my friend talked to me about the UV option you mentioned to him and I was afraid it would look too neon but something like this could work Maybe that plus a little bit of uv paint in "highlights". The question there would just be the best way to get uv light to hit the wig somewhat evenly. UV leds could easily be sewn into the neck/shoulders of the dress with conductive thread and a candle would be a reasonable prop for this character to have, so i would think replacing and led candle bulb with a UV one would be reasonable, but I wondered what you had in mind specifically because my ideas would only hit the bottom and front of the wig.
sorry to resurrect such an old thread but I have read up on circuitry/soft circuitry and have some new thoughts on how to do this, which, of course, brings about new questions.
I was thinking of using conductive thread to sew smaller LEDS in a parallel circuit and I'm hoping I can power the whole thing off one coin cell or maybe a couple. I haven't decided for sure if I want to do a combination of sewed circuits and hard wires or a completely solderless circuit. I think conductive thread would be better for conforming to the shape of the wig and being able to have the LEDS scattered throughout the wig, but I was concerned about fraying and shielding. I know I can use some anti-fray glue stuff on critical joints to help make sure the circuit doesn't short, but is there anything else i can do. Also,what about shielding my head from the circuit? I was planning on sewing this directly in to the cap of the wig which will go directly on my head... I had thought of using electrical tape over the circuit but A. I am not sure how well it will stick to a wig cap and B. I wanted some more insurance on top of that. Is there material I could make a bald cap out of or some other way to shield the wires from my head and vice versa? Also, if I wanted to do three seperate sewn circuits (or something of that nature), how possible/difficult would it be to get them all on one switch?
any and all thoughts are welcome as I am still really new to this.
Also, what tools/materials would you recommend for a beginner?