Assignment 2: Expressive Wearable — Nala Ren


Clutch is a small purse designed to act as a “real-life MSN status” (a term lovingly coined by my boyfriend), displaying three separate colours of LEDs that the user can switch between in order to convey their current mood. By design, green is meant to convey an openness or willingness to talk and socialize, yellow is intended to be “busy” or “talk later”, and red is supposed to mean “leave me alone”, or express when someone is not in the mood for a discussion. Four snap fasteners on the back of the purse set the colour of the LEDs, with the fourth being “neutral” (all lights off). 

I chose green, yellow, and red for the LEDs as they are more or less universally understood, being found in traffic lights, subway stations, and social media statuses. I had originally considered making a smiley face, frowny face, and sad face out of LEDs instead, but after asking my friends’ opinions, they all said that frowny or sad faces would prompt them to ask the wearer what was wrong, rather than the intended “stay away/don’t talk to me” message, so I chose a ring of light to more clearly convey the objective.

(Now I would like to interrupt your regularly scheduled blog post to show you a few photos of the final product, because I AM SO EXCITED)

Ta da!


green-2yellow-2(Okay, back to your regularly scheduled programming)


Many people, including myself, struggle with social communication and how to politely express our current mental status. Clutch is designed to be a simple, elegant way to inform those around you whether you’re down to talk (green), busy (yellow), or want to be left alone (red). I know the assignment was to choose one feeling, but I find I switch between these 3 states constantly, so I wanted to create something that could quickly and easily express the fluctuations in my mood. The gentle ring light also leaves the meaning slightly open to interpretation, which I think is a plus when communicating with strangers especially. I would never want to come off as aggressive or hostile, but neither do I want someone talking to me on the TTC or walking too close behind me at night.

Additionally (and this is just a personal vendetta), I absolutely despise most purses and handbags. This is the unfortunate result of my mother carrying a massive purse wherever she went when I was a child, and immediately getting tired of it and forcing me to hold it for her when we went out. To soothe my hatred of gigantic purses, I wanted to make something small and practical. It has a cross-body strap to protect your posture, and the purse itself is extremely lightweight, while still being able to hold my phone, wallet, keys, and the battery pack with room to spare. 

I also made it fluffy, because, y’know, it’s adorable. I also found that this furry fabric was the most effective for diffusing the LEDs, so it wasn’t a difficult choice. I was debating on whether I should name this purse the Puff ‘n’ Fluff, but I thought that was just a bit too much.


Hold on tight friends, this is going to get a bit dense. So dense, in fact, that I had to create a separate Google Slides document for all of the process work (WordPress just can’t handle it). You can find it here.

In the meantime, here are just a few of the highlights!

Summoning a demon:pxl_20210209_000652989

All the circuits on the front of the bag sewn, moving onto construction:pxl_20210209_061912888

Made a small, removable drawer to protect the USB cord and allow it to be removed when necessary:pxl_20210209_191300632

Nearly done all internal construction:pxl_20210209_192615225

Covered in fur and ready to go:pxl_20210209_235328330

Please refer to the Google Slides for a much more in-depth explanation! There are also videos of the purse in action in the Google Slides.

Parts List

(This list only includes the parts used in the final purse, not products used during testing)

  • Circuit Playground Express
  • LEDs (Green, Yellow, Red)
  • Micro USB to USB Cord
  • Conductive Thread
  • Non-conductive Thread
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic Sheet
  • White Glue
  • Hot Glue
  • Snap Fasteners
  • Felt
  • Furry Fabric
  • Buttons
  • Metal Wire
  • Shoulder Strap
  • Rechargeable Battery Pack

(More) Final Product Images

green-1 red-2

And last but not least, my favorite photo of all time: me staring longingly at BBQ duck.

Reflections & Next Steps

Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with the way this project panned out. This is the first piece of wearable tech I’ve ever made and I’m really proud of it – so much so that I put on makeup and a wig and forced myself and my boyfriend out into the freezing Canadian night in order to get good photos. I fully intend to use this as a real bag (it’s definitely durable enough), and I’m sure my knowledge and skills will only keep increasing from here on out! In terms of things I would have done differently, of course I would have liked to use more permanent materials, but I couldn’t really source faux leather or anything like that during COVID. Maybe once this is all over, I’ll re-make this same bag but more suitable for washing and dropping off of cliffs. During the process, I noticed that the yellow LEDs are consistently dimmer than the other two colours – they do show a lower voltage on the bag, so that’s probably the reason, but I hope to acquire yellow LEDs that are at least on par with the others. I also know that my code is very simple (it is literally ‘forever “digital write [relevant pin] to HIGH”’), and in the future I want to make things that incorporate much more complex and interesting code. I know there is so much I could do, so many settings to play with, and so many new things to experiment on, but I hope for now my extremely time-consuming circuit makes up for how basic the code is! Lastly, I was considering how much easier this project would be with a ring of LEDs where each LED changes colour, but I also think I gained something valuable from sewing that circuit (and isn’t it cute that the little dots move around when you change colours?)


The only resource I used to make this purse was the lectures. All of them. Several times each.

Prior, O. & Yoyo (2021). Basic Circuits & Circuit Demonstration [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from

Prior, O. & Yoyo (2021). MakeCode Introduction [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from

Prior, O. & Yoyo (2021). Inputs & Outputs [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from

Prior, O. & Yoyo (2021). Digital Switches & Buttons Overview [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from

Prior, O. & Yoyo (2021). Adding LEDs [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from

Prior, O. & Yoyo (2021). Light Feedback & Diffusing LEDs [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from


One thought on “Assignment 2: Expressive Wearable — Nala Ren”

  1. This is far and away the best project in the whole class! The only bad part is making me miss the old country with your duck photo, so mean lol.
    The concept is great from the start, and getting feedback from “market research” aka your friends sounds like it really helped to refine the idea to its full potential.
    I love the fluffiness and fun tone, i.e. the fact that it is a cute purse; it accomplishes a practical task that sometimes might be serious, while all the while being a fun thing to wear. This is the first thing in this class that I think could be sold as-is, right now. Super awesome.

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