The concept emphasizes the aesthetics of a fashion accessory, in this case a small purse, which is handy to carry a phone and a wallet. I put attention on the size, colour combination, material, and design. Other design component was sending a message about caring for our planet, a message that appeals to us in our role as guardians of our dear earth, to be more conscious, accountable, and respectful of our natural environment. A phrase made of letters which were built with 3 mm LED lights. “Because there is no planet B” is placed outside at the front of the purse, lights will be activated by the sound pressure level. Sound pressure level is the result of the pressure variations in the air achieved by the sound waves, and it depends not only on intensity of a sound, but also on the distance to sound source.

The message will be displayed in five lines of text that will turn on in sequence line by line, one at a time. The message is activated by sound to a certain level to a certain distance, the level used to activate lights is the one produced by a person saying “hello” at a distance of around two meters. Once lights are activated, lights will turn on line by line and fade off once all lines are on. This process will be repeated five times until, and during this time the sound sensor is not read. Lights can be activated again once the process is completed and lights are off. The idea behind is that when two people meet and salute each other the message will go on, this could be a nice way to start a conversation about our environment.

This purse could be used anytime, it could be casual or more dressy, depending on how it is accessorized. Brightness of lights is good enough to be seen during daytime.

This purse could be appealing to an environment-friendly person who wants to disseminate this type of message and possibly to anybody. This concept is based on:

Material: this purse is made of alpaca, a natural fibre I am familiar with. I have used this fibre to make scarves, hoods, and sweaters; but this time I am expanding and experimenting by making a purse.

Uniqueness: this purse is easy to make. It requires basic needle skills that most people can do. This is a unique piece that could be made and customized to anyone’s taste.

Convenient: the size has enough space to place a cellphone and a wallet. Although sizes could vary according to personal preferences.

Allied with sustainability and ethics: as a designer, I am trying to select a fibre and/or fabric that is made following ethical protocols, which means a fair treatment of the animal and a fair treatment of the people that produces the material. In this case, it is an artisanal alpaca fibre made in a Peruvian Andean community. This was a hand-made item.

I am conscious and concerned of the side effects of tech wearables on sustainability, in this case using LED lights in my project. As Gurova (2020) states, there may be a negative impact on the environment, such as an increase in energy consumption by using electronics and an increase of e-waste from abandoned devices. On the other side, Gurova concludes that the side effect of tech wearables on sustainability need to be further explored, because wearable is a broad technology and they could have different life cycle processes.

Sustainability is also a very complex concept, especially when the world is changing so fast, and many innovations are arriving that we could not even imagine few years ago. For Fletcher and Grose (2012, p.10), changes in the sustainability process in fashion come more from individual actions than from an international declaration. For example, I agree that being accountable or responsible is a more powerful approach than being sustainable, because it seems more achievable something that depends on us that something that depends on someone else. The message for me is to develop and use electronic wearables in a careful and responsible manner.


Regarding my inspiration sending messages using letters and lights I was inspired by neo-conceptual artist Jenny Holzner (Kemp, 2015, p. 219-220). Her work focused on delivery of words and ideas in public spaces, she used LED as a media to express her writing and political opinion.

I also was inspired by the phrase “Because There is no Planet B” that belongs to an organization of the same name (https://becausetheresnoplanetb.com/) that inspires people to look after our planet. I think this phrase maybe be overused, but I think it is still interesting to use it in my project because it is a short statement that fits on this purse size and it is powerful.

Another inspiration was how to build letters made of 3mm LED lights. I found a YouTube tutorial DIY How to make led letters, that was very handy and help me build letters for this project. During this term, when I worked on my projects I tried not to use the soldering iron, because I had never used it before and hesitated to use it, but in this project I used it a lot.

I was looking for similar projects for inspiration, [see reference], I found handbags with interior lights that activated when the handbag was opened to help user to find items inside the bag. I could not find something similar to what I have in mind.

I found a project that I liked very much after almost completing this project. It was “The Sessile Handbag” by Grace Kim (Hartman, p. 449). After my final critique-presentation I wanted to add interactivity to my project. I was checking different resources and I found a beautiful handbag project in Hartman’s book. I appreciated the artist mix of technology, LED lights in natural shapes, where lights fade on and off, creating a subtle effect. This project is similar in some way to my idea of natural shapes, handmade purse and using LED lights. The difference is in the reason to use light, in my case mine is sending a message.

The next handbag I will talk about is a waterproof backpack, maybe related to my work in the sense that through an LED screen animations, custom images and text are sent. My project sends one message, a bright environmental message activated by sound pressure through an interactive sensor built-in on the board I am using [Circuit Playground Express]. This backpack has a different concept, it is more to stand out from the crowd and lights go on when connected to power. It seems there is not interactive sensor, besides it appeals to school and travel wearers with room space to carry a laptop.

After delivering my prototype for this final assignment, a project called my attention. It was the TagURIt (Pailes-Friedman, 2016, p. 078), an electronic game of tag that works with proximity sensors. I wanted to add this type of sensor to this project, but I did not have enough time to order it. The idea was that when someone was close to the purse, LED lights will go on. Instead of that, I used sound pressure level, which is affected not only by the strength of a sound but also by its proximity. It was not exactly a proximity sensor, but somehow could detects when a person gets close and say something, a greeting or something else. The tone of the voice can not be that of a whisper, but more a normal tone of voice to a distance of around two metres.



At Noon: https://youtu.be/FGUL5X_CvrE

At Night: https://youtu.be/CAK0kScVTXw





Purse being worn during daytime: https://youtu.be/tkH1c1E1b-o

Wearable being display on a chair: https://youtu.be/ToYv7J9OCEk




Here welding letters together to make a word.


Here I am testing a welded word. I tested after welding each letter, to avoid having to redo the whole word.


Video checking the circuit: https://youtu.be/VNJ16XNgI1k


Welding wires to Circuit Playground Express.



Here the battery and its USB charger jack.




Materials, Parts and Tools

  • Pink alpaca fibre – my owm material, alpaca fibre from Peru
  • Grey alpaca fibre – my own material alpaca fibre from Peru
  • Knitting needles – I have at home
  • Recycled trims – I have at home
  • Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express – Elmwood Electronics –
  • No conductive fabric – I have at home
  • Conductive thread bobbin – Elmwood Electronics
  • Needles – I have at home
  • 3mm LED lights – approximately 276 Led’s lights – Amazon
  • Soldering Iron Station – Hakko FX-888D – Canada Robotix
  • Solder – Amazon
  • Silicone electric wire – Amazon
  • Steel fibre – Kate Hartman
  • Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery 3.7v – LP503562 – Elmwood Electronics
  • USB Charger Jack for the Lithium-Ion Polymer Battery

Circuit Diagram

Outside of the handbag:

All letters in a line are connected to a positive (in red), which will be connected to a “pin” in the Circuit Playground Express. All the negatives (in black) will go to a single line that will be connected to a negative “pin” in the Circuit Playground Express board.


Inside of the handbag:

There will be five “pins” in the Circuit Playground Express board for light switches (in red). All negatives (in black) go to a GND “pin”.



The process started building the circuit and making the letters. LED lights were welded to make letters and then letters were stitched on the purse to make words and lines. Letters on each line were connected using conductive thread and steel fibre

The message is going to have five lines made of welded LED lights and lines will light up in sequence starting from the top. Each line will have its own switch and the code will manage time for each switch, so lights turn on in sequence (the first line will go on firsts and the next line few milliseconds later, and so on). Once lights in all lines are on, they will fade down until they go off and the process will start again.





The most challenging task for me was to use the iron soldering tool to create letters of 3 mm LED’s lights. I used old CDs to make letter patterns. I built 23 letters, each letter has in average 10 LED’s lights, here my husband gave a hand with the soldering.


The other challenge was the connectivity. I sewed the letters to the purse and connected them with conductive thread to form words. Unfortunately, the connection was weak. Next, I added on top steel fibre, to make the connectivity more stable and stronger. I found my third line “is no” did not light up, besides the intensity of lights were not even and in some cases blinked.


The next step was to connect the letters soldering them to build words.



It was a great idea because the connectivity improved, it was not loose anymore, and the intensity of the light was stronger and visible during daytime, exactly what the guest speaker suggested after my final prototype presentation in class. I was concerned about having some wires showing in the outside of the purse, which would not look nice, but it was exactly the opposite. The words connected properly and the arrangement looked like jewellery. See below.


I realized that maybe my project did not have interactivity. The interaction I thought of was a manual switch to activate the LED lights, but that was too old fashioned. I thought initially in using a proximity sensor to activate light cycles when a person was close to the purse. Unfortunately, I was using Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express and this card did not have a proximity sensor on board. Finally, I found the Circuit Playground Express had a built-in microphone with a library that was able to measure sound pressure level. I decided to use the sound pressure level as a digital switch, to activate lights when values went over certain level. To find the level that would be the threshold value for the switch, I used the sound pressure level example that ships with Adafruit’s Circuit Playground Express library and the serial plotter tool in Arduino’s IDE to figure out a value generated by the voice of a person to a distance of around two meters. This value allowed me to develop a switch that was neutral to background noise.



I am very happy with the outcome of this project, although there is always room to improve. For example, the connectivity is good, looks nice and the intensity of the light when activated is great, but I am concerned that placing this letter blocks on top of the purse could tangle with a wool sweater, especially a person is wearing a wool sweater that matches the handbag. In the end, I think there are fashion accessories for each occasion, same as shoes for each occasion, there are purses for each occasion. This project could be extended to different items: a canvas bag, a backpack, a top, jacket, there are many possibilities.


DIY How to make led letters https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dgYF1rjZwzY

DIY Leather bag with inside lighting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ID4A1r4uiW8

Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose (2012). Fashion & Sustainability Design for Change. Lawrence King Publishing Limited.

Gurova, Olga. (October, 2020). Sustainable Solutions for Wearable Technologies: Mapping the Product Development Life Cycle. Sustainability, 12, 1-26. https://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/12/20/8444/pdf

Hartman, Kate (2015). Make Wearable Electronics. Design prototype and wear your own interactive garments. Maker Media Inc.

How to Make: Light-Up Tote Bag | The Fridge-Light Bag

Kemp, Martin. (2015).El Arte en la Historia [Art in History] (A. Ferrer, Trad.). Turner Publication S.L.

Pailes-Friedman, Rebeccah. (2016). Smart Textiles For Designers. Inventing the Future of Fabrics. Laurence King Publishing.

Purse Light with GEMMA & LED Sequins

Team’s flexible micro LEDs may reshape future of wearable technology


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