Future World Skirt: Made with Magic

As soon as Made with Magic (aka Glow with the Show) debuted I was excited about the prospect that the technology presented. The products being sold in the park left something on the table, mainly that the user who invested in the ear do not get to reap the benefits of the coordinated lights. Oddly, it is hard to see things on your head. The introduction of the glowing Mickey gloves solved that problem, but also was a bit too bright. The lights needed to be diffused more. My mind started working.

I came up with a glowing dress or skirt, something where I would be able to enjoy the lights myself. This was in 2013 and it took a few years for me to work out a few kinks, such as how do I do electrical work and how do I wash the dress. Yup, I was way over my head.

I found a few pieces of inspiration, mostly this Fiber Optic Tinker Bell Wings and the look of this LED glowing skirt. I made a few modifications to the Tinker Bell Wing instructions, namely that I do not have a 3-D printer and I still want to be able to wash my skirt.

Required Items: skirt supplies (fabric, thread, zipper, interfacing), two snaps, Made with Magic/Glow with the Show product, wood glue, heat shrink tubing, fiber optics

Skills Used: sewing, cutting, measuring, gluing

I began with making my garment. I chose a pattern from Gertie Sews Vintage Casual by Gretchen Hirsch. I made the Flare Skirt and added pockets (I traced my hand and phone to make sure they would fit). I also left over some extra fabric to use later for my electronics casing. One of the key elements of this skirt are the two layers of fabric to sandwich the lights. Fiber optics on their own have a very precise light points, and I wanted to be able to diffuse the light to be a softer glow (much like this wonderful it’s a small world dress). For my look I decided between using a tulle which I would sew the fiber optic strands directly onto a anchor points or a sports jersey fabric that I could weave the fiber optic strands through in any design.

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This is a great time to admit that they whole project can be done with non-Glow with the Show fiber optics, but I did not want to deal with set up with electronics and I wanted it to interact with the Disney Parks.

A key element is the actual light device you will use. I first saw this video about harvesting the electronic elements from a set of Glow with the Show ears. I waited for a sale at the Disney Store to buy the Mickey glove I would harvest (note that only one glove is sold at a time so it is not a two pack), but any of their products would do. For the glove, simply seam rip (you want to avoid scissors to ensure you do not accidentally snip a wire) starting from the battery pack area. The LED board is not attached to the glove other than the little Made with Magic tag, so you can just simply wiggle it out once you have enough room. Each LED has a wide diameter strand attached that feed through each finger of the glove. I found that one of the wires leading from the battery pack had a loose connection to the circuit board so I had a friend solder it on. Your local hardware store like ACE might offer this service or be able to sell you the glue version of solder, which is not as good.

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OK, now I have a skirt and hunk of wires with LEDs. If you are like me this is where I left my comfort zone. The gear from the glove will take care of the battery, circuit, color control, and LED but I still want to extend my light with fiber optics. Let’s stop and learn a bit about using fiber optics on LEDs.

I used the Fiber Optic Sparkle 3 (0.75mm strand) which is sold by the foot and comes with three individual 0.75mm strands within each bundle. I split the bundles into each strand for a more delicate look, but they can be used whole in their plastic casing, too. I used some household string or yarn to plan out how many feet of fiber I wanted before ordering, and remember to divide by three if you will be using each strand. This type will carry the light to the end point but also have little sparkles of light along the strand at regular intervals.

When my fiber optics arrived they were as a spool of one length, so first I needed to cut it into manageable smaller lengths. I put my skirt on a dress form for all of this because I have one and it makes things easier to work in three dimensions. You could also do this on the ground or on a hanger. I was going for a scattered feel so it was OK to be loose and not precise in my measuring. After plotting out my lengths I split the plastic casing to extract each strand. I used scissors and a sharp utility knife for all of my cutting, and be sure to do so on a surface that can be cut or marked up.

Safety tips: When cutting the fiber optic strand you want to achieve a surface as close to a smooth ninety degree angle as possible on the end that will be against the light. Scissors often leave a pointed pencil shape on a cut so a very sharp utility knife, Exact-o blade, or razor blade works best. Please be careful. I often had to re-cut a few times to get a clean end, so I suggest leaving extra room in your measurements. Cutting fiber optics is a bit like cutting toe nails in that they can go flying, this is a hazard so wear eye protection and cut in an area where kids or pets won’t eat the tiny pieces. Putting masking tape over the fiber before cutting can help prevent lose of the savage piece.

I used masking tape to temporarily hold my bundles together as I worked. If your edges are not flush you may need to re-cut the bundle. Technically a hot iron (different than your clothing iron) is meant for this, but I only had a utility knife. I did bundles of nine, but because this is small in diameter to the LED I would suggest at least twelve or more to better match the LED. Each LED has enough light for many, many strands so feel free to make large bundles.

Now I paused to make a sleeve to hold the electronics. I wanted them to match my skirt and attach with snaps. This gives me the ability to unsnap the electronics to wash the skirt. Each of the LEDs have a little hole to stick out and will be where the fiber optic bundles attach.

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With all of my strands plotted out and bundled it was time to attach the strands to the LEDs. I used heat shrink tubing which is an electrician’s tool. It comes in different millimeter dimensions and when exposed to heat contracts, think of plastic vacu-formed packaging. I used one to tightly secure my bundle, with addition of a dot of wood glue to add adhesion between the fibers (a lesson learned the hard way), and a second to marry the bundle with the LED head. Since I do not have a heat gun I used my hairdryer.

Tips for attaching: A note about glue, fiber optics do not play well with SuperGlue and the heat from a glue gun can bend or melt through the fiber. School glue or wood glue, which are both water based, work perfectly fine. A note about heat, using a hairdryer or heat gun can bend or melt the fiber so be mindful to not hold the heat in one spot for too long.

The only thing left was to attach the electronics to the skirt and artistically distribute the fiber optic stands by weaving them through the athletic fabric holes. The strands can hold up to curves but do not do well with sharp turns or pressure points. I avoided placing strands directly where I sit. They had held up for a few days at the Disney parks; I wore the dress without fiber optics during the day and then attached it for the evening. Here are some examples of my fun times.

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At Fantasmic:

In Epcot:

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