“The LilyPad system is a set of sewable electronic pieces designed to help you build soft, sewable, interactive e-textile projects. Using LilyPad pieces is a great way to experiment with electronics through the lens of crafting. Each LilyPad piece has large conductive sew tabs for easy sewing and a rounded shape so as not to snag fabric or cut thread. The LilyPad system was designed by Leah Buechley while pursuing her Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Colorado Boulder. The commercial version of the kit, which launched in 2007, was collaboratively designed by Leah and SparkFun Electronics.” LilyPad Basics: E-Sewing (August, 2019)
This article will summarize some technical aspects. For a more conceptual discussion and research, see the e-textile article.
- LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus (a breakout board that is very suitable for beginners)
- Adafruit Wearables, a different product line and brand. Some of its components are easier to program
2 Lilypad components
We can distinguish between boards (that will include a program), input, output elements and auxiliary elements (e.g. a battery holder or a wire). In addition there are various "kits".
There are several variants for the main board from the official distributor (Sparkfun) and various other providers. The following list was made from the descriptions found on Sparkfun products page (August 20, 2019).
- LilyPad MP3 Player is your all-in-one audio solution, containing an Arduino-compatible microcontroller, MP3 (and many other formats) audio decoder chip, micro-SD card socket, and a stereo audio amplifier. Part of the Lilypad E-textiles line, this board can be used to give your fabric creations the gift of music, or any other sounds you can put on a micro-SD card
- LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus is a sewable electronics prototyping board that you can use to explore circuits and programming, then break apart to make an interactive fabric or wearable project. Programming the ProtoSnap Plus is easy with the free Arduino software you’ll need to program the ATmega32U4 on LilyPad USB Plus at the heart of the board. Once you’ve installed the software, you’ll be able to write and upload your own programs to the board, making it do almost anything you want.
- LilyPad SimpleSnap is a new, easy way to create e-textiles projects with LilyPad that are modular and can be disassembled or broken down, it's also a great way to prototype! The SimpleSnap board is similar to the LilyPad Simple board, and has the same functionality except for two major differences: A built-in rechargeable Lithium Polymer battery and female snap connectors. By adding fabric snaps to the board.
- LilyPad Arduino USB - ATmega32U4 Board. Controlled by an ATmega32U4 with the Arduino bootloader. It has a built in power supply socket and an on/off switch with the only extra piece of hardware you need to program the LilyPad USB is a micro-USB cable, since the new IC has built-in USB support. Any of our LiPo batteries can be plugged right into the JST socket to provide you with easy, on-the-go power.
- LilyPad USB Plus, a sewable electronics microcontroller board controlled by an ATmega32U4 with the Arduino bootloader. It has a built in power supply JST (and recharge circuit) and an on/off switch with the only extra piece of hardware you need to program the LilyPad USB Plus being a micro-USB cable. We've also added an RGB LED in the dead-center of the board along with six white LEDs to act as a sort of bar graph.
- LilyPad Arduino Simple Board: Controlled by an ATmega328 with the Arduino bootloader. It has fewer pins than the LilyPad Arduino Main Board, a built in power supply socket, and an on/off switch. Any of our LiPo batteries can be plugged right into the socket. The Simple board is designed to streamline your next sewable project by keeping things simple and giving you more room to work and eliminating the need to sew a power supply.
For some boards there a kits that include extra materials, e.g. USB cable, battery, wires, needles.
- The LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus Lab Pack ($500) is suitable for teaching a small class See its documentation
- The LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus Kit ($50) Quote: is an all-in-one e-textile prototyping kit that has been specifically designed to make it as easy as possible to incorporate electronics into any of your garments or fabrics. The included LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus is a sewable electronics powerhouse that you can use to explore circuits and programming, then break apart to make an interactive fabric or wearable project. We have also included a USB cable, 110mAh LiPo battery, needle set and two conductive thread bobbins.
- LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus Activity Guide. Quote: This guide will get you started with some introductory programming activities exploring each of the LilyPad pieces on the LilyPad ProtoSnap Plus. If you've never used Arduino to program before, this guide will walk you through the basics with example code to upload and explore.
- The LilyPad Sewable Electronics Kit (quote) lets you explore the wonderful world of electronic sewing (e-sewing) and e-textiles through a series of introductory projects using the LilyPad system. You'll learn how to sew basic circuits to light up LEDs, control them with buttons and switches and even experiment with a pre-programmed LilyMini circuit that reacts to ambient light levels. In addition to LilyPad LEDs and battery holders, the kit comes with two LilyPad ProtoSnap boards that let you explore the circuit before you sew the pieces into a project.
2.3 input / sensors
- LilyPad Button Board
- LilyPad Slide Switch
- LilyPad Light Sensor
- LilyPad Accelerometer - ADXL335
- LilyPad Temperature Sensor
- LilyPad Reed Switch (sensitive to magnets)
- LilyPad LED Red (5pcs)
- LilyPad LED Blue (5pcs)
- Other LEDs in green, yellow, rainbow, etc.
- LilyPad Vibe Board
- LilyPad Buzzer
- LilyPad Pixel Board
- LilyPad E-Sewing ProtoSnap Kit (quote) is a great way to incorporate buttons and switches into an e-textile project without any programming required.
- LilyTiny is a tiny little LilyPad board designed to add flashy functionality to your project without taking up a lot of room.
2.6 Compatibles and alternatives
There exist various compatible boards and components. Check out online sellers such as Amazon or AliExpress or specialized outfits. Some of these are much cheaper than the originals (but we do not know about their quality).
Adafruit carries a similar line of products, Adafruit FLORA and the smaller Adafruit GEMMA. The latter can be programmed with CircuitPython (as opposed to C/C++), which is a nice advantage if you plan to teaching programming concept with e-textiles.
Some tutorials at Sparkfun:
At Arduino information:
- LilyPad Arduino Main Board
- Getting Started with the LilyPad Arduino, LilyPad Arduino Simple and LilyPad Arduino Simple Snap
- Various online sellers also carry Lilypad components, e.g. Distrelec or Play-zone in Switzerland.
... there also seem to be many different and cheaper clones (ok, since the design is open source)
- Buechley, L., & Hill, B. M. (2010). LilyPad in the wild. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems - DIS ’10 (p. 199). New York, New York, USA: ACM Press. https://doi.org/10.1145/1858171.1858206