Coiling NeoPixels

Okay, peel the backing off the four strips of carpet tape. Be careful how you set the hat down at this stage…this stuff sticks to everything!

The stickiness of the tape, combined with the silicone’s resistance to most adhesives, has a side-effect that’s now quite useful: it has a weak hold like a Post-It® Note, making it possible to reposition the strip as we work through this next sequence.
Start with the OUTPUT end of the strip.

Identify the LEFT TEMPLE of the hat and press the strip against the carpet tape at the BOTTOM (closest to the hat’s brim) with the WIRES toward the BACK of the hat and the STRIP toward the FRONT.

(In this photo, the front of the hat faces left.)
Wrap the NeoPixel strip ONCE around the hat, adhering to each of the carpet tape strips as you go. Don’t follow the edge of the sleeve exactly, you want it to rise very slightly as it goes around, so it’s offset by the strip’s width when you come back to the start.
You’ll probably find that the first pixel and the pixel above it aren’t aligned. This is normal! If it’s just a few millimeters short, you can cinch the strip a little tighter to make them line up. Otherwise, relax the sleeve around the hat to get these pixels to align: peel the LED strip away from the carpet tape, adjust the masking tape that’s holding the sleeve together, then re-stick the LED strip.

Once they’re reasonably aligned, make a mark with a Sharpie pen and count the number of NeoPixels between the marks. You’ll need this number later when we program the Arduino.
Continue coiling the NeoPixel strip around the sleeve. You can slip it off the hat if it makes it easier.

The rows of strip don’t have to butt right up against each other. I tried to leave a couple millimeters spacing. The Post-It®-like hold of the tape makes it easy to back up and try again repeatedly.
CAREFUL! With 4 meters of NeoPixels on the desk, it’s easy for things to get kinked or knotted. Periodically tidy up the strip so nothing gets damaged.
All LED strips are actually made in 1/2 meter segments which are soldered together to produce a full reel. The pixel spacing across these joins is slightly different from the rest of the strip:
In order to maintain a somewhat regular grid, it’s therefore necessary to cinch the strip a little tighter in some areas, and relax it slightly in others. If you notice the pixels getting out of alignment, back up (un-stick the strip 1/2 to 1 full coil) and adjust the tension until things line up better.

It’s bothersome up close, but at any reasonable distance nobody will notice. Sometimes referred to as the “ten foot rule” in cosplay.
Keep wrapping until you run out of strip. This probably won’t go all the way to the top of the sleeve, that’s okay.

Also, it’s unlikely that the start and end of the strip will be aligned. This too is okay, we’ll simply turn the sleeve to put the most pixels at the front.

My hat has seven rows of NeoPixels in the front, six in the back. Part of the text will be cut off in back, but don’t worry about this…it still gets peoples’ attention, and they’ll come around the front to ask questions about your hat!
If the strip doesn’t end on one of the existing carpet tape pieces, stick down a little extra piece to catch this end.
On the sleeve, mark the highest point where the NeoPixel strip reaches…
…then trim all the way around the sleeve at this level (don’t follow the edge of the LED strip, since it’s slightly askew).
Those bothersome little solder joints mentioned earlier? One of them might be very helpful now!

If your hat has seven rows in front, one of these joints (at the 2 meter mark along the strip) will now be in the very center. You can use this to align the sleeve with the hat, so it’s facing directly forward.
This guide was first published on May 01, 2014. It was last updated on Sep 19, 2018. This page (Coiling NeoPixels) was last updated on May 04, 2015.