It all started with a broken LED hula hoop. After a few years of use, the batteries stopped working and I had the choice to toss it or investigate. I pulled it apart to reveal 25 slow changing RGB LEDs and 3 (NiMH) rechargeable batteries. The batteries were soldered directly to and the LEDs were covered in adhesive. I did some research - I'd read about LED throwies years before, so I knew some basics (i.e., they need batteries), but I didn't really know anything about LEDs. At all.
A friend told me I could learn about microcontrollers and it was a little too much to process. Micro-what? I remember seeing a lot of (piranha) LEDs out there and being totally confused by what to do with them. They looked roughly the same as the two legged variety of LEDs I was familiar with except they had four legs. I had absolutely no idea what to do with those little legs.
Instead, I purchased some slow change RGB LEDs from a seller in China, complete with a stash of resistors. My partner & I took a trip to Radio Shack to buy solder and an iron and watched a few videos to figure it out. I read about fast and slow change versions of RGB LEDs, about how much I needed to power them, about why they all turned red when my batteries were low (because red requires the least voltage) and was inspired. I wanted to put LEDs in everything. I started with some LED Scarves and moved onto a LED Hardhat.
It took me nearly three more years to take the next steps. Finally ready take the plunge into the world of microcontrollers, I undertook three exciting pieces to learn the basics of programming LEDs with an arduino microcontroller: I updated my LED Scarf, built a NeoPixel Tiara, and sewed NeoPixels onto a blazer with conductive thread. Largely inspired by Becky Stern and all of the wonderful guides and products at Adafruit, I became hooked.