Paper Free PDF Pattern Sewing?? Yes it's real!! Projectors for All!
If you are anything like me you've been drowning in millions of pieces of paper patterns that despite your best efforts to stay organized they end up in a giant pile you have to go digging through every time you want to cut some fabric. I usually spend so much time digging I could have already reprinted and put together again but then it's that much more waste. Don't get me started on the waste....so. much. paper. Despite "recycling" for kids to draw on and then actually recycling it's still so much waste. Factor in the time (and back pain) you spend taping or gluing and then cutting out the paper pieces....well... I'm about ready to quit before I get to the fabric and sewing part just typing this. So what if I tell you- all of that could be gone?? Want to cut some fabric? Simple, grab your fabric, turn on your projector, and cut. You read that right... Projector. Projecting your PDF patterns directly onto your fabric is no longer a thing of dreams and I, for one, have never felt so free! *photo of my previous desk drowning in paper mess*
When I discovered projecting as a real possibility I tasked Tech Support (my husband) to help figure this all out for me as it's a very overwhelming world out there in projector land. I'm going to give you all a few recommendations but let me start by saying- all projectors are not equal. What works for one person's set up might not work for another. I recommend joining the projectors for sewing group for extra info and tips!
The first and biggest thing you'll want to take into account is the distance between where your projector is mounted to where you are cutting. This is basically considered the "throw" distance. I currently cut on the floor and have fairly high ceilings in my garage where I set up so I have a huge projection area, while if I were to be in my home and cutting on a table I'd have a shorter throw. Since I had about 6.5+feet to work with I wasn't too worried about finding a short throw projector.
Second, is how light/dark your work space is. If you have completely dark room finding a really bright projector isn't a priority (although let me tell you it's worth it to not have to squint). If you have a very bright room you'll want something that's decently bright and clear. There is also an option to go into "dark" mode where your lines become inverted to help with dark fabrics but brightness is still key. The projector I have is nice and bright so I have no issues with mine on normal mode. The photos below you can see me projecting with a light on on both light and dark printed fabric.
Third, will you be connecting your projector through WiFi (you purchase a projector that has it), Chromecast, or HDMI cord? They all work depending on your needs! Mine has WiFi but I preferred the connection of HDMI.
And a few bonus things I just know you'll want- Make sure you pick one with a remote and that plugs in- Once you have your projector dialed in you won't want to touch it to charge it or even turn it on.
Finally, what will you be using to "cast" your patterns? We set up an old computer with double screen capabilities so my projector is one screen and on my monitor, I can see pattern instructions etc. Most people laptops/computers old or new or cast directly from their phones but an actual computer/laptop is much more user friendly.
Now lets talk actual projectors- For my set up I tried out 2 different ones The Dr.J Professional 3800 , and the Bomaker Mini 4500 . Without going into step by step detail upon setting both of them up there was a HUGE difference. The Bomaker was by far superior on brightness and clarity- all very important when projecting for cutting. You need to be able to see what you are cutting especially on thinner/colored lines. With the Bomaker, I can cut with the lights on if I need too! A few friends who bought cheaper projectors and were disappointed ended up switching to the Bomaker as well!. Now remember I have a large distance between projector height and cutting mat but you are looking to stay in this price range and have a shorter distance a few people have recommended the VIVIMAGE to give a slightly larger projection- although not as bright as the bowmaker, people are still using it successfully. (it's also smaller so it can get closer to the ceiling)
If you have a little more freedom in your budget and a shorter projection distance the WOWOTO A5 is highly recommended but if you have even more budget you'll get a much better brighter image from the WOWOTO A8.
In general, I recommend purchasing one or two that seem to fit your needs (make sure they have free returns) and figure out what works best for you.
You'll also need to get a mount. This is the one we are using with no problems although my husband did have to add a washer too it. Once again though you'll need to find one to fit your needs. If you are limited on height you'll want to find one that is low profile. Can't mount to your ceilings? People are using boom stands and tripods too! I just recommend not getting the cheapest thing out there- You'll want something that will hold up. The projectors for sewing group has a ton of mount recommendations.
Once you have your projector all set up you'll need to calibrate it and level it. This is the most important part as if it's not right, your sewn item won't be either! First using an actual level make sure it's level on all three sides. Then I'd recommend pulling up the calibration grid you can find in the Projectors for Sewing group and using it to make sure that your projector isn't distorting your pattern at all. You'll need to adjust the percentage you are viewing the pattern at by .1 increments until it exactly matches up to the one-inch squares all across your image. You may have to adjust your keystone slightly on your projector but start without touching it first. (I also like to test out a pattern piece every time before I cutting just to be safe nothing shifted.) I use a white piece of fabric under my projection area so I can see better since i'm cutting on a patterned carpet and my projection area is bigger than my cutting mat.
Once you are calibrated you are ready to rock in roll! Pull up your A0 file you want to sew/cut, adjust your percentage to the calibration you previously figured out (mine is 18.6), and cut! I do recommend rotating your PDF so you get your "long" pieces to show full pattern pieces, especially for adult patterns.
Another tip- instead of pattern weights I've found I like to use my acrylic ruler as a weight to hold down my fabric while cutting as well as get nice crisp straight edge lines. You'll notice it's quite different than paper pattern cutting. Extra bonus- you'll be able to see your panel spacing when cutting panels!! No more cutting and hoping you are centered!
As far as patterns go, most pattern makers are jumping on this bandwagon with either full projector files or A0 files they already provided with layers which is fantastic! I know I'm avoiding the ones that aren't because honestly- the thought of printing and taping makes me cringe! For Emerson's awesome shirt I used Made For Mermaids Hudson Hoodie. They have provided layered A0's for a few years now but are also moving away from cut charts to actual pattern pieces so easier faster cutting for all! Projectors for Sewing has a list of designers who currently provide A0 files.
So what do you think??? Are you excited!?! I know it can seem overwhelming at first so hopefully, this helped a little. I promise it's worth the plunge once you get that sweet dialed in spot you won't go back!
Now finally- How cute is this Hedgie fabric!?! Seriously! Make sure you check out the pre-order and scoop it up to cut either on your new projector or paper patterns ;) This is the sweatshirt I cut in the video!
Happy Sewing, Projecting, and Rocking,
P.S. Emerson gives projector sewing a big thumbs up!
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