Projectors for Sewing - Sewing Patterns projected directly onto your Fabric
Have you heard of the new craze in sewing world? It’s called projectors for sewing, or projector cutting! and it's taking the Sewing Community by storm.
Imagine never again having to print, cut and tape your PDF sewing patterns… Imagine pattern outlines just appearing on your fabrics… like… magic! This wizardry is called projecting and it’s within a reach of any sewist.
When I first heard of it I couldn't contain my excitement. So much of the time consuming pattern preparation can be skipped!
I’ve done some research and came across the Facebook group called Projectors for sewing. The group is full of resources, tips, tricks and practical advice on how to set up various projectors. I highly recommend to join the group. I could not do it without their support!
It can be a little tricky to set up for the first time, it doesn't cost the earth though and once you have it set up, it's done forever and you'll never look back... I promise!
What you need:
- Wall/Celling Fixture
- Connection to your device – HDMI cable or Chromecast, Wi-Fi if using Chromecast
- Spirit Level
- Cutting mat with guides (optional but very helpful)
- Calibration Grid file download here
- PDF pattern in A0 (copy shop) format
I’m using the Apeman LC350 but there are many other makes and models that work great. They can vary in prices significantly but the very basic one is all you need. The Apeman cost me £69.99 but some of the short throw projectors can cost much more.
Before you buy there are a few things to consider
- Short throw – measure the distance from wall/celling to your cutting table, floor or other surface where you want to project your patterns and check your chosen model to see what size of picture you can achieve
- Lumens – how bright the projected picture will be and think of how bright/ambient your room is. If your working space has lot of light you'll need a brighter picture (more lumens) and for darker rooms less lumens is fine. The projector I’m using has 4500 lumens.
- Resolution – it’s the max size the projector can display. It’s most often described in (P) pixels. The Apeman I’m using supports 1080P resolution – which is the same as my laptop screen resolution.
- Keystone – does the projector let you adjust the keystone? Keystone is the correction adjustment you can make to offset a screen that is not rectangular due to the angle of the projection.
- Connectivity – how are you going to connect your projector to the device you have your patterns on? Most projectors have HDMI port but some come with Wi-Fi connectivity.
- Wall/celling Mount – before you decide which one to buy there are a few things to consider.
- Where the projector will be mounted – on the wall, celling, photography stand?
- Is it adjustable? Will it let you mount the projector with lens facing down? Can it be adjusted easily to level the projector?
- How to attach the projector to mount - will the chosen mount fit the mounting holes on the projector?
- What’s the maximum weight the mount will hold? Check the weight of your chosen projector to see if the mount is suitable.
- Connection to the device you are going to use to project the patterns like laptop, desktop computer or tablet. Here are some options to consider
- HDMI cable – most projectors will come with a HDMI cable that you can use to connect the projector to a laptop or desktop computer. You may not be able to connect the HDMI cable to your mobile phone or tablet. Most of the projectors come with the HDMI cables but they are usually very short so if you want to use the cable, chances are you will need an extra, extra-long one.
- Chromecast cost about £20 – this is a device that turns other devices (like projector) into a wireless one. It connects to the projector via HDMI port but it also needs to be plugged in to the mains so something to consider when assessing where your projector will be placed.
- Some projectors, usually the more expensive ones, will have built in wi-fi connectivity which means no cables or Chromecast is needed.
The set up and calibration process is not easy but only needed to be done once. There are many variables so a trial and error with a lot of patience and persistence is required.
Let’s get started!
Physical set up
- Fix the projector to the wall/celling making sure the cables are secured and won’t pull the projector after set up.
- Make sure the projector is levelled at all angles. That’s a good starting point for further steps but be prepared to adjust and readjust if needed.
- Make sure the surface you’re projecting onto is also levelled.
- Set the focus – make sure the image is as sharp as can be.
- Make sure the projected image is straight on the surface. One of the ways to do this is to check if all 4 corners of the projected image are 90°.
- Keystone - If the corners are not squared, adjust the keystone dial. Do it only if you are confident that the projector and surface are levelled.
Projector Set Up
- First choose the HDMI as your picture source
- Check the Aspect Ratio. The Apeman projector I’m using have to be set to Panorama.
- Other projectors may have different ratio that works best. If you’re not sure what’s best experiment with different setting during the calibration process.
Connect the projector
- Connect the projector to your device. I found it easiest to work with a laptop and to avoid all the messy cables I connected using Chromecast.
- Connecting Chromecast and casting your screen:
You need to setup the Chromecast via Google Home app. All it needs is to connect to your wi-fi network. The laptop/computer needs to be in the same network.
- Open Google Chrome browser and in the top right corner click on the 3 dots opening a menu. Click on Cast. You should be able to see your Chromecast device. Before you click on the device choose cast desktop. The window will pop up. Click on the picture of your desktops and then click Share. You should have image of your entire screen projected on your table.
- Download the calibration file – this is the PDF file with a simple grid that helps you to check if the projected image has correct measurements. The lines are 1cm apart. You can download the file here. It’s also available in the Projectors For Sewing group in imperial and metric format.
- Open your calibration file. The following instructions are for Adobe Acrobat Reader, you can use other PDF readers but the steps may be different.
- Align your cutting mat with the displayed grid – the aim is to get all the lines of the displayed grid aligned to the lines of the cutting mat and that’s the most difficult part of the set up.
- Concentrate on the middle of the grid first.
- Align red vertical and horizontal lines with one of the middle lines on your mat.
- Check if the next projected line is 1cm from the red line.
- If the line is more than 1cm it means the projected image is to big. If the lines are less than 1cm apart it means the projected image is too small.
- Adjust the zoom of your PDF file. If the projected image is too big - decrease the zoom and if the image is to small increase the zoom.
- The zoom needs to be set very precisely and often to a tenth of a percent. My zoom is set to 32.8% and that’s the only setting where the lines are exactly 1cm apart. Once you find your zoom setting make a note as every time you project you need to use exactly the same percentage of zoom. (presuming the projector hasn't been moved)
- Once the lines in the middle are aligned have a look at the other lines. Are they aligned with the lines of the cutting mat? If the answer is yes – you are all set! If not – don’t panic and carry on adjusting!
- If the lines are not aligned there are a few things to check over and adjust if needed. This can take a bit of experimenting to find just the right set up. Remember when adjusting the following variables – adjust one at a time and recheck the grid.
- Recheck if the projector and surface is levelled
- Recheck if the corners of projected image are 90°
- Adjust the focus
- Check if the computer screen resolution is the same as the resolution of your projector. If different then change the screen resolution or settings on you projector
- Try other Aspect Ratio settings of your projector.
- It took me few tries and each time I started from scratch and went over each step again.
When you have your projector all set up and celebratory dance done it’s time to give a real pattern a try!
Before you start there are few things to know:
- You need to have a pattern in PDF A0 format, sometimes called a photo shop format. Most pattern designers offer it along the A4 sizes.
- Some PDF patterns have layers that can be switched on/off. It make it easier to be able to display only one size instead of all. Not all pattern designers offer this option. Some designers are now offering projector files with thicker lines and size layering. It’s good to check before buying if you want to project the pattern.
All of our own PDF patterns have layers and are suitable to use with projectors.
Being able to switch the layers of and on is also very helpful when you need to blend between sizes.
Here is what to look for:
- To be able to see the pattern more clearly I prefer to revert the colours of the PDF. Here is how to do it in Acrobat Reader:
Time to cut the fabric!
Having the pattern projected instead of pinned takes a bit of adjusting. First thing is to make sure that the fabric doesn’t move once correctly placed.
As you are not able to move the fabrics you will need to have enough space around it to be able to move to cut from different angles.
Hope you enjoyed reading about my adventure with projectors. If you give it a go don’t forget to share your experience!