Projectors for Sewing: A Primer

In response to requests from the sewing community, we're pleased to announce that we are now offering projector files for Twig + Tale sewing patterns.  They've been included with our last few new releases, and we have been busy updating older patterns to include projector files as well.

For those who are curious about how projectors are used, here is a basic introduction.  If this idea interests you, there is plenty of helpful technical information available online to assist with the purchase, installation, and use of a projector. 

What are projectors and how are they used?

Digital projectors are used to project files from a laptop or tablet onto a larger surface, such as a wall or screen.  They are often used at home for viewing movies, or for presentations in schools or offices.  

For sewing purposes, projectors are mounted to display images downward onto a horizontal surface, such as a cutting table.  By doing this, it is possible to project a digital pattern directly onto fabric positioned on a cutting mat below the projector.  The fabric can then be cut directly, eliminating the need for a paper pattern entirely.  

 

What are the pros and cons of using projectors?

Here are some of the benefits of using a projector for sewing patterns:

Time Savings:

For most sewists who use projectors, saving time is identified as one of the main benefits.  There is no doubt that printing and assembling PDF patterns can be a deterrent, especially when sewing time is limited.  Projecting patterns eliminates this step entirely.

Eco-friendly:

Using a projector eliminates the need to use paper and ink/toner cartridges for printing patterns.  

Cost savings:

Over time, a projector can save money spent on ink and paper (for home printing), or for A0 printing at the copy shop.  If you sew a lot of different patterns, it is likely that the cost of the projector will be recouped through savings on printing patterns.  

Storage space:

There is no doubt that storing paper patterns takes up space and can be an organizational challenge.  Digital files save on physical storage space.  

Mobility challenges:

Projectors may be a good option for those with arthritis or other functional hand limitations by eliminating the need to cut and tape patterns.  

Pattern placement and marking:

A projected pattern makes it simple to visualize and position pattern pieces precisely when using prints, fabric panels, or border prints.  Pattern markings, such as pocket placement lines, are easy to see and transfer to fabric.  

 

Here are some of the challenges and/or limitations of using a projector for sewing patterns.  Note that a number of these points are related to the setup and initial learning curve, and are more issues to be aware of, rather than long-term challenges.  

Research and installation:

There is no "one size fits all" solution, so it will take research to decide on a projector type and setup that will work in your space.  Some basic DIY skills are required to mount the projector.  

Initial cost:

Getting set up to project patterns has some upfront costs associated, including the projector, mount, cords and/or wireless adaptor.  Do your research and make sure that the initial investment will be worthwhile in the long run.  

Calibration:

Calibrating the projector can be a bit fiddly, potentially requiring some time and patience.  

Space:

For a permanent projector installation, it helps to have a dedicated space. However, there are other options for using a projector in a non-dedicated space, such as installing the projector on a mobile mount.  Ultra short throw (UST) projectors make it possible to use a projector without a ceiling mount. 

Making pattern modifications:

For those who like to modify or hack patterns for fit or style, it may be more challenging to do this with a projected image.  Basic modifications, such as sleeve or leg length, are simple to do, however more complicated adjustments, such as a FBA are more challenging.  In this case, a "hybrid" approach may be useful, by projecting the pattern onto paper, tracing, and then modifying the pattern pieces.  The adjusted paper pieces can then be saved for future use.  

If projectors sound like an interesting option for you, the Projectors for Sewing Facebook group offers a wealth of information about selecting, installing, and calibrating a projector, and a supportive and knowledgeable community.  

What features do Twig + Tale projector files offer?

While it is possible to use A4/letter and A0 files for projection, specifically-designed files generally easier to use.  Here are the features we've incorporated into T+T projector files so that they are as clear and user-friendly as possible:

  • Thicker strokes/lines for visibility
  • Calibration grids with options for inches or centimetres
  • Font sizes enlarged so labels and instructions are legible when projected
  • All pieces oriented along the grainline
  • Simplified labels
  • Layered files
  • Some pieces are not cut on fold line to make placement easier
  • Important notes included in boxes (with enlarged text) on projector file

We think that projectors sound like a wonderful addition to the sewist's toolbox, and are so pleased to be able to offer projector files for Twig + Tale patterns.  For those who still prefer a paper option, your Twig + Tale pattern purchases will continue to include options for A4/US Letter home printing, as well as large-format A0 files.