Well where do we start?
I remember when the only patterns I used were selected from big books, extracted from metal drawers, and driven home.
I remember when I subscribed to BVM and browsed patterns online and then ordered them to be sent by mail. At the time I thought this was incredibly convenient and progressive.
This was before the world of .pdf patterns.
I love .pdf patterns.
I love access to new designers. Yes some of the indies are random drafters, but some are excellent. It has been worth the trouble of sewing up a few dudes to find some lines, like LoveNotions, I can count on.
In addition to the range of patterns that I can now access in .pdf, I also love the convenience. I really like being able to source a pattern just when I want it, just when I am ready to sew.
In theory this on demand access was supposed to mean I wouldn't stockpile as many patterns. Of course the opposite has been true. There isn't a pattern sale on this earth that doesn't get me clicking "add to cart" in that dangerous hour before bedtime.
There is a downside to patterns in this format too of course.
Once downloaded the patterns have to be printed out before they can be used. This has meant either taping together letter sized sheets, then cutting them up into pattern shapes or even tracing over the print-outs, or sending the file to a copy shop, and going over in the car to pick up the big rolled sheets.
Not exactly convenient or incredibly fun.
And of course these big, large carbon footprint, patterns take up a lot of room.
I have many boxes and baskets of patterns stored like this in my sewing room, or rolled up in a corner, practically to the point where I am tripping over them:
I was become overwhelmed entirely by my pattern collection.
As a result I decided to try projector sewing.
The idea is simple.
You open up a pattern on your computer in the large copy shop or AO format or a "projector file". The computer/laptop is then connected, by cable or wirelessly to a projector that has been mounted above a table or even the floor and is able to project the image of the pattern onto that surface.
A projector file is basically a copy shop size version of the pattern with a grid layer of squares on it. This grid is measured and checked to makes sure the pattern is true to size and if it isn't, adjusted.
Once the pattern is true to size you can either trace the image onto paper (economically because this is not a tracing on job not a tracing over job and you can use any large paper to do this) or lay your fabric directly under the image and cut along the lines you see - no pattern or paper involved at all.
I have done both.
The advantages of projector cutting are obvious:
1. No printing, taping, and cutting or driving to the copy shop and paying at least as much as you paid for the pattern to get someone to do the printing for you.
2. Money saved, time saved, energy (global and personal) saved.
3. It's super fast, particularly if you project right onto the fabric and cut. Even more so if you are one of those folks who cut with a rotary cutter.
4. Pattern storage is simplified. Mine are on the Cloud.
The challenges are also obvious:
1. There is both software and hardware involved here. Until this all gets refined to more sewist friendly products you are going to need:
- the right kind of projector and a way of connecting it to your computer/laptop. I found excellent advice on this FB group.
- the projector has to be a significant distance from the surface to project the large shapes of the pattern. For most projectors this is about 5-6 feet or 2 meters. There are some more expensive projectors that can throw the image from closer, but for the majority of projectors have to be mounted on a ceiling. This isn't a job you can do with a glue gun or tape. You have to be drill comfortable yourself or have someone who is who owes you, or even better loves you. The best place for my own projector right now is on my living room ceiling. When my niece and nephew finish renovating their house and vacate our basement, and I will move operations down there but in the meantime here is my living room ceiling (only you would do this, says my daughter):
Note the grid is a layer in Adobe. Once the image size has been adjusted to be exactly right you can turn the grid layer off so those lines are no longer projected -just like you can turn off the layers for different sizes in normal pattern printing.