Projector Sewing Patterns - A Quickstart Guide
Projector sewing patterns are a great new way to upgrade your sewing and save paper and time. This step-by-step guide to using projectors for sewing patterns will get you started in no time! It is so fast and easy once you get set up. Seriously...it is awesome!
Projector Sewing Patterns - How Does It Work?
The basic idea of projector sewing patterns is that you use an at-home movie projector to display a sewing pattern directly onto your fabric. When matched up to the squares on your cutting mat to ensure you have an accurate projection, you simply use a rotary cutter to cut around the lines. Easy! :)
Projector Sewing Setup
You may choose to place your cutting mat on a table or the floor depending on your sewing space ceiling height and the minimum distance your projector needs.
For example, my projector is a "mini" projector from Amazon. I have 8 ft. ceilings in my sewing space. My 24 inch x 36 inch cutting mat is on the floor. My projector is 60 inches from the cutting mat.
Your Projector Sewing Pattern Kit (What You Will Need)
What tools and equipment do you need for projector sewing?
- A movie or cartoon projector (more about what will work below)
- tripod with an arm or ceiling mount for the projector
- cutting mat - I have this 24 in x 36 inch one: Fiskars Self-Healing Cutting Mat
- rotary cutter - I have this one: Olfa Rotary Cutter
- a computer*
- HDMI cord to connect the computer to the projector
- and Adobe PDF Reader (free)
- A digital sewing pattern made for projecting (all of our new patterns offer this!)
*some people also use ipad/iphone instead of a computer and an app called Xodo to manipulate the PDF file and connect to the projector. I do not personally have experience with this, but I understand the process is similar. Wireless setups are not recommended.
Projectors - What to buy?
There is a lot of information out there about distance, throw, projector specs, and it can feel a little overwhelming. If you purchased a projector for outdoor movies during the pandemic like I did, I would suggest trying what you have before investing in a new piece of equipment...it may work just fine!
If you do need to purchase a projector for sewing, choose a mini projector, short throw, or ultra short throw projector. What you need is really determined by the space you have and your budget. These options vary greatly in price and you typically pay a lot more as the 'throw' gets shorter which is only necessary for very low ceilings or if you prefer it.
For example, my projector is a relatively inexpensive "mini" projector from Amazon. It is one I already had for projecting movies. I have 8 ft. ceilings in my sewing space. My 24 in x 36 in cutting mat is on the floor. My projector is 60 inches from the cutting mat.
Here are some affordable projector models that people who sew have had success with:
Cutting Mats For Projector Sewing
Many people use a 24 inch x 36 inch cutting mat designed for sewing or use two of these mats taped together to expand their cutting space. Fiskars and Olfa make popular cutting mats for sewing. Mine is a 24 inch x 36 inch mat from Fiskars - they are widely available in fabric and craft stores and online.
Setting Up Your Projector Step-By-Step
Once your projector is mounted on a tripod or the ceiling, you will need to adjust it for optimal focus and size. This is called calibration. During this step you make sure your projection is not just clear, but also level and even.
Our patterns have a calibration grid that will match up to your 24 in x 36 in mat or you can use this handy calibration grid available in the Projectors For Sewing group on Facebook.
1. Mount your projector to the ceiling or a tripod and place your cutting mat below.
2. Use your projector's settings to make sure it is using a 16:9 format.
3. Insert HDMI cord into the projector and select "HDMI" as the input using the projector's 'source' menu.
3. Connect the HDMI cord to your computer. You should now see what is on your computer projected onto the cutting mat.
If your computer does not have an HDMI port, you may need an adapter. (For example, I needed an HDMI to USB-c adapter from Anker to connect my MacBook Air laptop. The other adapter pictured is one that gives me more ports but is not necessary. )
4. Open PDF Reader and open the calibration file
5. Use the zoom on the PDF reader (computer) to get the lines on your calibration file to match the lines on your cutting mat. Pay attention to all areas of the mat to make sure none of the 1 inch squares are distorted. Distortion will mess up the accuracy of patterns so take your time making sure the projection is nice and flat to the cutting surface. Use the keystone adjustment on the projector to change tilt of the image if necessary to get things to line up.
6. Once you have calibrated, note the zoom on the PDF reader.
Now you are ready to project your first sewing pattern!
Projecting a Sewing Pattern Step-By-Step
1. Open the pattern in PDF reader. (Remember to choose a pattern file that is made for projectors.)
2. Double check that the reference boxes in the pattern measure correctly and match the lines on your mat.
3. Without zooming, scroll up/down left/right in PDF Reader to move the projected pattern pieces you want to cut to the center of your mat one at a time.
Tips for using projector sewing patterns
- lower the light in the room
- choose PDF patterns meant for projectors
- Use PDF reader to turn off sizes you are not cutting to minimize confusion.
What Patterns Can I Project?
Many designers are offering projector-friendly PDF versions of their sewing patterns. This is either a layered A0 size file (basically a copy shop PDF file with layers) or a version meant specifically for projectors. Files designed specifically for projectors are preferred and will typically have layers you can turn on and off like the A0 files, but ALSO include bigger, bolder text, high contrast pattern pieces, large margins around the edge for scrolling, and other features that are optimized for projection.
Some people use software to stitch together existing "print-at-home" digital patterns as well to make them one flat PDF. If you aren't digitally crafty, I'd skip this while you are getting started and just purchase a pattern that has a good projector file.
Projectors for Sewing Facebook Group (Not run by me but an excellent resource!)