Projector Sewing – My Quest for A Portable Solution

The HP MP250 Portable projector which I use for Projector Sewing

I am a gadget junkie through and through so when I first heard about projector sewing I was instantly eager to learn more.

The thought of having paperless sewing, not having to cut out/trace out the patterns and being able to have a pdf pattern ready to sew the instant it had downloaded filled me with excitement.

I quickly realized though that I just didn’t have the space that everyone seems to need when it comes to projector sewing and so ruled it out for me. That space being a sewing table and somewhere in your sewing space that you can fix a projector to the ceiling.

My sewing room is also my office, and when he is working from home, also my husband’s office. It is a shared space, full of creative chaos, but definitely no room for a projector set up.

Instead I followed, with continued interest. all the posts that talk about the technology, the benefits and became quite a lurker in the projector sewing community.

I don’t like being told I can’t do things, and that will often lead me to find a way to do whatever it is just out of determined stubbonness, and I think that is what happened with the projector.

I discovered the term ‘ultra short throw’ projectors which really piqued my interest. These projectors can effectively stand on the end of your table and throw the image flat in front of it. They don’t need much distance between the machine itself and the surface so this could sit on the end of my kitchen table and throw the image straight onto it. Not far into my googling though, I decided that I couldn’t justify a sewing projector of this budget.. you are taking thousands and thousands for one of these babies!

Instead I started to look into all the different factors with a projector for sewing and I came up with some ideas.

Ultra short throw projectors might have been out of my budget, but were Short Throw options and how might they work?

The throw of the projector relates to the amount of space needed between the projector and the image surface. I found some affordable options that could project with a distance of only 1m and some of these options were also a small and light form factor, importantly with a tripod mount… you see where I am going here?

Another specification that is really important when it comes to projector sewing is the brightness of the image, measured in lumens. Unless you want to be doing all your cutting out in the pitch dark, you want the brightest you can get for your budget. That instantly eliminated a few of the projectors I was looking at, but one stood out to me… so I thought I would give it a try.

So I hatched a plan..

Although I don’t have a dedicated table with a projector ready ceiling, I did have a spare tripod, that would allow me to face a projector downwards. My hypothesis was that if I could calibrate the projector at the maximum height of the tripod, then I could move my projector to wherever I had space to do my cutting.

The critical things to ensure a projector would work like this are:

  • A small form factor projector that would not overwhelm the projector with weight and bulk
  • Short throw distance of around 1m
  • Ultra bright projection – high lumens
  • A tripod fixing on the projector
  • A tripod that would allow me to project down as well as straight across

My Sewing Projector – the HP MP250

HP MP250 projector - being used to project sewing patterns

I spent quite a bit of time researching my projector options. I finally settled on the HP MP250 MINI PROjector.

It’s super compact – about the size of a large can of coke – and lightweight. Its reviews claim it as having a great quality image and all in all, it seemed to be a really good option.

 The added benefit to having a small and portable projector that is not fixed to the ceiling is that I can also use it for movie nights!

I ordered mine from PB Tech in NZ here 

 

When it arrived, I’ll be honest, I was nervous about whether this plan of mine would work or not. I got to setting it up and was pleasantly surprised about how easy it was.

My tripod (a Vanguard Alta Pro model which has a horizontal beam) was set to full length on the legs and I hooked it up to my Macbook. This happened seamlessly with AirPlay and now all I needed to worry about was the calibration.

 

Sewing Projector set up to calibrate on the kitchen table

I had read quite a lot about calibration being a real source of the set up frustration, in some videos I watched it was even called out as the reason some sewists never get their projectors set up.. and so I went into this step a bit concerned.

I had no reason to be though as it was really all very straightforward, needing just a bit of patience the first few times.

With a white piece of paper/fabric on the floor and my large inch grid ruler, I set to fiddling. It took a bit of back and forth but I got there in not too much time just gradually increasing or decreasing the zoom on the pdf.

 I have found that the same zoom setting doesn’t work for each of my patterns, but calibration is so quick now that it takes no time to check and tweak before I cut something out. Most of my patterns project at 100% on the fabric when the screen zoom is between 47-49%.

calibrating the projector with the sewing pattern files

Pattern Cutting with my projector

Projected sewing pattern onto the floor

The first couple of times I cut out with my projector, I was so nervous that it wasn’t right that I over thought it all and it became a bit of a faff.

I’m now a few successful projects in and I can happily say that my crazy idea for portable projector sewing is working a treat.

It takes no time to set up, just plug it in, calibrate (maybe 3-4 mins) and off I go.

I have also quickly learnt the benefits of a projector sewing file, but I am not letting that dictate which patterns I use or not. Generally the A0 files are fine and at their worst (lines too fine or colours not visible) then just have to wait for the evening or morning when the house is a little bit darker.

So far, I’ve set the projector up to cut on the kitchen table, the kitchen counter, and the floor and all work fine giving me the perfect amount of flexibility.

Projector sewing at the kitchen table

Portable Projector Sewing

I wanted to write this post to share the idea with anyone else who has ruled out their space as not being compatible for projector sewing. I intentionally haven’t repeated all of the phenomenal content that is already out there about projector sewing.

If you are keen to research, here are some of the best resources I found.

Projector Sewing Patterns

Like I said up above, I am not driven to now only get a pattern from a company who produces a projector file, but I see this more as a bonus. Having a projector file does absolutely make the process easier, but all of the A0 files I have tried so far have been fine too.

The sewing pattern companies that I know of who are now including projector files is below. If you know of more, drop me a line and let me know so I can add to the list!

 

 

 

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