The Projector Project: A Paperless Pattern Revolution

Most sewists love PDF patterns (including me), but absolutely loathe the assembly process of pdf patterns. Printing, taping, cutting… It is undeniably the worst part of sewing. It takes SO much paper and time, not to mention the printer at my house is all the way upstairs!

But what if I told you there was no need to print and tape any more? What if I said you wouldn’t have to worry about how and where to store all your printed patterns? Would you be interested?

Of course you would be! You’d have to be crazy not to want to know more.

That’s why I’m super stoked about this not so new, new technology. Most of us think projectors are for home theaters or for use in a classroom, but there is an amazing paperless revolution going on in the sewing world!

Projectors and sewing

The use of projectors in a sewing space is spreading like wildfire. It’s one of those things you are amazed by, and then think, why haven’t I been doing this already?

One of the best things about this new-old tech is that A0 files, usually used for large format printing (sending out to print shops) are perfect for projecting. All of our patterns come packaged with an A0 file already included. There are some things that I have found to make projecting easier, so I’ve reconfigured a number of my patterns so they are even more compatible with these paperless setups. Eventually ALL our patterns will have an A0 file optimized for projecting. 

Take a look at all the different file formats we include with our patterns:
Projector info starts at minute 6: 10

Things to consider before buying:

All these new ideas are great, but you might be a bit unsure where to start. Looking for a projector can get confusing, especially for those of us out there who aren’t techies! As I’ve been planning my own setup, I’ve gathered some important information to look at before buying and while setting up

Throw – In short, this is the distance between your surface and the projector. When planning your set up, you’ll need to measure the amount of space you have available. Note: many people have been going wrong by measuring the distance from the ceiling to the projection surface. You need to remember that once the projector is mounted to the ceiling, the distance will be shorter.

Method of projection – You’ll need a way to get your file to the projector. Different projectors require different ways of projecting. Decide which one works best for you, and make sure the projector you buy has that feature!

  • HDMI – This route is the most straightforward. You will just hook up the HDMI cable to the projector and plug it into your computer or laptop. The downside is having a wire hanging from your projector, which may not work in some sewing spaces. If you don’t have a computer available, this also won’t work.
  • Chromecast – This is a little device that plugs into your projector allows it to function as a kind of remote. You’ll be able to connect wirelessly to the projector when you use the Chrome browser. (Note: Your projector still needs an HDMI port to plug the Chromecast in.)
  • WiFi/bluetooth capabilities – Some projectors have a built-in ability to connect to devices over the internet, without an additional device like Chromecast.
  • Native resolution – This is the best resolution you’re going to get from your projector. You’ll probably have options on resolution, but native will always be the highest available.Lumens – More lumens = brighter projection. Know your space. If you sew in a bright, well lit area without the possibility of turning out some lights, then you’ll need a projector with more lumens. If you can turn out some lights, you can get away with less lumens.

Top 5 projector options:

APEMAN 3800L Mini Projector

  • Under $100
  • Brightness: 3,800 Lumens
  • Native Resolution:
    800 x 480p
  • WiFI enabled: No
  • HDMI: Yes

YARBER portable projector

  • Around $100
  • Brightness: 5,000 Lumens
  • Native Resolution:
    1080x720p
  • Wifi enabled: No
  • HDMI: Yes

VIVIMAGE Explore 2 Mini WiFi Projector

  • under $150
  • Brightness: 4,000 Lumens
  • Native Resolution: 1280x720p
  • WiFI enabled: Yes
  • HDMI: Yes

Bomaker Wifi mini

  • Under $150
  • Brightness 4500 LUX
  • Native Resolution:
    1280x720p
  • Wifi enabled: Yes
  • HDMI: Yes

WiMiuns P18

  • Under $200
  • Brightness: 6,000 Lumens
  • Native Resolution:
    1920x1080p
  • Wifi enabled: Yes
  • HDMI: Yes

Hardware to mount your projector:

Not all hardware will work with every projector. Make sure once you find the projector that works best for you, you match it with the mount that works best for the projector.

Mini ceiling/ wall mount

  • Under $10
  • Total length 6.9″ – not adjustable
  • 360* rotation
  • 90* tilt
  • Single attachment point

VANKYO universal projector mount

  • Under $15
  • Adjustable height
  • 360* rotation
  • 90* tilt
  • Single attachment point

Universal Projector Mount

  • Under $20
  • Adjustable height
  • 360* rotation
  • 90* tilt
  • Single attachment point

Vanko Universal Wall/Ceiling Mount

  • Under $20
  • Adjustable height
  • Jointed support arms for easy positioning.
  • 15* tilt, but an can be mounted to 90* angle
  • Multi attachment points for more stability

Mount it!

  • Under $30
  • Adjustable height
  • 360* swivel
  • 90* mount option
  • Multi attachment points

Software to go with your setup:

Make sure you have the proper applications / programs to use with your projector. There’s a few that seem to work very well, and they are all free.

Adobe Acrobat – This is the best way to open PDF patterns. However, it only works on a computer.

XodoThis is an app you can download through the app store or website. It works with Chromebooks. Apple, and android phones & tablets. This app allows you to view and project your pattern file enabled with layers. You can print with this app, but you cannot print deselected layers. However, we aren’t talking about printing anyway, so…

CrossoverIf you’re using a Chromebook and need a way to access Adobe Acrobat, try Crossover. It doesn’t work with all Chromebooks, but there has been quite a bit of success with most. You can get it by going to the play store, hitting install, and searching for “Adobe Reader” in the app.

Calibrating the projector

Ragamuffin Patterns‘ A0 and Xodo pattern piece files all have have a grid layer, which includes a full screen 1×1 inch grid layer you can turn off after you have calibrated your projected pattern. We also include four 2×2 inch, 1 inch, and 3 cm squares in each corner to make sure your projector is accurate. The easiest way to make sure your projector is calibrated correctly is to make sure the grids and squares line up with your cutting mat and/or ruler. 

Here’s a few more helpful measurements you need to check when beginning to calibrate:

  • PDF Zoom – You can find this on your PDF reader. You can zoom in and out on the document as needed.
  • Aspect Ratio – This is the proportions your projector will show. Eg: 16:10, 4:3, or custom
  • Focus – Find the adjustment on your projector, and slowly turn it until the lines appear sharp.
  • Keystone – This is useful if you are projecting from an odd angle, and the resulting image is not a rectangle. Adjusting this setting can help compensate for slight offsets ·

Troubleshooting guide & helpful tips

Help! I can’t see the lines…

  •  Try turning down some lights in the room – Projectors work best in lower lighting.In school the the first thing the teacher does before turning on the projector is, turn out the lights. At the movies, same thing, little to no light. So, it stands to reason the same should go for in home projectors. So, If the projection appears dim or faded, the easiest solution is to turn out some lights.·
  • Invert the colors – As we all know with layered pdf patterns, the size lines are usually different colors so you can tell them apart. This might mean there is a color like yellow, that will not project as well as blue Inverting the colors on your display can make them stand out more. To invert the whole display, go to System Preferences > Accessibility > Display > and click Invert Colors. To invert within Adobe, click Preferences > Accessibility > Replace Colors.
  • Put a piece of paper underneath the projection – It can be hard to see lines and text projected straight onto the cutting mat, this is due to the material and design of the cutting mat. The image usually gets better when you’re projecting onto fabric, but it’s most clear on a solid piece of paper. If you are having trouble seeing a section of text or dimmer colors, just put a piece of paper over the fabric to double check before continuing

Help! It won’t calibrate…

  • Make sure the table is level (as much as possible) – It’s more difficult to project on an uneven surface. If your mat is not at the same level, one side of the projection will be off. Try adding objects underneath to level it out.
  • Use the right aspect ratio – You might have to mess around with this one to see what works best for your setup. A lot of people have had success with the panorama setting, so that might be a good place to start.
  •  Adjust the focus – All projectors have a focusing mechanism. Some have a switch or dial, others require you to manually twist the lens. Either way, you’ll need to adjust it until the lines appear sharp. Blurry lines will be difficult to read and cut.  
  • Check the measurements on your mat – Some cutting mats use the metric system, others use imperial. The calibration tool you are projecting needs to line up with the measurement system you are using. You might have mixed this up without even realizing it.
  • Change the computer resolution – Find the Control Panel on your computer and go to “adjust screen resolution.” Some computer resolutions may not be compatible with your projector.




Need more help?

Join my facebook groups:
Ragamuffin Patterns
Sewing & Serging <3 Tips & Support

The Projectors for Sewing Facebook group is full of amazing and knowledgeable sewist, who have or would like to have a projector in their work space.


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