No Printer? No Problem – The Future Is Now For Sewing Patterns

Here at Peppermint, some of the nicest feedback we get about our FREE sewing patterns is how accessible they are. Part of accessibility is obviously the price – have we mentioned, they’re free?! But another is the fact they’re PDF patterns that people can print at home, which can be easier than, say, leaving the house or ordering online and sitting around in a tizzy of delayed gratification.

However, some people are looking into the future to a world of no print sewing patterns! There are a variety of reasons why people may be seeking out these options –  sustainability (maybe you’re worried about how many pages come from one tree), price (why is printer ink more expensive than gold per ounce?), ease of use (we personally find the puzzling process meditative but understand this is not normal), or sizing (maybe you want to make the same project in different sizes without having to go through the whole rigmarole every time). 

Regardless of your motivations, there are quite a few options available if you are looking to ditch the ol’ laserjet and hop to the future. 


Projector Patterns 

The humble projector, perhaps best known from ye olde science classrooms and lecture theatres, is currently the hot new trend in the sewing world. It’s a brilliantly simple but clever idea. You throw the pattern directly from your computer onto the fabric, tracing and cutting out your pattern pieces (and the middleman) through the futuristic application of light and lasers. 

There are some significant starting hurdles that make the transition to projector sewing a little daunting – the initial investment of a good quality projector, the need for a dedicated and sizeable sewing space and IT fiddle faddle of setting up things like throw ratios, lumens and keystone adjustments. 

However, if you can manage all that, then you’ve got a great set up that can seriously cut down on the money, time and difficulty it takes to start a new sewing project. Take notes from Laura of Craftstorming who has a super handy guide to setting your own up. 


Augmented Reality Patterns 

Another futuristic option is augmented reality (AR) patterns. AR patterns work similarly to that little dancing hot dog man from the Snapchat filters. Basically, you look at your fabric through your phone camera and interact with the pattern pieces on the screen. It’s a printerless solution that works well for those with more limited sewing spaces, like those of us who cut out their fabric on a dining room table. 

There are a couple of different companies exploring this new horizon, including Makerist. Makerist has a free phone app (currently only available for iPhones) that comes with a couple of free AR patterns for you to try out and a website where you can purchase a range of AR patterns from a selection of different designers. 

At the moment this technology is still being developed and AR patterns are not particularly widespread. It remains to be seen if they will catch on as a tech trend in the sewing community in the same way as other printerless options. 


Shapes and Measurement Patterns 

We don’t have to look to the future to explore printer-free pattern options. There is also… the past. There are more low-tech alternatives to printed patterns, such as patterns that are formatted as a series of instructions, measurements and simple shapes with no tracing or copying required. These kinds of no-pattern patterns are quite common – the simplest example is any circle skirt tutorial which is just maths plus circle plus rectangle. This technique can also be found in a lot of zero-waste patterns, which are so hot right now. Even some of our very own DIYs, like this fabric planter, follow this formula. The most difficult thing about these patterns is there appears to be no widely accepted name for the concept which makes them hard to search for and find. 

Chinelo Bally, popular Great British Sewing Bee contestant, suggests freehand sewing as a name for this method, though googling that term largely gets you results for her books. Admittedly, they are a pretty good resource. Another great book on the topic is No Patterns Needed: DIY Couture from Simple Shapes by Rosie Martin. 

The future of home sewing holds a lot of potential; from new fangled technological advances to the widespread dissemination of age old drafting wisdom (we’re still looking for a catchy hashtag, suggestions welcome). In the here and now though, whether you have a printer, projector or just plain pluck, why don’t you give one of our free patterns a go?