Saturday, August 3, 2013

Laser-cut Shirt (aka first sewing machine project)

I have started making shirts. The process involves laser cutting pieces and assembling them with my new sewing machine.

Step 1: Choosing a machine
  • I learned on an Emerald 116 Husqvarna Viking, an 'analog machine'
    • The foot pedal sits inline with the power cord, controlling motor power directly
    • Knobs control the stitch type, width, length
  • The most widely/highly reviewed machine on Amazon is the Brother CS600i, a 'digital machine'
    • (1,770 reviews averaging 4.4 stars at time of writing)
    • LCD display is very convenient for choosing stitches, lots of stitches to choose from
    • Will not allow 'mistakes' like trying to stitch with the presser foot up
    • Foot pedal connects optionally via standard 3mm audio-type connector and port
    • Competitively priced. I paid $155 for it, but I see it has dropped to $140 at time of writing
My one suggestion for improvement of the machine is the addition of a USB port and the option for users to upload new custom designed stitches onto the machine. That would be so cool.

Step 2: Fabrics
JoAnn's had some knit stuff appropriate for clothing, but not much. I have to find a better supplier for the next round.

Step 3: Designs
I used my point and shoot to take pictures of the front and backs of some of my favorite shirts. Then I went in with Corel Draw and created designs (cloning the left hand side from the right for symmetry). Finally I added outer contours for seam allowance and scaled the whole thing appropriately. I did an okay job but should have left a larger seam allowance.

Step 4: Cutting pieces on the laser cutter
On very low power, I cut all the parts out for the shirt using the files I created in Step 3. Because of the laser cutter bed size, I had to separate the shirt into 32" by 18" pieces. Therefore my favorite theme for this type of design is 'colorblock shirts,' though this shirt was not one of those.

Step 5: Sewing
This was by far the most difficult and time consuming step, of course. My first trial ended up wearable but definitely could use improvement. Here's a photo of the shirt and the design (the white thing is just an undershirt that I already had). Again, once I get a license for my Corel Draw I will clean up the files and export PDF versions for sharing.

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