Thursday, January 29, 2015

Light Table Alternatives for Quilters

In a my previous post on working with text, I mentioned a few light table alternatives. Today, I'm telling you about them.

A light table is actually pretty simple to build. It's just a platform to hold a light with a transparent surface. A web search will turn up several DIY options. Here's a very simple light box tutorial. If you build your own, make sure it's not a fire hazard, yet bright enough for tracing. There are many tutes for making light boxes for preschooler activities right now, so make sure the tute you use is suitable for tracing.

 I will say that taking photos of lights is a pretty hard task. The camera gets all confused. (Maybe it's the lack of an experienced operator.)


I have an old light box that was given to me. The plastic surface is getting a bit yellowed and dim, and it's bulky. I like it though and it works fine. Now there are digital and LED versions available, but they can be spendy. They are nice and slim though.

If you have a tablet computer device (iPad, android tablet), You can use a drawing app with a bright white "page" or even a flashlight app to provide light and after you first protect the surface with a piece of glass or Plexiglas, you can use it as your light table.

Can you see the Plexiglass over my tablet?
My preferred method (until I got my light table) is to take my sewing machine out of it's recessed hole in my sewing table, put a light in the hole and cover it with a sheet of Plexiglas. In fact, I like this method better than the light table when tracing large designs as more of it can lay flat.


You can also use a clear acrylic extension table with a light under it for the same purpose.


You can pick up some good battery powered lights for this purpose or even a string of LED lights.


Then there's the super easy to store version: Using a window! Tape your design to the window with painter's tape and then tape the fabric over and trace away. Granted, it's a bit awkward if the neighbors can see you. But you can't beat the price.


You might also gather from this post that a sheet of Plexiglas is a handy tool for a quilter. I'll save that for another post. Yes, I'm getting to be a tease with my posts. But it keeps me posting more regularly and keeps the posts a little more concise.

10 comments:

  1. I love the window method--I use it quite a bit, but I make sure to use my patio door as it doesn't face the road for anyone driving by to see ;)

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  2. I use a coffee table with a glass insert. It is nice and big and I can trace larger designs on it. I just put a small lamp or a utility light under it. Works well.

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    1. I'm glad you mentioned using a glass table. I should have pointed out that a glass table works great as a light box.

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  3. ohhh good ideas! I always used a window before I got my husband to make me my own box. I asked him to make me a really big one with a longgggg cord (which is super useful!). But its heavy so I don't take it when I go to quilt conference. I use an old fashion overhead projector - works perfect!

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  4. Wonderful ideas, Amy! Thanks! I use a glass top table in my breakfast area with a lamp placed underneath. It is round so tracing into the corners requires some extra effort but it does work well. I am wishng I had not given away my old overhead projector after reading Nina 'arie's comment!

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    1. A glass table is great as a light table. I should have mentioned it in my post. It's hard to remember everything before I post. I have used my church's digital projector to project a pattern I made digitally, and I bet many churches or libraries might have overhead projectors you can use. You do have to be careful that you're projecting the image squarely on the wall, or you can get distortion.

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  5. Never thought to use my iPad. Thanks for waking up my brain. Until I can get what I really want, that will do perfectly!

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  6. Amy, love the sewing table idea for smaller designs. I also utilize a 5' x 4' piece of plexiglass for larger designs (borders, etc). I place it on saw horses with a light underneath. You can easily work your way around the larger area to trace your design. It also works well to blend corner and border motifs easily.

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    1. I love my sheets of Plexiglas. Very handy, though I have yet to get one that big!

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    2. Yep it does seem really big at first, however, when sketching out a whole cloth it works great.

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