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: Computerized Layouts Tutorial - Part 1 - Setting up the software  ( 5152 )
Stephen
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« : October 08, 2012, 09:26:26 AM »

A Little Background
In the past I've mentioned that I do most of my layouts on the computer. Before going on, please read my thoughts on Cutting Layouts and Computerized Layouts. I do what I'd call manual layouts on the computer. I should say here that if the software is configured properly, and if a template (which has many things prepared for each layout) is created, and with some training and practice, creating a layout is fairly quick straightforward. (On simple jobs I might not make a layout and may just make a simple pen and paper layout.) Over a number of years I've tried out various software (Open Office, Microsoft Publisher, TurboCAD, etc.). Near the beginning of my trying to do layouts on the computer I use Microsoft Publisher for a little while, but just doesn't have enough fine measurements or specific drawing tools. I used Star Office, which turned into Open Office for perhaps a couple years or so, on and off. All the time I kept looking for some software that would have the right features to make manual layouts easier. Eventually I found out about TurboCAD and bought it when it was on sale. It seems like a great software, it has a lot of features that were missing in Publisher and in Open Office. However it uses a whole different terminology than what I'm use do and it is a lot to wrap one's mind around. It also takes a lot to set up. It took me a couple years (on and off) to finally begin to understand it enough to use it pretty frequently. After some time I left Open Office a few years ago because it was a little clunky to use and it just wasn't printing out larger documents very well. For perhaps a couple years I used TurboCAD almost exclusively. Using TurboCAD helped me to learn some better ways to do layouts. However, since I had to buy it, I couldn't use it on both my laptop and my desktop. And it was complicated. I still wanted something simpler. I wanted to find something that other upholsterers could also use. TurboCAD was just too complicated to fill answer that desire.

I finally decided to go back and give another try to OpenOffice/LibreOffice. Because of LibreOffice has some improved features that Open Office didn't have, I decided to go with it instead. After having used LibreOffice for the last year or two I have mostly, kind of, settled on using LibreOffice Draw for now. LibreOffice is a fork of Open Office, so those two would be very similar in how they work. In LibreOffice (and maybe also in OpenOffice) the print out problem with large sheets has been fixed, and it does a fairly good job at print out cutting layouts. They have improved LibreOffice enough, and now I understand it better, that using it for making cutting layouts is going pretty well.

In some ways you might say that I'm kind of a software junkie. One thing I do a lot of is testing and experimenting with software.  Over the years I've done a lot of changing settings, looking through the help systems, trying to see if there is anything that I can change, or learn to do differently, to make the software better meet my needs. Sometimes I find settings that make things go better, sometimes I just learn to do things differently, and if neither of those two works, sometimes I just learn to make do with what the software will do, at the time. But I never quit trying to find a better solution, all the while I am using the software.

About the Tutorial
I say all this say that I think I've learned how to do cutting layouts on LibreOffice well enough to try to also teach others how to do it. While the methods I've learned may not be idea for all people in all circumstances, I think that it will work fairly well in most circumstances. So I just want to let you know that I've been writing a tutorial about using the Draw module of Libre Office for making Cutting Layouts for upholstery, which probably also may apply to Open Office Draw.

 The first draft of Part one of the tutorial (setting up the software to use for cutting layouts) is here: Setting Up LibreOffice to make cutting layouts.. For any of you computer types who use OpenOffice OR LibreOffice who are brave enough, could you do a test run on the tutorial and see if it all makes sense to you? Are there any parts that are hard to understand or that needs revision? Thanks,

Eventually I want to make Part 2 of the tutorial, which will go step by step in making a cutting layout. I don't have time to work on Part 2 right now, but Part 1 is at least a beginning.
Best Wishes,
Stephen
« : October 08, 2012, 10:01:24 AM Stephen »

scott_san_diego
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« #1 : October 08, 2012, 11:04:22 AM »

Stephen,
I find it interesting you are taking this approach.  But am having a hard time trying to figure out the benefit versus time?
Are you making paper templates with a plotter to draw this out.
A second business I have is a sign business.  Putting names on boats and other signage.
The software for doing signs is very user friendly and easy to use.  The program I use is called Fexi sign Plus.  It allows you to use a plotter that cuts the vinyl and if you want to make a template you change the blade out and put a pen in and use paper to draw the letters.
There are also other programs that you can download for free and use.  Just thought I would toss that out there for you to look at.

Scott
Stephen
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« #2 : October 08, 2012, 11:32:01 AM »

Scott,
How expensive is Flexi Sign Plus? Do use it to create layouts for upholstery? What are the other free programs that you mentioned and where can someone find them?
How do you figure you where you will cut each piece on your fabric? Or do you even make a cutting layout. I know that some people just use the old cover to make a pattern.

What I'm doing is nothing as elaborate as I image Flexi Sign to be. Here is a sample of one of my recent cutting layouts

(Click on the picture to see a large picture.)

With my method, I measure all the pieces on the furniture and make a list like this:
IA   32w X 25 h    2 pcs
OA  33 w X 16 h   2 pcs
F Deck 38 W X  15 h  1 pc
etc.

Using those measurements I create the layout of rectangles on the computer, as shown in the above picture.

You asked about the benefit versus time. Yes, it takes time, but anything that you do to figure out where to cut the fabric takes time. One of the biggest benefits is the peace of mind I have in having all my cuts planned in advance. To me, the peace it gives me is worth far more than any little extra time it might take. I hate the uncertainty and stress that I felt when cutting a job and not knowing if there is enough fabric until everything is cut. I hate the feeling of knowing that if I cut the wrong pieces in the wrong places, it might be the difference between having enough fabric or not having enough. Using my method I know whether or not I have enough fabric for the job before I even take the furniture apart. (So I rarely ever have to put aside a job while I rush in some more fabric to finish the job.) I also have a cutting plan that tells me when to cut which piece.

I'm always open to a better way, if you have some better way, tell me about it. But I will never go back to not having a cutting layout. And making a pen and paper cutting layout is far too troublesome for me. Have you ever tried to readjust a cutting layout that you've drawn on paper? On the computer it is very easy to just move around your cuts until you have it the way you want it.

Best Wishes,
Stephen
« : October 08, 2012, 12:06:22 PM Stephen »

scott_san_diego
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« #3 : October 08, 2012, 01:28:52 PM »

I do not use Flexi Sign to do cutting layout or any layout for uphostery. 
I just mentioned the sign cutting softeware for another option you might look into.  It is very easy softeware to work with.  I would just do a google search for free sign cutting softeware.

How do you handle pattern matching?

Like I said before, what you are doing is an interesting concept, and somethin that the big furniture manufactures and factories have been using for a while, and have taken it a step further having machines that can cut through 20 layers or more of fabric if you are doing production of the same piece of furniture.
Stephen
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« #4 : October 08, 2012, 02:44:50 PM »

I do not use Flexi Sign to do cutting layout or any layout for uphostery.  
If you don't use it to do layouts in upholstery, then why did you bring it up? What do you do for cutting layouts in upholstery? How do you determine where to cut the fabric in upholstery?

How do you handle pattern matching?
It would take more to explain that than I have time for right. But just to give some glimpses of some pieces that I have matched, look here and here and here. Also, here is the beginning section of a video I shot (but haven't yet edited yet) about matching plaids.

Like I said before, what you are doing is an interesting concept, and somethin that the big furniture manufactures and factories have been using for a while, and have taken it a step further having machines that can cut through 20 layers or more of fabric if you are doing production of the same piece of furniture.
Just a note, we have discussed the concept of automatic layout software before here: Nesting Software.

You might realize that a little one-man shop like me doesn't have the funds to purchase multiple thousand dollar software like the furniture manufacturers use. They can spread the cost of buying the software and doing the initial cutting layouts over at least dozens, hundreds, or thousands of furniture. So the cost of the software and layout per furniture piece is very little when spread over so many pieces of furniture. Also, the manufacturer is the one who chooses the fabrics that they will use, and (unless they have software that  automatically figures out the layout and take into account the fabric patterns) they set up the layout for each particular layout. In any case, the cost is way beyond reach of a one man home business upholsterer. No one is going to make such an elaborate software and just give it away for free, or very inexpensively, to an average Joe like me. In addition, the average upholsterer has a lot more and a huger variety of furniture styles and fabrics and fabric patterns to deal with than any manufacturer. Besides that, I question whether the software that manufacturers use would handle the wide variety and complexity that the average upholsterer has to work with. And then to sell the software at a price that the average upholsterer can afford. From my experience, there are just a minority of upholsterers who are proficient with computers who might buy such a software.

I have been using computerized equipment (including a computerized photo-setter) since the mid 70's. I finally got my first personal computer in 1986. Over the years I have downloaded and tried out hundreds of software and put them each to the test. I am very fussy about how software works. I like using good quality software. I easily get bored with junk software.

As I said in the first message, I've been doing cutting layouts on the computer for a number of years. During much of this time I've done a lot of looking to find better or more automatic software for doing layouts. I haven't found anything that seems more automatic that within my budget. I'd love to find some software that automatically does every part of the cutting layout for me, including pattern matching. Oh well, as long as I'm dreaming, in addition to doing the layout, I'd love to take some pictures of the fabric and the furniture, feed them into the software so that the software could show me  3D images of the furniture on my computer screen and where it would place the pattern on every part. In addition to that, I'd like it to allow me to adjust the placement of the pattern on each piece on the computer screen.

Now, getting back to reality, although it's not perfect, the way that I'm doing works for me. If someone who is actually using a fabric cutting layout software can recommend it himself, then I'll attentively listen to him. I'm not going to run after some software that "might" work or that is super expensive. Right now, what I am doing is working adequately and I'm sharing the process with others. I'd also love to hear from anyone who is actually using other software that works for them.

Best Wishes,
Stephen
« : October 08, 2012, 04:29:38 PM Stephen »

scott_san_diego
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« #5 : October 08, 2012, 06:27:54 PM »

Like I said before I do not use any programs to do my layouts.  I do it the old fashion way.  Figure out the sizes that are needed for each piece of furniture and then make my cuts.

Sorry if I misled you into thinking that I also use a computer to do the layout of the fabric.  That was not my intention.

Scott
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« #6 : October 08, 2012, 07:41:52 PM »

  I consider myself a decent cutter. Both in speed and fabric layout. In Stephen's link to a discussion elsewhere I chimed in about a computer program I have used on occasion when I have many pieces to cut that are hard to layout in my head. Actually I use to use it in building cabinets. But it also works for fabrics (no patterns). Example would be 40 pieces of furniture all the same and all out of the same fabric. Having the computer layout theses types of cut lists is helpful.
  Doing this in a drawing program seems to be an awful waste of time. If you're cutting a sofa for example, measure, cut and figure in your head the pieces that will cut alongside of another. It isn't all that hard once you do it for awhile.
  This reminds me of my math skills. As a youngster I could add subtract, multiply and divide most simple problems. Then came the calculator. Now I can't do it in my head anymore. Well not as well. We sometimes come to rely on machines when unnecessary and don't use our brains as we should. Sometimes it is for the good and sometimes it is not. In my opinion this is one time it is not unless called for in rare instances. Like my above example.
 
 

Paul
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kodydog
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« #7 : October 08, 2012, 08:28:12 PM »

In my younger life I worked as a draftsman for an engineering company. When I started cutting patterns for upholstery it was natural for me to always take time to draw a pattern first. I've also used Autocad but found I can sketch a pattern by hand in 10 mins where on the computer would take me 20. The 10 minutes it takes to draw a pattern is the best use of time over the entire job. I can tell to the inch if I have enough fabric to finish the job. Also there has been more than one time the boss has given me fabric thinking there may not be enough. A quick sketch, rearranging the pieces as needed has often saved that dreaded phone call telling the customer we need more fabric. Sometimes the boss questions the need and time of sketching a diagram but when I explain that I'm saving him fabric, and that once I start cutting the fabric I never have to pause to figure the next cut, he quickly sees my point of view.
One other thing, If I ever get interrupted while cutting, as often happens, I can easily pick up right where I left off by simply looking at my diagram.
« : October 08, 2012, 08:34:19 PM kodydog »

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
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Stephen
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« #8 : October 09, 2012, 01:13:13 AM »

We all have different skills, experiences and talents that equip us to do things one way or another. The trick is to find a way that works for you. It is foolish to try to tell someone else that they have to do it your way because you are good at doing something a particular way.  For example, look at the various ways to do personal finance. Some people just use their checkbook as their finance record keeper. Some people use a paper spreadsheet to hand write in all their figures. Some people use a computer spreadsheet to keep track of all their income and expenses. Others use personal or business finance software, such as Quicken or Quickbooks. We each get the training we need or use what works for us.

In another example some people, like my daughter can see full color picture in her mind, (just like looking at a photograph) and she can also play moving picture, like a video, in her mind. No matter how I have tried, I can't do that. I don't have that ability. But my daughter does.

Some people say that they can organize the cutting of the fabric in their mind. I've never had that ability.

We should each show our own ways of doing things and let whoever values what we say use it. Some will do it this way, some that way, and some yet another way. As long as we are doing our work with skill, honor, and integrity, there is no condemnation in however we do it. The quality of the finished product is one of the determining factor.

I for one choose to do my layouts on the computer. It is what works for me. It is a good option for whoever needs it or wants to try it. To be honest, it takes some set up and training to be able to do it effectively. It will seem slow and clumbsy at first. But with time and practice the skill will come to those who want it. It is a worthy goal to those who desire it.

Best Wishes,
Stephen.
« : October 09, 2012, 01:18:36 AM Stephen »

Rich
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« #9 : October 09, 2012, 12:55:04 PM »

Stephen, I see in your sketch that all pieces are rectangular blanks that will probably be trimmed during installation. Do any of these programs you've used allow you to enter an odd-shaped piece as you would expect to have for the faces of a T-cushion?
Thanks,
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
Stephen
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« #10 : October 09, 2012, 02:39:20 PM »

Stephen, I see in your sketch that all pieces are rectangular blanks that will probably be trimmed during installation. Do any of these programs you've used allow you to enter an odd-shaped piece as you would expect to have for the faces of a T-cushion?
Thanks,Rich
Hi Rich,
    Yes, I use a drawing program, which can draw all kinds of shapes. You can use the polygon tool to draw a T-Shape or L-shape drawing. If you wanted to have measurement attached to that shape, you'd have to do attached the measurements manually. In contrast, by using the rectangles that would have been set up with the template, you would just copy the rectangle, resize it, put the ID on it, and it is ready to go. It already has the dimension lines attached. The measurements would automatically change when you change the size of the rectangle.

As I said, you can manually draw the T-cushion shape and manually attach the dimension lines, if you want them.
Here is a sample that I just created:

Best Wishes,
Stephen

Rich
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« #11 : October 09, 2012, 04:36:04 PM »

And if you had an odd shape that didn't conform to any of the tools? Could you draw a fabric piece that had to fit an odd shape with angles and curves?
Thanks,
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
Stephen
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« #12 : October 09, 2012, 09:56:52 PM »

cc
And if you had an odd shape that didn't conform to any of the tools? Could you draw a fabric piece that had to fit an odd shape with angles and curves?
Thanks,
Rich

I'm not sure how practical it would be for a cutting layout, but LibreOffice Draw has lots of drawing tools for making all type of drawings. I made this using the "Curve" tool.

However, for making a cutting layout, it seems like it would be more practical to just do a rectangle of the widest and tallest part of the item, and then finish trimming it to size  on the fabric itself.

Stephen

Rich
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« #13 : October 10, 2012, 06:10:30 AM »

The reason I asked that is b/c it would be very helpful to have a computer file of patterns for recurring work that could be used whenever that particular chair was needed again. I do dental chairs, so I see the same chairs again and again. When I did auto trim work, I made paper patterns for seats and carpets.
Rich

Everything's getting so expensive these days, doesn't anything ever stay at the same price? Well the price for reupholstery hasn't changed much in years!
Stephen
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« #14 : October 10, 2012, 09:43:03 AM »

Oh, that makes sense. For the cutting layout diagrams, I generally work with a scale of 1:20 so that all the pieces are easier to work with on the screen and most print out on 1 or 2 sheets of paper. But, to make it be an actual pattern, wouldn't it need to be full size? Do you want to be able to just print out the patterns to be able to lay then on the fabric and cut around them? The reason I'm' wondering this is, how else would having layout pieces having the shapes and curves be of any value? Then, if you are printing out the pattern pieces at full size, how many pieces will be in each layout. Will you be printing out all the pieces at full size? Then are you using common letter size (8 1/2 X 11) paper? If so, you'll have a lot of pieces of paper to print out and piece together for the layout. Or will you be using a printer that prints out large sized documents? Anyway, just for reference, the largest page size that LibreOffice will take is 118" X 118". (since I work at a scale of 1:20, that would handle a layout using up to 65 yards of fabric. So the size of my layout has never been a problem.) Anyway those are my thoughts and questions.

Best Wishes,
Stephen
« : October 10, 2012, 10:37:49 AM Stephen »

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