Before I was blessed with a light box, I used this method. It works quite well.
You’ll need a couple of things to make this happen.
Second thing on the list is a sheet of plexiglass (also known as acrylic). You can get a sheet of plexiglass from pretty much any hardware store, in a variety of pre-cut sizes and thicknesses. For my setup, I got a piece of 1/4-inch (0.25 inches or about 6 mm), measuring 18×24 inches. Thicker is better for you want the acrylic sheet to maintain some rigidity as it spans that gap. Bear in mind that you’ll be resting the weight of not only the fabric but also your forearms on this piece of plexiglass, so purchase the thickest sheet you can find. Also, I found the 24-inch width more than adequate in my setup.
A third item I’ve added since I first published this tutorial is a bit of shelf liner. You’ll want to cut a couple of long, thin strips (aobut 2 inches wide) on which to rest either end of your plexiglass. This will help keep the setup in place.
Fourth and finally, you’ll need a light source. A table lamp with a nice bright bulb will do the trick. For those of us who remember the days before the rise of
LED lights, that would be something in the range of a 60W incandescent, or better. Just don’t put “too big” a bulb your light. If you decide to modernize your
setup with a LED light solution, you’ll need at least 1,000 lumen of output, which means you’d be looking at a modern shop light. Steal your hubby’s when he’s not looking, he’ll never notice. 😉
Note: Modern LED lights operate much cooler and hence safer than conventional incandescent bulbs. As such, it’s possible to the light closer to underside of your plexiglass, should you need the light to be more intense.
Once you have your table (or boxes) staged, place the shelf liner strips along the edges and your plexiglass sheet on top, to bridge the opening.
Set your lamp (or light source) under the glass and you are ready to go!
Lay your template and fabric on the plexiglass and turn on the light. Now you can see your template through your fabric.
And here’s the beauty of this solution. When your done using it, put the lamp back where you found it and slide the plexiglass inside a closet or behind a cabinet, ‘til next time. You do it all while your hubby’s sleeping on the couch and he’s never the wiser, although he might start asking what happened to his shop light. Of course, if you should find yourself leaving it up all the time, your hubby will gladly take you to your favorite fabric or craft store to pick out a proper light box to stage in your studio, eventually. Of course, if he never ask about his missing shop light, there’s no need to mention it.
“Hide not your talents. They for use were made. What’s a sundial in the shade?”
– Ben Franklin