Introduction: Laser Etched Fleece Scarf by Jeff and Therese Forbes
Fleece fabric is wonderfully soft and comes in a dazzling array of colors and patterns. A plain piece of fleece will make a warm and functional scarf; however, personalizing your fleece scarf with a laser engraver makes the scarf both a winter necessity and a fashion statement.
Step 1: Collect Your Tools and Materials
To make a laser etched scarf, you will need fleece fabric and thread to finish the edge. We purchased a yard of blue/green fleece and gold colored thread to give a nice contrast on the edges. To cut the fabric to size, a roller cutter, cutting mat, straight edge, and a square are needed. To finish the edge, a sewing machine that can make edging stitches or a serge machine is required. We used a vintage Bernina Model 1230 ca. 1988. One could finish the edge by hand, but it would be a tedious task and the machine created stitch is likely to look better. To etch the design, a laser engraver is needed. Fleece is very easy to engrave, since the fine polyester fibers on the face of the fabric take little laser power to knock down and show a high contrast image. We used a Glowforge Pro laser cutter/engraver to add a design to the scarf.
Step 2: Cut the Rectangle for Your Scarf
When you purchase fabric, the sales associate will cut you length of cloth off of the bolt with scissors. This will leave an uneven edge and the scarf will look best with a clean, straight edge. The fabric use in this project was 60" wide when it is unfolded. That length is difficult to cut, since a roller cutter should be used on a plastic cutting surface and 60" is too long for typical cutting surfaces. It is better to use the fabric folded once as purchased. To get a square, straight edge, use a square on the folded edge and then position a suitably long straight edge on the fabric to cut the full length.
Hold the straight edge firmly while minding that your fingers are not in the path of the roller cutter. A sharp blade is necessary for cutting through two layers of fleece and will also readily cut your fingers.
After the first cut, position the straight edge 9" from the cut edge to make a 9" wide scarf.
Make the second cut. For this cut you want to make sure that the blade stays along the straight edge, since scarf is now not protected by the straight edge.
Finally, cut about 1" from each end to remove the rough finish from the manufacturing process. Align one of the long edges along the grid on your cutting surface, and then align your straight edge orthogonal to the long edge. Cut the rough end off while minding your fingers.
Step 3: Engrave Your Scarf
We wanted to engrave our scarf with a Celtic knot motif. Celtic knot snowflake clip art was traced with Inkscape to create a vector version of the snowflake. For configuring the engraving, guide rectangles were drawn with a width of 9" (the width of the scarf), 8.33" (to give a .333" margin on each side ) and 7" ( to center the large snowflake). The guide rectangle must be a different color from the image to be engraved so that the Glowforge can be told to ignore those designs. The first photograph shows the Glowforge graphical user interface (GUI). The faint blue/grey rectangle in the center of the image is the scarf material. The 9" guide rectangle is placed on the top and side edges of the scarf image for locating the engraving. The engraving parameters were set at a power level of 8% and an engraving speed of 1000. The GUI allows you move individual parts around as well as remove, duplicate and resize parts of the image. We prefer to make the final image in Inkscape so that there is a copy of the artwork that can be readily used elsewhere.
The Glowforge Pro model has a pass through slot that allows long pieces of wood or plastic to be cut. Here we are using the pass through feature to just have the portion of the long piece of fabric that will be engraved inside of the machine. The pass through slot is just that and the material cannot be pulled back easily.
To ensure that the material does not move during the engraving process, it should be held down. Here we are using pins that fit snugly into the honeycomb cutting surface. The honeycomb cutting surface in the Glowforge is steel and NdFeB magnets also work well for holding down materials to be cut or etched.
The engraving process goes line by line, so it is a slow process. With such a low power and high speed, there is little chance of the material catching on fire. Go have a beverage or create your next design!
Step 4: Finish the Edge of the Scarf
On the Bernina 1230 machine, we used foot #2 and stitch #9 with the longest width setting. Load the bobbin and the machine with desired color and type of thread. Use a fully loaded bobbin so that you do not run out while edging the scarf. Thread the needle. There are other Instructables on the basics of sewing machine operation. The machine pulls the fabric past the needle at the required rate for the stitch. The operator guides the fabric so that the edge stays at the end of the tab in front of the needle.
At this position, the needle goes past the edge of the fabric and the stitch wraps around the edge of the fabric. A seen in the fabric leaving the sewing area.
Creating a corner is done by stopping near the end of the edge and then rotating the workpiece and continuing the stitching.
The next photo shows the detail of the engraving and the corner of the scarf.
The closeup of the edge stitching shows how the thread wraps around the edge of the fabric. Looks good and is functional as well.
Step 5: Enjoy Your Custom Engraved Scarf
Stay warm and protected from the cold wind.