There are several ways to transfer an embroidery pattern, and the “best” way will often depend on your choice of pattern and fabric. Today, I will show you my two favourite ways to transfer an embroidery pattern that work perfectly with pale fabric of a light to medium weight.
Fabric choice could fill an entire blog post on its own, as there are several things you will want to consider when choosing fabric for embroidery. I’ll be honest, I’m not usually too picky about it, and will definitely embroider on whatever suitable scraps I can find. Of course, for bigger, detailed projects, you will want to choose a quality fabric. But in many cases, choosing fabric doesn’t need to be too complicated. Most cottons and linens are suitable for embroidery, and easy to find at your local fabric store or online. I definitely recommend all natural fiber fabrics if possible, and staying away from anything stretchy or knit (unless you’re embroidering on clothing, which could also fill a whole new blog post!). Ideally, you also want the fabric to be closely woven so that your stitches will remain secure.
For the purposes of this tutorial, I will show you two different ways to transfer a pattern. I will be using a piece of off-white cotton muslin for the first method, and whiter, thicker cotton for the second method. Both ways will work with any light-weight or medium-weight cottons and linens that are pale enough to mark with a pencil (or other marking tool of your choice).
Transfer Your Pattern With a Light Source
If you’re new to embroidery or only stitch projects once in a while, a nice clean window and a pencil are all you need to successfully transfer your pattern onto fabric. Nothing fancy needed!
If you’re using your own hand-drawn pattern, I suggest going over it with a pen or fine-line Sharpie to get a darker outline. If you’re using a printed pattern, the outline will already be dark enough to see through the fabric.
1. Tape your pattern directly on the window. I recommend using masking or washi tape, something that’s easy to remove and won’t rip your pattern.
2. Then, center your piece of fabric over the pattern and tape in place.
3. Trace your pattern on your fabric with a mechanical or HB pencil.
Remove everything from the window, and your pattern is successfully transferred!
Notes on Marking Tools:
There are several different marking tools that you can use to trace embroidery patterns. My favourite one is the mechanical pencil because I’ve found it’s what gives me the most precise outline. A 0.5mm mechanical pencil is ideal for transferring detailed patterns because you can trace very thin lines with it. The downside is that pencil marks are not always easy to remove from fabric, but since the lines are so thin, it’s usually easy to cover them entirely with stitches.
The water-soluble and heat-erasable pen are also widely used for transferring embroidery patterns. I’ve never used the heat-erasable pen, but I love the water-soluble pen. It glides on the fabric much easier than the mechanical pencil, and the markings are easily removed with water. However, the tip is much less precise than a pencil’s, and the markings often reappear even after removing them with water. This makes it rather unsuitable for embroidery pieces that are never washed.
Transferring a Pattern With a Light-Box
The method for transferring a pattern onto fabric with a light-box is essentially the same as with the window. If you’re serious about embroidery and/or do a lot of it, investing in a light-box is really worth it. I got mine for only 17 $ CAD on Amazon and use it all the time! It’s very basic and does nothing but light up when I plug it, but that’s all I need it for. There’s no on/off button, no settings, nothing but a big light that comes on when you plug it. It’s very bright, and very efficient. Unfortunately that specific one is no longer available on Amazon, but I found a similar one, linked for you here.
As with the window method, simply tape your pattern onto the lightbox, and then tape your fabric over the pattern. Turn on the lightbox, trace with a pencil (or other marking tool) and you’re done!
This is a really good alternative to the window and isn’t dependent on daylight, which is nice for wintertime when it’s dark so early in the day!
Interested in this pattern? You can shop it in my Etsy here!
The Reverse Transfer Method
This method is especially useful if you’re using a thicker or broader-weave fabric that is hard to see through with the above methods.
In this case, what you want to do is start with a reverse image of your pattern. Many embroidery pattern PDFs for sale often come with a reverse image of the pattern as well. If you have one included with your pattern, print it to your desired size. If there isn’t one or if you’re using your own pattern, use a piece of tracing paper to create a reverse copy.
- Trace over the reverse image with a pencil. (You definitely want to be using a pencil in this case!)
2. Then, place the pattern good side up over your fabric (so the reverse side is touching the fabric), and go over your pattern again. You can use the pencil again, or a stylus. Don’t worry about being precise, because you’ve already traced the design neatly on the reverse side and that’s what will be transferred!
3. Remove your pattern, and go over any lines that might have come out too pale.
I love this method for thicker fabric that isn’t see-through enough to use a light source!
Interested in this pattern? You can shop it in my Etsy here!
I hope this post was helpful, and don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions at all, I would be happy to help! Darker fabrics and different marking tools will be covered in future blog posts.
What’s your favourite transfer method?
If you enjoyed this post, you might also find these useful:
And if you’re looking for some FREE embroidery patterns, be sure to have a look at my “freebies” tab. There you’ll find all the posts that include free downloadable freebies, such as the “Apple Jelly” jar bonnet pattern, and a charming branch of wisteria. Happy stitching!