How to Transfer Embroidery Patterns: Fast, Easy Tricks to Get Started

You finally found it – the perfect image to stitch. You have the colors picked out, the perfect fabric, hoop, and you’re ready to go. So, you try to sketch out your idea on your fabric, and you realize that your artistic talent doesn’t lie in drawing.  Well, welcome to the lives of many of us who are in the same boat! Luckily, there are great techniques to get your Pinterest inspiration onto the fabric. Check out these easy, no-fuss methods to get your patterns stitch-ready in no time!

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This method works best if your fabric is white or light in color. Print out your design, or trace it from wherever you found it with a black marker. Then (after it’s dry, of course), tape it to a sunny window. Place your fabric over it, and tape that up too! Finally, trace over the design with a pencil or a water soluble marker. Easy peasy! If you don’t have an easily-accessible window, or (like me) your arms get tired really…shamefully easily, you can use a lamp under a picture frame, or a lightbox. This one is inexpensive and fabulously easy to use.

Carbon Paper

Carbon paper has been around for a long time, and it still works just fine for embroidery transfer. It can be found at most arts and craft stores and is sometimes called embroidery paper. Simply place the colored side down onto your fabric and lay the pattern on top of it. Then, trace the pattern! You can use either a ballpoint pen or a tracing wheel. Avoid using pencils or markers – as you don’t want to poke through the paper, and markers won’t leave enough of a line. Press firmly, but not so hard that you puncture the paper.


Iron-On Transfer Paper

One of the best things about laser printers is that they can function as transfer ink printers! One of the easiest ways to transfer patterns is to print them onto iron-on transfer paper. It should be done in reverse since when you iron, you’ll be creating a mirror image. Put the paper onto the right side of your fabric, and iron. Do not use steam! In a few seconds, the image will transfer to the fabric. You can sometimes get a very light image doing this, so I recommend a test to ensure that it’s going to show up on your fabric. There are also transfer papers for dark fabrics. 

Heat Transfer Pens and Pencils

Dangit! You ran out of iron-on paper! All is well – use a heat transfer pen or pencil! Print your pattern onto paper like above, but this time, run over the lines with a heat transfer pen or pencil. Then, lay it pen/pencil side down onto the right side of your fabric and iron. Again – avoid the steam! If you aren’t able to print your design in reverse, then hold it up to a window or light source and trace the pattern on the back of the paper. Voila – instant reverse!

Finally, Magic!!

This is seriously magic. There is a product, upon which can be printed your design. Then, simply remove the backing, and stick it to your fabric. It adheres! Stitch your design. THEN! when you’re all finished, simply submerge your whole project into the water, and it disappears.

I don’t know how this witchery happens, but it works, it’s magic, and that’s enough for me! Using this method eliminates the need for tracing or transferring, and is SO easy to use. It’s made by Sulky and is called Sticky Fabri-Solvy.

Yep. That’s its real name, and it’s amazing.

Ready to Stitch?

There are so many beautiful pattern inspirations online, and sometimes it is frustrating not to be able to just recreate them on my own. However, with these methods – it’s sooo much easier. My finished products turn out so much better, and I’m less grumpy. Also, there are fewer erase marks on the fabric! There is one other method that you can use – and it’s a very old one.

It’s called pouncing. Pouncing involves securing the pattern over the fabric and pricking it with a pin, leaving a dotted pattern on the paper. Then, powder is “pounced” through the holes, leaving a dotted pattern on the fabric. These materials are still available at craft stores or online if you’d like to try it.

I hope you’ve found a solution to your transfer problems, and I would love to see some of your patterns or hear about how you’ve transferred your embroidery. Please let me know if you have tips or tricks, or your adventures with embroidery patterns below in the comments.

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