5 Simple Ways to Transfer Embroidery Designs

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

If you're into embroidery ( and you should be !), the Internet is chock full of amazing patterns and designs, just waiting for your needle and thread. Don't let the question of how to get that pattern onto you fabric deter you: there are plenty of simple methods that will get you stitching in no time.

1. Heat transfer

Iron-on transfers are easy and quick for placing a pattern on fabric. But that won't help you if your pattern of choice is not already in heat-transfer form. The solution? Heat transfer pens .

How to do it

If you have the option to print your pattern in reverse, do it. Then, trace directly on the lines of the pattern with a heat transfer pencil or pen. Place the transfer ink-side-down onto the right side of your fabric, and hit it with the iron (following the manufacturer's directions, of course!). The pattern will transfer to the fabric after a few seconds under the iron.

Can't print in reverse? You can still use this method! Flip the paper with your design over, and trace the design onto the back side of the paper using a heat transfer pencil or pen. You've got your pattern reversed and are ready to press it in place.

2. Let there be light

So you want something easier than special transfer pens: we get it. Another option (actually my favorite option) is to use light. This technique requires a healthy dose of sunlight or a light box to work. I use a water-soluble pen to transfer the design over — that way it's easy to remove the lines from the fabric when you're done stitching.

How to do it

To use daylight, find a window that receives a solid amount sunlight. Tape the pattern to the window, and tape the fabric over the pattern. Simply trace over each pattern line marking directly on your fabric.

Using a light box works similarly to taping to a window, but is not a slave to time of day or weather (I'm not the only one who just has to start a new project around midnight, right???). Tape the pattern to your light box, tape the fabric over that and trace away with your water-soluble pen .

3. Carbon paper

The carbon paper method gets cred points for being a little retro: When I first learned to embroider, this is the method my grandmother taught me. Carbon transfer paper is available at fabric and most craft stores. One side is colored, the other side is blank.

How to do it

Place the colored carbon side of the transfer paper onto the right side of your fabric. Place the pattern on top of the carbon paper. Use a ballpoint pen to trace each line. You may have to go over the lines more than once. Warning; if you apply too much pressure the pen may push through the paper, potentially marking or staining the fabric. So take it easy!

4. Printer ink

Laser printers have a handy secret: their ink can be transferred with an iron. While this is an easy method, there is a caveat: the transfer can be a little light. Test this method out and see if it works for you.

Some people do print directly on their fabric by running it through the printer. Just know that this will leave a permanent line on the fabric that your stitches may or may not cover.

5. Pattern transfer paper

There's a relatively new product on the scene, which also works well: meet Sulky Sticky Fabri-Solvy . This transfer paper can go through a computer printer, adheres to the fabric and dissolves away when submerged in water. It's a super easy and super effective method, but can be a little pricey. 

So, which method should try? Try them all! You do you, friends.

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5 Simple Ways to Transfer Embroidery Designs