5 Simple Ways to Transfer Embroidery Designs

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Fact: the internet is chock full of embroidery patterns and designs that are just waiting for your needle and thread. But, uh, how exactly do you get them onto your fabric? With one of these simple methods, of course.

1. Iron-On Transfer Paper

Laser printers have a handy secret: their ink can be transferred with an iron! Following the package instructions, simply print the pattern onto iron-on transfer paper — do this in reverse, since the pressing process creates a mirror image of the design. Place the paper onto the right side of your fabric and iron. In just a few seconds, the pattern will transfer over to the fabric.

Side note: the transfer can be a little light when you use this method, so test on a piece of scrap fabric to make sure it's going to work well. If the pattern lines need to be more prominent, you can also use photo fabric, which you run directly through the printer before stitching.

2. Heat Transfer Pens and Pencils

If you want to iron-on your transfer but don't already have it in heat-transfer form, you can also use a trusty iron-on transfer pen or pencil .

First, print your pattern onto paper (again, do this in reverse). Trace directly over the pattern lines with your transfer pen.

Place the paper ink-side down onto the right side of your fabric. Hit it with the iron, following the pen manufacturer's instructions.

Side note: If you can't print your pattern in reverse, don't freak: simply flip the paper with your design over, then trace it onto the back side of the paper using the iron-on transfer pen. Then your pattern will be reversed and ready to press onto fabric.

3. Light Transfer

If you've got a healthy dose of sunlight — or a handy light box — you can transfer embroidery patterns. First, tape your pattern to the light box or a window that gets a solid amount of sunlight. Tape your fabric over the pattern and, using a water-soluble pen (so the lines erase with a quick dab of water), trace over your pattern lines.

4. Carbon Paper

The carbon paper method may be old-school, but it works like a charm. Available at most fabric and craft stores (and sometimes labeled as embroidery tracing paper), carbon transfer paper is colored on one side; blank on the other.

Place the colored side (that's where all the carbon is) onto the right side of your fabric. Place the pattern on top of the carbon paper. Trace over your pattern lines with a ballpoint pen or a tracing wheel . Note: While you want to press firmly (so you don't have to go over the lines a bunch), you don't want to press so hard that you push through the paper. Balance is key!

5. Printable Wash-Away Transfer

Instead of printing a pattern and then tracing and transferring, you can skip a few steps with this sticky material. Start by printing your pattern directly onto the specialty sheet, then place it sticky-side down onto your fabric. It'll adhere to your fabric, which in turn acts as a stabilizer while you stitch.

When you're done stitching, submerge your project in water and — voila! — the transfer paper miraculously disappears.

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