How to Transfer Embroideries




Introduction: How to Transfer Embroideries

About: I'm a community manager here at instructables! Mountain hermit by day, stitch witch at night. Not a fan of social media, but sometimes you can find me on Twitter at @makingjiggy ^_^

Transferring an embroidery pattern can seem complicated, but it's actually super easy. :D

In this instructable, I'll show you my two favorite methods for transferring embroidery patterns to fabric!

One method involves pinning your pattern to the fabric and one involves stretching your fabric in the hoop and then tracing the pattern.

It should be noted that I don't like to embroider on dark fabric typically, and these methods aren't great on dark fabric. If you are working with dark fabric, you can try sketching your design with tailor's chalk or a light colored pencil. You can also apply a fabric stabilizer and draw your design out on that, but I find stabilizers really hard to stitch through - beware sore fingers if you use this method!

Step 1: What You'll Need:

    • regular printer paper
    • fabric of choice
    • a water soluble pen
    • tape
    • sewing pins
    • embroidery hoop
    • your pattern
    • a lightbox of some sort - can even be your window! I'm using a thin tracing lightbox I got on Amazon, but I previously used a plastic paper container with some push lights in it. :P

      Water soluble pens are the way to go for pattern transfer as far as I'm concerned! They are easy to work with and the only problems I've ever had with them came about because I did the wrong thing. The only thing you need to be careful about is washing out the ink completely before you iron your work or apply heat of any sort.

      How to Remove Water Soluble Ink

      To wash out the ink from a water soluble pen, just run the embroidery under cool water for a minute or so until the lines disappear. You can also fill a bowl with cool water and swish the embroidery around.

      Don't expect to be able to "dab" at the embroidery with a sponge or wet cloth - in my experience the ink just bleeds instead of disappears. It needs to be rinsed out.

      About Air Soluble Pens

      Air soluble pens are unpredictable and quite grumpy. Sometimes the marks you make fade within a half hour, and sometimes they never come out. I have learned to avoid them the hard way several times. :P

      Step 2: Print Your Embroidery or Draw It Out

      Either print out an embroidery pattern or draw it yourself!

      If you're drawing it yourself, it's helpful to give yourself some guidelines. I'll often draw a box or trace an embroidery hoop on the paper to know where my borders are.

      I always start with a pencil and work with it until I feel good about the design. Then I'll go over it in a thicker marker or pen. Once I've gone over it with the marker, I go back and erase any stray pencil marks. You don't want to get pencil all over your fabric!

      If you've printed out a pattern and it's got thin lines, going over them with marker will make things go a little easier when you transfer the pattern. The darker and thicker your lines are, the easier it'll be to copy!

      Step 3: Transferring Embroidery Patterns by Pinning

      This is the most common way I transfer embroideries.

      Take the fabric you're using and pin it to the paper your embroidery is on. Try to get it as flat as possible. I usually do one pin per side, that's enough to keep it from shifting too much. You can add more pins if you're worried about it shifting!

      Place the pinned fabric and paper on whatever lightbox you're using.

      Hold the fabric in place and trace the design using a water soluble pen. Try to use as light a hand as you can - if you go crazy it's just more you've got to wash out later!

      Step 4: Transferring Embroidery Patterns by Hoop

      This is especially good for embroideries with lots of little lines - anything delicate!

      Hoop the fabric you want to put the pattern on. Make sure the fabric is really taut in the hoop for best results when tracing!

      Lay the pattern down, and then place the hooped fabric over it, flat side down.

      Hold the hoop down onto the pattern with one hand and trace with the other. Rotate the hoop as needed to make it easier to draw the pattern.

      You can stitch with the hoop in this configuration, or you can remove the fabric and reverse it - it all depends on how you embroider!

      Step 5: Other Tips for Transferring Patterns

      Lightboxes are Everywhere!

      As I said on the materials step, if you don't have a fancy lightbox, you can use your windows on a sunny day, your computer screen turned to full brightness, or even a plastic container with some push lights in it!

      I tend to tape my pattern and fabric to the window if I go that way, just so it's a little easier to control!

      If I use my computer screen as a lightbox, I also use just a little scotch tape to keep the fabric in place. :)

      The Best Water Soluble Pens

      This Wrights pen is my favorite for thick, dark blue lines. Clover makes a great fine point pen with much lighter blue ink.

      Make sure to store them tip down and always close them after using so they don't dry out on you!

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        6 years ago

        I'm just getting started, so I find your page so helpful. I'm wondering how to transfer embroidered fabric onto a pillow. I thought I saw it on your site once, but now I can't find it.

        Thank you!!!


        9 years ago on Introduction

        Thank you so much Jessy for all your tutorials on embroidery they have been very helpful and I love this Hobbit pattern. This will be my first pattern that I try my hand at, wish me luck!


        10 years ago on Introduction

        Thanks- brilliant idea- you are awarded the Golden Clever Clogs Award!


        I have another couple options for embroidery pattern transfers...

        I'll post an instructable on my most recent one soon, hopefully. I told Scooch about a previous concept...


        10 years ago on Introduction

        I like your transfer options 2 and 3. These are clever ways of making do without a lighted box. I wish I thought of that!

        If you draw with a ball point pen on cotton fabric you can erase the ink with rubbing alcohol ( no friction needed, just a good soak).


        Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

        I had no idea! That's so fancy - I'm going to try that soon. :D