Introduction: All About Patterns
How you use and acquire patterns will really depend on your personal preference. Some folks like using ready made patterns, and some like making their own!
In this lesson I'll show you some great sources for free and paid patterns, as well as how I make my own patterns. I'll also show you my favorite way to transfer patterns onto fabric. :D
How to Find Patterns
I choose to make all my own patterns, but if drawing is not your thing, don't fret! Patterns are everywhere, honestly. In this step, I'll share some of my favorite sources for patterns. :D
I'll also share some additional sources for fonts and design elements, because I know that using pre-made items is easier sometimes!
Sources for Paid Patterns:
- Etsy is a great place to find a fantastic variety of embroidery patterns, both modern and traditional. The patterns there average about $5, so they're really affordable. Plus, it's great to support small businesses! The majority of the patterns on Etsy will be PDF downloads, so you'll be able to get access to them right away. That's pretty great. :)
- Sublime Stitching offers modern embroidery patterns, font packs, border packs and more. I love everything they put out!
Sources for Free Patterns:
- Needle 'N Thread is an amazing website for learning embroidery in general, but it also has a large section of free embroidery patterns. These fall on the more traditional side.
- Needle Crafter also has a huge selection of free patterns. Again, these are less modern overall but could be updated with new colors.
- Pinterest is another great resource. Though it can be a little tricky to find what you want with so many broken links.
- Google image search is one of my favorite ways to find line drawings of objects to embroider. Though you should be careful using this for everything - you don't want to copy and sell someone's work. That's pretty low. I prefer to use the line drawings I find to help me to learn how to draw something on my own.
- DaFont has been around forever and it's the font site I use the most! They have loads of fonts and they're very easy to search through and sort to find what you want.
Paid Fonts + Design Elements
- Creative Market is a lovely site for handmade design elements and fonts! Designers from all over upload their work and the variety and quality is fantastic. You can find great fonts, hand drawn banners and borders, and even more!
How to Transfer Patterns
Transferring patterns is much easier than you think!
There are essentially two ways I transfer patterns to fabric: by pinning the pattern paper to the fabric and tracing or by placing the fabric in a hoop and using the hoop as a tracing frame. I'll go over both of these techniques in the next two steps.
Here's what you'll need to transfer a pattern:
- A lightbox of some sort. This can be a window in your house, a clear plastic container with lights inside, or a tracing tablet like the one I'm using.
- Your pattern printed or drawn on a piece of paper
- A water soluble pen
- Sewing pins
- The fabric you want to embroider on
- An embroidery hoop
- Scotch tape if you'll be using a window to transfer your embroideries
Transferring the Pattern by Pinning
First, lay your pattern down, with the ink facing up. Place your piece of fabric over the pattern and center the pattern as well as you can.
Now, you'll want to pin the fabric to the paper. Pin the right side, and then smooth the fabric away from the pin and to the left with your hand. Don't pull the fabric to the left, just make sure it's laying completely flat. Then you can put a pin in the right side.
Repeat with the top and bottom.
If you pull the fabric too tight, the paper will begin to bend. If this happens, remove the pins and try again.
Depending on the complexity of your embroidery, you may want to add more pins to keep the fabric from moving as you draw out the pattern.
Once the fabric and paper are pinned together, you'll transfer them to your lightbox and trace.
Use a light hand while tracing! You may also want to use your other hand to hold the fabric in place where you're tracing.
Here's the finished pattern transfer! As you can see, I used a much thicker pen this time. (The brand is Wrights)
Here's a comparison of the two transfer pens.
Transferring Patterns by Hoop Tracing
This is a great method to use if the lines in your embroidery pattern are very delicate, or if the pattern is super detailed. Because the fabric is not able to move at all, you'll have incredibly precise tracing!
First, insert your fabric into the hoop and make sure it's centered and tight. If you're using a window to trace, tape your paper pattern to the window in a spot that's a comfortable height. If you're using a lightbox or tablet, just lay the paper pattern on top of it.
Flip the hoop over and place the flat side of the fabric against the pattern on your lightbox.
Use a light hand and trace the pattern. Use your other hand to hold the hoop in place. If you're using a flat surface to trace, putting pressure on the hoop will keep the paper pattern in place.
Rotating is okay as long as you ensure the pattern and fabric stay lined up! I rotate constantly while tracing and inking my patterns because pulling the pen towards you is MUCH easier than pushing it away. You'll get smoother lines pulling the pen to you.
Once the pattern is copied, you're ready to start embroidering! It's totally fine to embroider with the hoop assembled this way, but you can also remove the fabric and rotate the hoop if it bothers you.
As you can see, I've used a very fine pen (Clover is the brand) to trace this pattern. It's hard to see in bright photos, but it's perfectly easy to see in good lighting in person. :)
How to Make Your Own Patterns
I make all my own patterns the old school way - completely by hand. I am 100% useless when it comes to drawing and designing on a computer so I prefer to stick to what I know. :D
Making your own patterns is surprisingly easy and requires only basic equipment!
To illustrate this, I documented the making of my Dream Design Make pattern. This pattern was pretty complicated because of all the individual elements and the fact that I wanted to do both print and cursive text. I would say it took around 8 hours to design this one, but most are much quicker!
What you'll need to make your own patterns:
- Standard size printer paper (8.5 x 11 inches)
- Lightbox or light tablet for tracing
- Regular or mechanical pencils, depending on your preference
- A good rubber or vinyl eraser
- Clear sewing rulers
- Felt tipped pens of choice - I like the PaperMate Flair pens
- Scanner/printer - I have the HP 4500 and love it
And that's it! I really only use the scanner and printer for resizing and digitizing my patterns, so that's not something you'll need right from the beginning. You can definitely freehand your designs at first. :)
I create all my pattern drawings on standard printer paper because it's a great thickness and smoothness for this and very inexpensive. Printer paper is also quite translucent when held to light, which will allow you to easily trace designs.
Printer paper will also hold up to pinning the paper against fabric when transferring patterns.
Use Your Hoop or Rulers to Draw the Embroidery Design Area
If you're designing for a hoop, trace the inner hoop of whichever size hoop you're using. Otherwise, use your rulers to draw a box on the paper (for example: 4x6, 5x7, 8x10) that your design will need to fit into.
Focus on the Border First
If you're going to have a border on your hoop, add it first. This will allow you to avoid resizing all the other elements later if the border won't fit.
To add an easy border, trace the next hoop size down into the center of your original hoop's circle. For example, if I'm using an 8 inch hoop for my pattern design, I could trace the inner hoop of a 6 or 7 inch hoop inside it for a perfectly sized border template.
You also aren't limited to a circular border - experiment with adding borders on the left and right only, or maybe just at the bottom of the design. Use straight rulers to make sure your borders are even.
Draw Individual Elements Separately
You don't have to draw everything at once, and it does not have to be perfect in every way. I like to draw a rough sketch of the design to get an idea about how things should be sized. Then I individually draw the elements: the text, the illustrations, any borders.
Use your rulers to draw little boxes or lines to allow you to make your drawings and text straight and in the right scale.
Use a Lightbox to Get Your Elements in the Right Place
Once you've got all the individual elements looking good, you can start to figure out where to put them using the lightbox. This is the easiest way to figure out how you want the final elements laid out without lots of tracing.
If you have a particular element you really like, or you want to use a base for centering everything else, trace that part of the pattern onto a clean white sheet of paper. Trace the size hoop you're working with after, centering the initial design as needed.
Then you can begin placing the rest of the elements and tracing them with pencil as you finalize the layout.
Once that's all done, trace over the pencil with regular or felt tipped black pen and erase the pencil marks.
Trace a Final Pattern and Then Scan
After I've gone through all the work of making a pattern, I like to center the pattern on a new piece of printer paper and trace one more time. This gives me a much nicer looking pattern since the lines will be cleaner.
After that, I like to scan my pattern. I use Image Capture on my Macbook for scanning.
I scan at 600 dpi and in black and white. I choose to save my scans as .jpeg files, but you could do a .pdf file instead.
Make sure that the WHOLE page is being scanned, not just the part of the page with the image. Scanning and storing your pattern at the 8.5x11 inch size will ensure your pattern is always the right size if you scale it at 100% and print.