This is something that I often get asked by keen embroiderers. There are so many different ways to transfer a design that I thought I’d share with you my favourite methods.
Tracing using a light pad This is an invaluable piece of kit which is relatively cheap to buy and never fails to perform. It is slightly larger than A4 and works for a design up to A4 in size- don’t forget you can trace smaller and enlarge with a photocopier. The pad itself is very light to carry and slimline so is easy to transport. It has cushioned pads on the back so it doesn’t mark your worktop and stays still when you’re tracing. The pad comes with a USB charger, so you can plug it into a socket or portable charger quite easily. When you touch the button in the corner of the pad the light comes on, brighter with each touch so you choose how bright you need the light. If you are tracing from card which is thick and cannot see the design clearly, turn off the top light or shut the curtain and it will suddenly appear. If you want to trace your design onto a dark fabric just use a white gel pen or pencil, your design will still show through. If tracing onto fabric, you can use a fine pencil, fineliner, water soluble transfer pen or a frixion pen. There is also a free app which you can download onto your iPad called Lightbox Trace which is brilliant. Amazon link to buy and A video to show the product
Good old fashioned masking tape Tape your design onto a window and tape another blank piece of paper or fabric over it. Trace with a pencil, fine liner, frixion pen or water erasable fabric marking pen. Make sure that it is well taped otherwise it will move. This works well with simple designs, your arm will ache if it is an intricate design!
If you are tracing your design onto light fabric you could tape your fabric to a widow or use a light box. I do both but am increasingly using a plastic coated carbon paper as it works so well for bigger designs. The Pelikan 410 paper is more durable than the old type of traditional carbon paper and each sheet can be used several times. (Available HERE)
If tracing your design onto dark fabric, don’t even try to use a widow or light box. Use white graphite paper and go over it with a white gel pen. Obviously the fabric and paper should be taped down onto a hard surface before you begin.
Iron on transfer pen by Sulky This is a great product. All you do is trace over the printed or drawn design with the pen, then turn the image over and iron onto the flat fabric. If you leave the iron on too long, the pen line gets thicker and you may not be able to hide it with embroidery stitches, so experiment first on a piece of scrap materials to test the strength of the ironed on line. If you press lightly and keep pulling up one edge as you iron, you can see how strong the transferred line is. This same piece of paper can be used for a few other pieces of fabric and will continue to transfer but will get lighter each time. I wish I could find this pen in a fineliner, as it would good to have a thinner drawn line. If there is one out there, let me know! Sulky transfer pen
Iron on Transfer pencil by Clover Also a good product. Trace your chosen design onto tracing paper using the pencil. Then set your iron to non steam, place the right side of the tracing onto the right side of the fabric and iron over. It takes a little bit of practise to work out how hard to press with the pencil, and how much to iron, so do practise on scrap fabric first. But gives a reasonably good drawing on the fabric. If it is too faint, just go over some of the faint parts with a pencil or fineliner. I would much rather transfer a faint design than one which is too heavy and will prove difficult to stitch over. Clover transfer Pencil
Clover transfer mesh This was a very exciting discovery. It comes on a roll but I tend to then cut it into squares as I mostly transfer small parts of designs. Place over your design and trace with a pencil. It’s a bit hard to see on the mesh but you will see the design clearly when you place the mesh over a piece of white paper. Place it onto your pale fabric and either hold firmly or use masking tape to secure. With a frixion pen, trace over again and you will transfer a dotted design onto your fabric which you can either stitch onto or draw over again first. This works brilliantly with large outlines but isn’t great if the design is small and complicated. To get the pencil marks off the transfer mesh, just place in the palm of your hand and rub gently with a baby wipe. For some reason it comes off easier in the heat of your hand than flat on the table. Dry and resuse over and over. Clover transfer mesh
A couple of other useful tools are:
A Fabric Eraser– rubs out normal pencil on fabric, really effective
A uni pin fine liner drawing pen. It comes in black, light grey or dark grey and is water and fade proof. The 0.1 fine liner draws a really fine line and you can press your work all the way through with a steam iron without worrying about the line disappearing or smudging.
Freezer Paper– If you are struggling to trace your design onto fabric because the fabric keeps moving, then just iron some freezer paper onto your fabric. It will stick really well and will feel like you are drawing onto paper. Then just peel the paper off afterwards. Problem solved.
And there you have it- A few different ways for you to transfer a design. Happy drawing, happy transferring and happy stitching!