Monday, August 9

How to transfer embroidery patterns

This is the second installment of my 'how to' series for beginners, high lighting some ways to transfer embroidery patterns. You can find the first one, about stuff you need when you start embroidering, here.

Iron on patterns

If you are using an iron-on design just follow the instructions that came with it. Be careful not to shift the pattern while you are transferring it to the fabric or you will end up with a blurry image. Note that vintage patterns (like the ones shown in the photo) do not always transfer well. And you may not want to cut into them either. They are so much fun to stitch though and by making a photo copy or scan you can keep them intact and use them as if they were pdf print out patterns. :)

Some vintage iron-on patterns.

Do-it-yourself iron on patterns

Sometimes people use the print out of a (non iron on) pattern itself to transfer, just like it was an iron on. As far as I know this only works with laser printers and it might be a good idea to try it on a scrap of fabric first!  Personally I have not managed to get very clear transfers with this method but it is worth a try.  There are lots of other ways to transfer patterns to fabric though.

Carbon paper

Carbon paper is another option and can especially be helpful when transferring to dark fabrics. You put the carbon paper on top of your fabric and the paper pattern on top of that. By tracing the pattern and thus applying pressure with a pen or a stylus (a special tool that looks a bit like an iron pen) the carbon transfers to the fabric. 

Pens and markers (to transfer home printed patterns or your own designs)

You can also use either a water soluble fabric marker or an iron-on transfer pen or pencil to transfer your pattern. Both are available in craft stores.

Use your window as light box!
The water soluble fabric marker is used to trace designs directly on to the fabric. Ideally you use a light box but a window works fine too (during the day) (see photo above). Lately I have been using and empty clear plastic storage tub turned upside down with a lamp underneath as a 'light box'. (An excellent tip from Bookwormbethie!) Stick the printed pattern to the window or lay it on top of  your light box and put your fabric on top of the print. Trace the design onto your fabric. You can remove the marks of the water soluble pen with water after you have finished stitching. Sometimes, for more detailed patterns, I use a normal 'grey' pencil for tracing. But be careful because pencil marks can be difficult to wash out!

Carbon paper, a water soluble pen and an iron on transfer pen

Transfer with water soluble pen
 Iron on pens and pencils are pretty easy to use too. Read the instructions of your pencil or pen and use accordingly. With this method you will trace the printed pattern with your pen or pencil. The ink or pencil marks will be transferred to the fabric through the heat of your iron. Just like an iron-on pattern. Keep in mind that the image you will produce using this method will be a reversed version of the image on the actual pattern. 

Transfer with iron on transfer pen

Now you know how to transfer the image, the actual stitching can begin.Next time I will discuss some handy books and sites to learn your stitches from!


  1. I've also used my computer monitor as a light box. I have a flat screen imac with glass over the actual monitor part... I don't know if they all come that way or not but if I pull up a blank browser window it works really well.

  2. Vintage iron on patterns are my favorite!!!

  3. Thanks for the tip! (not trying it on my lap top screen though!) :)

  4. thanks for the light box shout out ;) i can't take full credit for that idea though, i remember reading about it ages ago when i was active on, sadly i don't remember who it was that had that brilliant idea

  5. I really must give this a go. It sounds great fun. I might try an owl! Thanks for the post!


I <3 comments, so don't be shy!