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8 Easy Ways to Transfer Embroidery Patterns To Fabric

You have your embroidery design you want to stitch, so now, what’s the easiest way to transfer an embroidery pattern to your fabric? Here are 8 easy methods and products you can use, 2 of which you can use to transfer patterns to darker fabrics!

This post is a part of a series about how to embroider for beginners.

Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own!

How To Transfer Embroidery Patterns Onto Fabric

Choosing a transfer method is really up to preference. Some things to take into consideration before deciding which way you’d like to put your embroidery pattern onto fabric are the color of the fabric and how permanent you want the stencil to be on the fabric.

Tracing

Tracing is a great way to transfer designs because it requires little to no extra supplies to do. All you need is a something to mark the fabric, a design, and a light source. This can be a light box, sunny window, tablet, or ipad.

The one disadvantage of this method is that it can be hard to see through some fabrics and it’s also hard to see patterns that have elaborate detail in them.

What can I use for tracing patterns?

Water soluble markers, pencils, heat erasable pens, and chalk are all great tools to use for tracing the design.

transferring embroidery pattern to fabric using the tracing method

How To Trace a Design On Fabric

  • Draw or print the desired pattern onto paper and find a sunny window.
  • Place embroidery fabric in the embroidery hoop
  • Tape the paper with the design onto a sunny window.
  • Place fabric and embroidery hoop face down against the pattern and trace.

Iron On Transfer Paper

The next method involves using an iron on embroidery pencil and transfer paper. This pencil is great if you don’t have a lightbox or window to work with because you can draw your design onto a piece of tracing paper and then iron the pattern directly onto the fabric!  Just remember that your image will be a mirror image when doing this so make sure any text is backward on your stencil! Also, this stencil will not come off so if you’re concerned about the stencil showing through your embroidery work, Id go with another transfer method.

How to Make Iron On Embroidery Transfers

  1. Place tracing paper over the design you want to transfer.
  2. Trace with a normal pencil first *** do not use the iron on pencil because you will be inverting the image and tracing it in the next step. You’ll get the iron on pencil all over the iron if you do this!
  3. Flip the tracing paper over and trace the design (which will now be a mirror image) with the iron on pencil, pressing firmly.
  4. Make sure to shake and wipe away any leftover pencil shavings as these will be transferred to the fabric if you don’t.
  5. Place the tracing paper face down onto the fabric. You may want to pin it to the fabric or make sure to hold firmly so the design doesn’t move when using the iron.
  6. Apply hot iron (cotton/wool setting) on top of tracing paper, pressing firmly and moving all across the tracing paper. Do this several times to ensure pattern is adequately transferred.
water soluble marker on fabric

Water Soluble Pens

water soluble markers. are a great choice because they wash away when you’re finished stitching, so no stencil lines will show underneath your work. These markers stay visible on the fabric for a long time and don’t easily fade unless washed off. I was concerned when I first started using them that the moisture of my hand would make the marker disappear, but it actually takes a bit of effort to erase the design. 

This pen will temporarily disappear if you dab with a damp cloth, but I’ve found it will sometimes reappear when it dries. To avoid this, make sure to thoroughly rinse the embroidery under running water instead when you’re done.

Heat Erasable Pens

Another easy way to draw directly onto fabric is with heat erasable pens. I did an in-depth review of the Pilot Frixion heat erasable pens you can read about, but in general, once you’re done with your design, you can iron the embroidery/ fabric and the marks will disappear!

Water Soluble Embroidery Stabilizer

example of embroidery stabilizer used to transfer pattern to fabric

A personal favorite of mine to use is this water-soluble Solvy sheet. This stabilizer is a little bit more expensive than some of the other ways, but it is great to use for more detailed embroidery designs.

Even though the Solvy is relatively lightweight, it is surprisingly durable and doesn’t tear easily. This product comes in light, medium, and heavy.

The stabilizer is translucent, making it super easy to trace directly on it using a permanent marker such as a micron. Then you can place the stencil on top of the fabric and into the hoop. When you’re finished, just rinse under running water and the stabilizer dissolves.

Make sure to test out whatever marker you are using with this stabilizer on a swatch of the fabric to make sure the marker doesn’t run.

printable embroidery pattern paper with designs on it

Printable Embroidery Transfer Paper

Print-Stitch-Dissolve makes it so easy to print out digital designs from a pdf pattern. The sheets fit in most printers and are the size of A4 sheets of paper. Once printed out, you can cut out your design and stick it directly onto the fabric. When you’re finished stitching, the stabilizer dissolves in water. This method is great for embroidering on clothing. Learn more about how to do this here.

How To Transfer Embroidery Patterns onto Dark Fabrics

Transferring embroidery patterns onto dark fabrics pose a bit of a challenge sometimes. A blue water soluble marker isn’t going to do the trick, and what if you can’t see through the fabric to trace the design?!

Both of the following methods work really well, but just be careful about touching the design, as the marks can wear off a bit easier!

White Water Soluble Pencils/Chalk Pencils

Water soluble pencils or chalk pencils are white and they show up well on dark fabric. If you’re able to see through your fabric or just want to draw your design on by hand, these work well. The marks are easily removed with water when you’re finished.

Saral White Transfer Paper

This method is by far the easiest to use for dark fabrics. Saral transfer paper is a great choice if you have fabric you can’t see through well enough to trace the design. Here’s how to use it:

  1. This transfer paper has a chalky side. Place the transfer paper (chalky side down) on top of the fabric, and the piece of paper
  2. Then place a piece of paper with the design you want to use on top of the transfer paper.
  3. With a pencil or a ball point pen, press firmly and draw over the design. Just to be sure the design has transferred adequately, you may want to go over the design a few times.
  4. Once you’ve traced the design, you’ll have a white stencil transferred onto the fabric to work off of.

Conclusion

There are so many different tools available to choose from, which makes it easy and sometimes fun to try out new products for transferring designs.

One method I didn’t touch on is the pouncing method, which is an older way of transferring designs and is an interesting method to read up about.

I hope these ideas were helpful for you so that you can find the method(s) that work the best for your next embroidery project.

how to transfer embroidery patterns to fabric
how to transfer embroidery patterns onto dark fabric