How to Transfer Embroidery Patterns To Fabric – 6 Different Ways

You have your embroidery design you want to stitch, so now, what’s the easiest way to transfer the embroidery pattern to your fabric? Here are 6 easy methods of transferring embroidery patterns to fabric.

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6 Methods for Transferring Patterns to 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.

Water Soluble Pens

water soluble marker on fabric

The kind of marker I use the most frequently is this water soluble marker.   I’ve had great luck with this marker staying visible and not fading when I’m embroidering. I was concerned when I first started using it that the moisture of my hand would make the marker disappear, but it actually takes a bit of effort to erase the design. 

TIP: This pen will temporarily disappear if you dab with a damp cloth, but I’ve found it will reappear when it dries. Make sure to thoroughly rinse the embroidery under running water to completely wash away the marker when you’re done

transferring embroidery pattern to fabric using a sunny window

Steps for Transferring a Design

  • Trace your pattern onto paper with a bold, black marker 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.
  • Similar to the first method, trace your pattern onto paper with a black marker and use a lightbox or an iPad.

Embroidery Transfer Paper

This second 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 Use Tracing Paper On Fabric

  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.
example of embroidery stabilizer used to transfer pattern to fabric

Water Soluble Embroidery Stabilizer

The third method of transferring your pattern is using a water-soluble Solvy sheet. This is a little bit more expensive, but this is what I use the most for more detailed pieces such as pet portraits. I just trace my design with a fine tip marker ( I use microns) onto the Solvy and then place the stencil on top of my fabric and into the hoop. This stencil is transparent, lightweight, but surprisingly durable. It comes in light, medium, and heavy. I use the medium weight and most of the time it tears away when you’re finished but it also dissolves very well too! 

printable embroidery pattern paper with designs on it

Printable Embroidery Transfer Paper

This is the same as the stick and stitch stabilizer but it comes in printable sheets. If you have a digital design from a pdf pattern you can easily put these sheets into your printer and print the design out. You can then cut out your design and stick it directly onto the fabri. 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

There are a lot of easy ways to transfer an embroidery pattern onto light fabric, but dark fabrics pose a different challenge. 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?!

Here are two different ways you can transfer your pattern easily.

White Water Soluble Pencils/Chalk Pencils

These pencils are white and 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

saral transfer paper

This last method is by far the easiest to use. It’s the best choice if you have fabric you can’t see through well enough to trace the design. This transfer paper has a chalky side. Place the transfer paper (chalky side down) on top of the fabric, and the piece of paper with the design on top of the transfer paper. With a pencil or a ball point pen, press firmly and draw over the design. Just to be sure the design has transferred adequately, I like to go over the design a few times with the pencil or pen I’m using.

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

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