Sewing Blog

Quick to Stitch: 3 Ways to Transfer Patterns to Fabric

Pre-printed patterns are the basis for many embroidery, quilting and sewing projects. After all, the reason we buy the patterns is because talented designers have done all of the hard work for us. See how these two industry experts have perfected transferring designs to fabric. All we have to do is trace and stitch!

Whether you embroider, sew or quilt, sometimes converting the pattern to fabric is the most tedious part. Looking for a better way? We have the solution!

Get illuminated

Elefantz light table window

Photos via Craftsy member Jenny of Elefantz

Craftsy member Jenny of Elefantz, provides great, free tutorials on her site, Elefantz.com. Most of the time, she traces patterns directly on the fabric. Whether it is stitch lines or an appliqué piece, the patterns are easiest to trace on a light table. If you do not have a light table, a well-lit window (or even the TV screen) does the trick.

Elefantz pigma pen

A smooth interfacing gives the fabric a better surface upon which to draw. Jenny also recommends using a 0.3 mm Zig Millenium pen in brown. The ultra fine tip creates stitch lines that are crisp and easy to follow while still hidden by thread.

Elefantz traced design

One thing to remember, is that appliqué pieces must be traced in reverse so that they are right-side up when fused to the fabric background.

Get the full tutorial here.

Scan and print

print on fabric stitchery tutorial1

Jenny also experimented with printing directly on fabric using a regular printer. First, she scanned the image and placed it in a document she could print.

print on fabric stitchery tutorial

Fabric must be fused to something for support. Jenny used freezer paper. Stiff interfacing may also work although something like heavy starch is probably not a good idea.

Iron-on transfer pens

 sulky-sock-monkey-snack-mat copy

Photos via Kelly Nagel, Sulky.com

Sulky blogger Kelly Nagel used iron-on transfer pens to transfer a mug rug ear pattern to fabric. Although it would work beautifully for transferring embroidery or quilting patterns, this technique is especially useful with sewing and appliqué patterns that you do not want to cut apart or make into a template, like those in a book. Just make a copy to trace and the originals will be perfectly preserved.

Sulky-transfer-pen-2 copy

Trace the pattern outline with a transfer pen.

sulky-transfer-pen-press

Heat the fabric to accept the dye, place the traced pattern right-side down on the wrong side of the fabric for sewing pieces (like the monkey’s ears) or to the right side of the fabric for embroidery lines, and press.

sulky-transfer-pen-done

The outline transfers beautifully. You can use one tracing several times before having to re-trace when the outline gets too light. Pair the fabric up with another piece, right sides together and you are ready to cut and stitch!

See the full tutorial here.

These techniques should work well with patterns designed for hand embroidery, free-motion machine embroidery, quilting and even transferring pattern pieces for sewing.

What tips do you have for transferring patterns to fabric?

Online Sewing Class

Techniques Every Sewer Should Know

Learn to read between the lines of any pattern.Enroll Now »

24 Comments

DARLENE

Thank you , very useful information.

Reply
Debbie Henry

Glad it is helpful, Darlene. Thanks for reading!

Reply
Shelly

I really enjoyed reading this and yesterday’s post. I transfered a pattern using the window today it worked great. I had forgot all about that. Thank you

Reply
Jenny of Elefantz

That’s great, Shelly!

Reply
Debbie Henry

Glad it helped!

Reply
Alisa

Anyone hve suggestions for a non permanent marking method? Sometimes I like to draw my own design and then free form…which doesn’t always cover the lines. My disappearing ink pen does just that…disappears before I am done!

Reply
Debbie Henry

Alicia, SewLine (www.sewline-product.com) has very fine fabric pencils that erase with a polymer eraser or dabbing with water. Another option is Blue Line Eraser (www.bluelineeraser.com) that works beautifully to remove blue marking pen lines that are supposed to come off easily with water. I’ve been told that they also take off blue lines that have been ironed.

Reply
Debbie Henry

Alisa, SewLine (www.sewline-product.com) has very fine fabric pencils that erase with a polymer eraser or dabbing with water. Another option is Blue Line Eraser (www.bluelineeraser.com) that works beautifully to remove blue marking pen lines that are supposed to come off easily with water. I’ve been told that they also take off blue lines that have been ironed.

Reply
cheryl

I have found the transfer pens even the fine ones are too thick for embriodery, so i use a transfer pencil which is cheaper too. Sulky 8 1/2 x 11-inch Sticky Fabri-Solvy Stabilizer which you can print off on your printer any image, than embroider on, soak it in water and the stabilizer just disappears in the water, leaving only the lovely embroidered piece.

Reply
Debbie Henry

Great idea, Cheryl! Thanks for sharing!

Reply
Sara

For transferring a design to a dark fabric or a thick fabric (fabrics that would not be suitable for the light box or printing method), I have seen a method using a mesh canvas (I think it is made by Clover) and marker. First trace the design onto the mesh canvas and then trace again to transfer the design to the fabric–the mesh canvas produces a dotted outline of whatever you are tracing. If you want more details on this, I’m sure an internet search would take you to someone who can explain it better than I can.

Reply
Debbie Henry

Thanks, Sara. That is a great tip!

Reply
punkingee

Be careful with “washable” pens. I have sometimes found that the line re-appears. This can be very difficult to remove.

Reply
Debbie Henry

Punkingee, give Blue Line Eraser (www.bluelineeraser.com) a try. It removes even the most stubborn tracing pen marks.

Reply
Pat Pfeiffer

Try tracing the design with the erasable fine point gel pens that make lines that disappear with the heat of an iron or steam. Test first. I also have traced patterns with a regular pen or marker onto nylon tulle, then place over the fabric and retrace the lines with the erasable gel pens or a chalk type marker. This works best on light colored cloth. It might work over dark cloth if you trace original pattern with a pen that writes with white ink or paint.

Reply
Theresa Akin

Just a quick tip. When I need to trace anything, I use a scrapbook project box usually 14″x14″x3″. Just throw a small led light into the box and start tracing. Works in a lowlight room.

Reply
Debbie Henry

That’s a fabulous idea, Theresa – thanks for sharing!

Reply
June Carlos

Do you have to iron the pattern after you trace on to fabric? Does the pen show through?
Thanks

Reply
Debbie Henry

No, you do not have to iron the pattern June. It won’t show through if you use very fine tipped marking pens and pencils.

Reply
Keke Mokoko

I really like this kind of handy craft. I would to knit clothes for me and my family in future.

Reply
Debbie Henry

That’s wonderful, Keke. We have a lot of knitting classes and resources on Craftsy too!

Reply
Teresa

Hi Debbie:
I need some advice and just signed up for the Embroidery Blog on Craftsy. I have an historic Embroidery or Petit Point pattern
that would need to be stamped or printed onto Cordova Canvas for Petit Point and or Embroidery cloth for Embroidery project.
The pattern is 4 color and you must have all the shades and colors printed on the fabric in order to attempt the project. The pattern is 15.35 inches wide and 19 inches long. That size would not go into a printer unless it was a commercial printer do you think?
So I need some advice on what to do. If it done as an iron on transfer it must be 4 or more colors stamped onto the fabric and the
fabric is expensive if it is not done correctly.
I look forward to hearing back from you and others that have done something of this nature.
Special thanks,
Teresa Farris-Dacar

Reply
Debbie Henry

Welcome, Teresa! Here’s something to consider: There is a company that prints designs on MyFabricDesigns.com. They have 26 different kinds of fabric that can be printed. If you could get a good quality digital scan of your artwork, they could print it on fabric for you to embroider. Check out their site and call their customer service for help in getting your pattern ready to print.

Reply
Heather Venable

Im a beginner at the sewing world and have been playing with my machine for a few weeks now and would like to learn how to embroider with my sewing machine I found some videos that teach how to do it on tool with a water soluble stabilizer but it didn’t cover how to them put my design from toul to the fabric

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Leave a Reply