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How to Transfer an Embroidery Design: 7 Ways to Get Your Design onto Fabric

Updated: May 28

There are tons of different ways to transfer a design onto your fabric. I know, I've tried quite a few of them. Some of these methods I love and use regularly. Others I tried once and said, "Never again!" Thanks to all my trial and error, you're in luck. Check out these 7 different ways I've tried to transfer a design on to fabric.

Chalk Pencils or Markers

Chalk pencils are one of the easier transfer methods and wash away with water or a gentle rubbing of the fabric. I like to use these white chalk pencils when working on dark fabrics, tracing designs for sashiko mending, or when freehand drawing a design. The one drawback of chalk pencils is that a design can easily come off of the fabric, so you might have to redraw multiple times.

Water Soluble Transfer Pens

DMC makes a great water soluble transfer pen. These pens are easy to draw with and don't bleed when drawing on the fabric. Along with freehand drawing a design, I like to use a light box or well lit window to transfer my design onto fabric with one of these pens. I've found that the drawn lines stay until the fabric is washed with water. Another plus is that the pens last a pretty long time. One draw back is that the pens aren't fine tipped, so they're not the best for fine detail transferring.

PILOT FriXion Erasable Pens

Recently makers have been using the PILOT FriXion erasable pens to transfer designs. While these pens were designed to be erasable on paper, some makers noticed that they can also be erased with heat (such as an iron or blow dryer) on fabric. These pens are available in fine point and marker options and allow for finer detail. The downside of these pens is that if your design gets cold, the lines can reappear.

Tracing Paper or Carbon Paper

This method is great if you have a design already printed. Then you'd simply place the tracing paper on top of the fabric and the design on top of the tracing paper. Then trace the design. Tracing paper designs usually wash out like chalk pencils.

Stick'n Stitch Stabilizer

There are a variety of stabilizers out there and the Stick'n Stitch by Sulky is a great option for transferring printed designs onto fabric. These water soluble pages can be run through the printer to turn any image into a design. They also add structure to any fabric you're stitching on and wash away with warm water. The one down side of the Stick'n Stitch is that is can make your needle sticky as you stitch.

Iron-On Transfer Paper

The great thing about laser jet printers is that you can transfer their ink on to fabric with a hot iron. After printing a mirrored design onto the iron-on transfer paper, simply place it face down onto the fabric and iron the design on to the fabric. There's less chance of your design disappearing, however, the design can sometimes be light and it's best to test this method on a scrap piece of fabric first. One of the drawbacks of this method, is that it requires a lot of materials (paper, computer, printer, and iron).

Custom Printed Fabric

Spoonflower is known for custom designer fabrics, but did you know you can also upload your own designs and have custom fabric printed? Whether you're looking to create something giant or in need of fabric for embroidery kits, this can be a great option. Because Spoonflower fabric and designs are printed on demand, they are more expensive than fabric found at most craft stores.

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