How to Transfer Embroidery Pattern to Fabric

One of the biggest challenges you face while doing embroidery is transferring the pattern to the fabric. Only a very few are blessed with the perfect artistic skill to transfer the pattern through freehand drawing.

Until and unless you transfer the intricate designs of the pattern as such, you will not get the desired result. Thus, you need to use some method to transfer the embroidery patterns to the fabric.

How to Transfer Embroidery Pattern to Fabric

Embroidery patterns can be transferred to fabric using different methods. You can use any of the below methods for transferring an embroidery pattern:

  • Direct tracing
  • Tracing paper
  • Transfer paper
  • Heat transfer pen and pencil
  • Water-soluble stabilizer
  • Disappearing ink

The type of method that you can use depends on the texture and color of the fabric, as well as the type of pattern. It is advisable to try out all the methods so that you can figure out the best one that is most comfortable for you.

Let us have a look at the different methods and how to transfer the pattern using each of the methods.

Method 1. Direct Tracing

This is one of the simplest methods of embroidery pattern transfer and can be done for light fabric like chiffon and linen. In this method, the fabric is first placed over the embroidery design.

The design is then drawn on the fabric using a pencil.

For this method, there should be a source of light behind the fabric so that the pattern is clearly visible. You can use your iPad or tablet as the light source for drawing.

You can also place the fabric on a window or a tracing lightbox and then draw the pattern.

Method 2. Tracing Paper

This is one of the oldest methods used for transferring embroidery patterns to fabric. In this method, a tracing paper is placed over the pattern. The pattern is then drawn on the paper using a pencil.

The paper is then fixed on the fabric, and the pattern is then sewn over the tracing paper. Once done, the tracing paper is carefully torn away.

Method 3. Transfer paper

Another method is tracing the pattern using transfer paper or dressmakers carbon paper. The carbon paper is available in different colors and has colored powdery ink on one side that helps to transfer the pattern.

In this method, first, place the fabric on a flat surface. Place the carbon paper over it in such a way that the colored part touches the fabric.

Now place the pattern over the carbon paper and then trace it using an empty ballpoint pen. Once the drawing is complete, you can remove the paper and sew the pattern.

Transfer papers are available in different colors. Papers in light color can be used for tracing in dark-colored fabric, and papers in dark color can be used in the light-colored fabric.

The main advantage of the dressmaker’s carbon is that it disappears when washed. But it is difficult to trace when compared to other methods.

Method 4. Heat transfer pen or pencil

These are pen whose ink is activated by the heat of an iron. In this method, the pattern is drawn on a sheet of paper using the heat transfer pen. Alternatively, you can also take a printout of the pattern and using the pen draw on the reverse side of the paper.

The paper is then placed on the fabric in such a way that that the pattern faces the fabric. The paper is then pressed on the backside using a hot iron. When heat is applied, the pattern on the paper is imprinted on the fabric.

However, while using the hot iron, make sure that it is not moved back and forth, just like regular ironing. If this is done, then the pattern will be distorted.

Moreover, the pen mark is almost permanent. Thus, while embroidering, you should make sure that the mark is completely covered.

Heat transfer pencil can also be used in the same way as the pen.

Method 5. Water-soluble stabilizer

The water-soluble stabilizer is a synthetic polymer material that can be used for transferring embroidery patterns on to the fabric.

For using this material, first, you have to draw the pattern on the stabilizer using freehand or tracing. Then, place the stabilizer on the fabric and stitch on top of the pattern.

Once done, immerse the fabric along with the stabilizer in the water. The stabilizer will automatically dissolve, leaving you with a clean embroidery design.

The stabilizer can either be pinned to the fabric or stuck to the fabric by peeling the sticker on the back.

The main advantage of this method is that the pattern can be seen clearly. But you should wash the newly embroidered fabric before you can use it.

Method 6. Disappearing Ink

This is a pen with a special type of ink that disappears after 2-3 days.

First, take a print of the pattern. If the print is not bold, then you can use a black pen and draw over it to make the pattern bold.

Now turn the fabric and attach it to the hoop along with the pattern. Once done, the pattern should be visible from the other side of the fabric.

The fabric should be attached in such a way that the right side comes on the back of the hoop.

Now slowly trace the pattern on the fabric using the disappearing pen. Once done, you can start stitching over the pattern.

The main disadvantage of using a disappearing pen is that the ink mark disappears after 2-3 days. Thus, if you put the embroidery work on hold, then you will have to draw the pattern again.

Similarly, the fabric should be light or semi-transparent so that the design is clearly visible from the other side.

In addition to the above, there are ready to use embroidery patterns that can be transferred to the fabric with a hot iron. You just have to place the pattern face down on the fabric and iron on the reverse.

The drawback of this method is that you can use only those patterns that are available. If you want to transfer a custom made pattern, then it is not possible with the ready to use embroidery pattern.

How To Transfer A Pdf Embroidery Pattern On To A Piece Of Fabric?

Open the PDF pattern on an iPad or tablet. Place the fabric directly on it and start tracing. The light from the gadget provides a clear picture of the pattern, thus making it easy to draw.

If this technique is difficult, then you can trace the pattern on a paper and then transfer it to the fabric using any of the above methods.

Is There Any Substitute For Tracing Paper?

Yes, there are several other products that you can use instead of a standard tracing paper. A parchment tracing paper or a baking paper is thin and flexible and can be used to trace the pattern.

Since it is thicker than a normal tracing paper, you can pin it up without worrying about tearing.

Another alternative is wrapping or shipping paper. The paper is ivory or brown in color and is used mainly for wrapping glassware while shipping.

Wrapping paper of a thicker variety can be used for tracing as it can be pinned and folded without causing any damage.

If nothing is available, you can use a regular white paper. The transparency of a white paper is less when compared to a tracing paper. But still, you can use it if nothing else is available.



I'm Jessica Flores, a professional fashion designer and an expert seamstress. Crafting has always been a deep-seated passion of mine, one that has flourished and evolved over the years. I've dedicated considerable time to both studying and practicing in the realm of fashion and sewing, amassing a wealth of experience and skills. It brings me great joy to share these insights and experiences with you all, hoping to inspire and foster a similar passion for the art of sewing.

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