6 Ways to Transfer your Embroidery Design to Fabric

Embroidery Transfer with a Frixiron pen

6 Ways to Transfer your Embroidery Design to Fabric

There are a variety of techniques to transfer an embroidery or needlepoint design to fabric. Select the one that will work the best for the complexity of your design and the color and texture of your fabric.

Here are 6 ways to transfer your embroidery design to fabric.

Embroidery Transfer

1. Trace using window or light box

My favorite method is using a Frixiron pen and tracing the design onto my fabric. This only works if the fabric is thin enough for the design to shine through with the light box.

Tape your design on a window or light box using painters tape.

Lay your fabric over your design and tape it so that it doesn’t shift while you are tracing it.

Tip: Painters tape works best because it doesn’t leave a sticky residue on your fabric and it easily comes off of the paper.

Trace your design to your fabric.

This method works best for lightweight fabrics so you can easily see the design through the fabric.

You can use a Frixion pen to trace and it will give you a nice sharp line for your embroidery. If you haven’t used these pens, try them. You can make a mark on the fabric, and when you are ready for the marks to be gone, just iron them away. Make sure to test on a corner of your fabric before transferring the pattern and stitching.

Some people prefer the water soluble pens to mark their fabric. These pen marks erase when the fabric is wet with cool water. Heat will set these marks, so keep away from heat until your embroidery dries naturally.

2. Iron On heat sensitive pens or pencils

I like this method for simpler designs. The pens don’t give a real sharp line, so better for embroidery designs without a lot of fine detail.

Print out your embroidery pattern on paper.

Trace the entire design with the special heat sensitive pen or pencil directly on the paper.

Follow the directions with your pen or pencil to transfer the design to your fabric with an iron.

If your design has a direction, when you turn the paper over to transfer the design to the fabric, it will be reversed. If you want it a specific direction, trace the design on the back of the printed pattern, or use a computer program to reverse the design before printing.

This method works well on heavier fabrics that light does not shine through. Check your product because the design may be permanent on your fabric. So don’t use with dainty lines or stitches that show the line, like the Daisy Stitch.

3. Tracing Paper

Using tracing paper for an embroidery design isn’t one of my ‘go-to’ methods of embroidery transfer. You stitch through the paper, and then need to remove the paper. If I think about this method, I use the water soluble stabilizer instead. But, I wanted to share this option with you.

Trace your design onto tracing paper using any pencil or pen.

Place your tracing paper on your fabric and baste through the design lines on your fabric. The basting lines become your embroidery pattern on your fabric.

Once the entire pattern is basted, carefully remove the tracing paper. Now your pattern is ready for stitching.

This method works well on textured or thick fabrics that are difficult to mark with any of the above methods.

4. Water-Soluble Stabilizer

Water Soluble Stabilizer

This is a great option for embroidery designs with a lot of detail. All you do is put the water soluble stabilizer through your printer or copy your design using your printer. All of the little details are ready for you to stitch and you don’t need to trace or do anything!

There are many different water soluble stabilizers. Some may be ‘sticky’ to your needle, so be prepared. I keep a used dryer sheet handy to clean my needle if it gets goopy from the sticky from the stabilizer. Also, the finished embroidery is raised a little bit, due to the layer of stabilizer between your thread and fabric while stitching. on some designs I like the extra texture this provides.

Print your embroidery design pattern directly on the stabilizer.

Baste the stabilizer to your fabric before hooping, with the stabilizer on top of the right side of your fabric.

Stitch through the stabilizer and fabric, using the pattern printed on the stabilizer.

When completed, soak your piece to remove the stabilizer, according to the manufacturer’s directions.

This method is great for very intricate designs and fabrics that are hard to mark with other methods. The fabric and threads must be washable, and not bleed. We recommend testing all of your threads and fabric before trying this method. You’d hate to have something run and ruin your work.

4. Transfer Paper

Place your fabric on a hard surface.

Place the embroidery transfer paper on top of your fabric, with the transfer side down.

Then place your pattern on top of the transfer paper.

Trace around your pattern using a pen or stylus with moderate pressure to transfer the pattern to your fabric.

This method works well with thicker fabrics where the light method doesn’t work, but not ones with a lot of texture.  Also, you can purchase transfer paper in a variety of colors, so it works well with dark fabrics.

6. Printer Ink

Print your pattern using your printer.

Place the ink side of the paper to the right side of your fabric. This will reverse your image, so use a symmetrical pattern. If your design has text, you will want to reverse the image before printing.

Press with a hot, dry iron.

Note: Test this. Not all printer inks work. Also, sometimes it is a very faint line.


Browse through all of the embroidery projects and inspiration on Create Whimsy.


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