Transfer a Pattern 5 ways

5 Ways to Transfer a Pattern

May 19, 2020 | Embroidery., Hand Embroidery. | 0 comments

Learn 5 ways to transfer a pattern onto fabric or other media. Surely, one way will become your favorite. I suggest trying a few of these ways to see which one works best for you and your project. 

You might already have a favorite but you might find a new way here! Maybe you will find one way works best for a certain color or weight of fabric, yet another way for something else, such as wood. It is a good idea to be familiar with all 5 ways to transfer patterns, so you can problem solve if you need to. Keep supplies available for different techniques so that when you need to use them, you’re ready. Not having what you need to start a project is a sure fire way to steal the joy of crafting!

Skill level: easy

Transfer a Pattern

Here are 5 Ways to Transfer a Pattern.

1.Transfer by Tracing

Transfer the designs directly onto the fabric using a light source such as a light box or window. This works best with fabric that light can get through. Trace the lines with a chalk based marking pencil, a water soluble transfer pen or a pencil. I have used a finely sharpened standard pencil. I just stitch right over the lines.

To transfer a pattern using a window as a light source, tape the pattern to the glass. Position the fabric so the pattern is where you desire it to be, then tape the fabric tightly over the pattern. Now trace the lines with your marking pencil or pen. Even though the pattern and fabric are taped down, make sure to hold the fabric still with your hand as you trace. This will ensure there isn’t a wrinkle caused by the tracing.

When using a light box as a light source, follow the same directions as above. Tape the pattern down on the light box, then tape the fabric tightly on top so the pattern is where you desire it to be. Hold the fabric taut as you trace the pattern with your marking tool.

These are my favorite methods because they are easy and fairly quick. Most of the time I am working on cotton fabric which works well with this method. I also purchased a light box which made it easier to sit at a table instead of having to stand at a window to trace. 

2. Heat Transfer Pens and Pencils

Heat transfer pencils or pens are another option to transfer a pattern on fabric. The ink is activated by the heat of an iron. They will work on various weight fabrics and are available in different colors and thicknesses. However, these heat transfer pencils and pens are permanent. The traced pattern lines will not wash out, and the marked lines must be completely covered with embroidery or needle punch so they are not visible. Use a fine tipped pen for the best results.

When using a heat transfer pen or pencil, it is important to trace the design on the back of the sheet of paper the design was printed on. The design is traced in reverse because when the pattern is pressed onto the fabric, it creates a mirror image of the traced design. The easiest and quickest way to do this is to print your pattern, turn it over, and then trace the design on the back side of the paper using the heat transfer pencil or pen. If the pattern is difficult to see through from the back of the printed paper, use a light box or window to visualize the pattern better. Follow the tracing instructions from above.

The traced lines should be as thin as possible so when they are transferred to the fabric, the lines don’t peek out from under the stitches. If you use a pencil, make sure it is very sharp or use a fine point pen.


To transfer the pattern to fabric, place the paper against the fabric with the heat transfer side down and press with a hot iron. Lift the iron off of the paper before moving it to the next location. Do not move the iron back and forth along the paper, as this distorts the image.

Purchase a heat transfer pencil here

3. Water-Soluble Stabilizer Transfer

If you are working with dark fabrics or if your pattern is very detailed, the water soluble stabilizer method is a good choice to transfer a pattern. The pattern can be printed directly onto the stabilizer, then place the stabilizer on your embroidery fabric.

After you have embroidered through the fabric and stabilizer, soak the embroidery in warm water. The stabilizer will dissolve away.

This method requires soaking in water, so it is important to make sure that your fabric can be washed and that your embroidery floss is colorfast.

Purchase Water Soluable Stabilizer here

4. Transfer Paper

Carbon or wax based transfer paper, sometimes referred to as dressmakers’ carbon paper, can be used to transfer a pattern to thick or dark fabrics. This is also a good choice when putting a pattern on wood to embroider. This transfer paper is lightweight and is coated on one side with a powdery colored ink, made for use on fabrics. This ink will wash out of the finished embroidery.

This transfer paper comes in a variety of colors so you can use a light color when transferring to a dark fabric and then use a dark color for light fabrics. Always use the lightest color possible, just in case the ink doesn’t completely wash out. 

To use this transfer paper to transfer a pattern, lay the fabric right side up on a hard surface. Tape the fabric smoothly down on the hard surface, then tape the transfer paper and pattern paper down securely to ensure they don’t shift. Place the transfer paper centered on the fabric, with the waxy ink towards the fabric. Then place the pattern paper on top of the transfer paper. Trace the design pattern using a stylus or an empty pen, pressing the ink onto the fabric. Make sure to press hard enough with the stylus to transfer the design to the fabric through the layers of paper.

Purchase Dressmaker’s Carbon Paper here

5. Tracing Paper Transfer

Tracing paper can be used to transfer a pattern onto fabrics that are difficult to trace onto or that you don’t want to soak.

With this technique, trace your pattern onto lightweight tracing paper. Hand stitch or machine baste stitch (a long stitch length) the paper onto your fabric securely,  then embroider through the paper and fabric. When the embroidery is finished, cut the basted stitches and carefully tear away the tracing paper.

Above all enjoy the process!

5 Ways to Transfer a Pattern!

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