Embroidery is a great way to pass the time. People have been using this method to create beautiful things for centuries. Over the years, there have been many ways to transfer embroidery patterns onto paper.

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Of course, if you are new to the world of embroidery, you may be wondering how to transfer embroidery patterns onto fabric. You should be aware that when it comes to marking an embroidery design on fabric, there are several different options, and everyone seems to have their own preference. Another factor that comes into play is the color and/or weight of the fabric. For example, one method is known as needle tracing, or the tissue paper method, is used on fabrics that you should not dampen or mark on such as leathers, silks, and wools. Due to the fact that his method doesn’t use true markings on the fabric, it has been left off of the list.

Here are the top five methods for transferring embroidery patterns.

Transfer designs using a light

If you have a fairly thin fabric, the embroidery design can be transferred directly onto the fabric by using a light source such as a window or lightbox. The lines should be marked with a water-soluble pen/pencil or a chalk-based marking pencil.

In order to effectively use this method, you need to find a light source; a window works well if you don’t have access to a lightbox. Then, you will tape your pattern onto the glass and cover it with the fabric. The design should be clearly visible through the fabric. Then, take your marking instrument and trace the lines.

Transfer designs using transfer paper

You can use transfer paper that is wax-based or carbon-based to transfer embroidery patterns to thicker fabrics. Typically, this is known as dressmakers’ carbon paper. This is a transfer paper that is lightweight with a powdery, colored ink on one side. It is made specifically to use on fabrics and will easily wash out of the item once it’s finished.

If you have darker fabrics, make sure that you chose carbon paper that is light-colored, and if you have lighter fabrics, you should use a dark-colored piece of carbon paper. Of course, make sure that you are using the lightest color possible, just in case the ink doesn’t come out.

In order to transfer an embroidery design using this method, take the fabric and lay it face up on a hard surface, such as a kitchen table. Then, center the transfer paper over the area where you want the design with the waxy ink facing the fabric. Finally, you will lay the pattern on top of the transfer paper.

Then, take a stylus or an empty ball-point pen. Make sure that when you’re tracing the design you press down hard enough to transfer the design through all layers of the paper.

Transfer designs using a heat-transfer pencil

Another option for transferring embroidery designs onto fabric is a heat-transfer pen or pencil. This option works great for all weights of fabric. You can find heat-transfer pens and pencils at your local fabric/craft store in blue or red. The ink is activated with the heat from an iron.

However, one thing you must keep in mind is that these markings are permanent; the markings do not wash out. Therefore, you must make sure that you completely cover the lines with embroidery stitches so that they cannot be seen.

To use this method, you need to trace your embroidery design in reverse on a lightweight sheet of paper; this will create a mirror image of the design on the paper. The quickest and easiest way is to print your pattern, flip it over, and trace the design on the back of the paper with your heat transfer pencil.

Make sure that the pencil you are using is very sharp. The lines transferred onto your fabric should be as thin as you can get them so that they don’t peek out from under your embroidery stitches. To transfer the design from the paper to the fabric, place it against your fabric and press it using a hot iron.

Make sure that you are pressing and not sliding the iron across the paper. The iron should be lifted off of the paper before you move it to the next spot. When you slid the iron back and forth across the paper, it will cause your embroidery pattern to be distorted.

Transfer designs using hot-iron transfers

When you go shopping for embroidery patterns, you’ll find hot-iron transfers. You can find these in a wide variety of subjects and they are ready to use. Typically, they are in grey or blue ink. You will use the same method used in the above transfer method to get the design onto your fabric.

Transfer designs using pouncing

Before iron-on inks and transfer paper were invented, pouncing was the method people used to transfer embroidery designs onto fabric. With this method, you use a stick pin to prick the pattern paper at regular intervals. Then, you secure the pattern to the fabric and work a powdered pigment through the holes using a method known as pouncing. Though this method is fairly outdated, you will still be able to find pouncing supplies in some of the speciality needle shops.


Embroidery is a very popular way to pass the time. Many times, people who are new to the world of embroidery wonder how to transfer embroidery patterns onto their fabric so they can create beautiful things. The good news is there are a variety of methods that you can use, depending on your fabric and your preference. Try some of these methods until you find the one that works best for you.

Our Top Pick For Embroidery Designs

All the best designs in one easy package!

Learn More

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