Iron-on transfers and embroidery? Is it the “easy way out” when it comes to getting your design on fabric? It depends on what you want…
Iron-on transfers on t-shirts and other items are really in vogue right now, with the do-it-at-home, do-it-yourself creation of personalized transfers. All you really need is an ink-jet printer and some special paper to get started, and you can transfer just about anything following a few easy steps.
The question is, can you create and transfer embroidery designs for hand-embroidery the same way? Simply put, the answer is no. If you do a line-drawing on your computer (of if you have, for example, an embroidery pattern like the ones found here), if you print these in your computer on transfer paper then transfer them to your fabric to embroider, you’re still going to get the film from the paper in between the markings. So, this isn’t the way to go when you want to transfer hand-embroidery designs! I have heard of doing this if you want to fully cover the design you’re embroidering, but I still don’t think it’s such a good idea. For one thing, given the relative newness of the technique, I don’t know if the fabric and transfer medium would withstand the test of time. How will it affect, for example, your floss or threads over time?
So that’s the ink-jet transfer technique, and I personally say forget it for fine embroidery…
Is there another way? Sure there is! If you like the idea of iron-on transfers, you can make your own pretty easily.
What do you need?
1. The iron-on “product.” There are a couple kinds available out there:
Dritz makes a red iron-on pencil, which you can use on any tracing paper. You can find a picture of it here. It’s easy to use and works well, and is pretty inexpensive. For precise designs, you’re going to want a couple pencils on hand so that you can keep them sharp while you’re working.
Then there are Aunt Martha’s hot iron transfer pencils, which require hot iron transfer paper. These are “ok” – but I figure the Dritz pencils work just as well, and you don’t have to have the paper.
2. Designs to transfer: these can be as simple or complex as you’d like. There are some hand-embroidery designs on this site here. You can also use designs from Dover coloring books and such, or from design books. There are heaps of these out on the market, and some of them have great designs in them. Or you can go free-hand.
3. A regular iron and a relatively hard surface. If you have a padded ironing board cover, you may want to put something heat-resistant and harder on top of it, and cover whatever you’re using with an old sheet. You want a firm surface for ironing.
4. Fabric: natural fibers always work best, and, for iron-ons, the smoother the fabric, the better. You don’t want to use a waffle-like kitchen towel, for example, with an iron-on pattern!
How do you do it?
Set up your fabric first. If you want, for example, to mark the center of your fabric, you should baste in some lines, “cutting” the fabric in half horizontally and vertically. When you baste these lines in, the place where they intersect will be the center of your fabric.
Trace a “mirror image” of the design onto the paper – use any tracing paper for the Dritz pencil; for the Martha one, you need to use the specific stuff mentioned above. It’s only necessary to trace a mirror image when you want the design to point in a certain direction, or when you are using text. It will require you to trace the design twice – trace it once, turn it over, trace it again. If you have your design on a computer, you can just flip the design horizontally in your photo editing program, print it out, and trace it once.
Now, if this is a design you want centered on your fabric, I suggest marking lines on the back of the paper (the part the iron will touch) so that you can see the center of the design. Line these lines up with the basting that you have already done on your fabric.
Place the design “pencil side down” on your fabric, and line it up carefully. Using even pressure and the correct iron setting for your fabric, firmly but gently (in other words, don’t mash the fabric!) press over the design. Don’t go “back and forth” with the iron – you don’t want the paper to move around. You can carefully lift off a corner to check the progress of the transfer. Do not leave the iron on one place too long, but be careful when you move it – you do not want to shift the pattern!
You can keep your pattern from shifting by pinning it on the edges to your fabric – outside the area of the transfer. This will help a little bit, but you must still be careful when you iron.
Iron-on transfers like the above are a great way to set up an embroidery project for kids, or to transfer a design onto a quilt square, etc. For very fine embroidery, I suggest using other transfer methods – because guess what? The iron-on transfer pencils don’t wash out well! But don’t lose heart!! It’s no big deal if you’re going to cover your lines with your stitches, right??
Have fun with it, be creative – you can even draw free hand with it, and skip the tracing altogether!
If you have any suggestions on creating iron-on transfer designs, do share them!