After speaking with Joey about Luzine’s Schwalm Whitework embroidery project I’m getting ready to start, I decided to try out a different method of transferring a design: using watercolor color pencils to trace. Now, we already know about regular dressmaker pencils that have “water soluble” blue chalk in them – but what I’m looking at today is not found in the sewing notions section of your local store. You’ll find watercolor pencils in the art section of hobby stores or art stores. In this little test piece, I went a little overboard (actually, I went a lot overboard!) with Faber Castell watercolor pencils – but I learned something at the same time.
Watercolor pencils are normally used to mimic the effects of watercolor painting, by drawing or coloring first with the pencil, then dabbing it with water to blend the pencil marks into a watercolor finish. They’re fun to play with, on the art side, and they’re equally as fun to play with on the embroidery side…
For this article, I used Faber Castell watercolor pencils. Other brands exist: Prismacolor, Caran d’Ache, Derwent, etc., and I intend to test Derwent and Prismacolor as well (eventually). I selected four colors of blue. Since I’m working a whitework project, blue is a good color for a design transfer. White “absorbs” blue, so even if there is a little residue, it generally only makes the white look a bit whiter (unless there’s a lot of residue… then it looks… well. Blue.) I tried all four colors on the little piece I worked.
In fact, I went a bit overboard on the color – I drew the design darker than it needed to be. After all… I was testing to see if it would disappear, so why not go dark – because then we would really know, right?
You can see the four colors here on my fishy friend, and you can see that they are all pretty clearly drawn on the linen. No problem seeing the lines, that’s for sure!
On the front part of the swashy tail, I used the darkest pencil. I drew with a heavy hand. (I know you’re waiting with Baited – oh, no pun intended! – Breath to see if this has a happy ending!)
I stitched the fish in white coton a broder, size 25, using a variety of stitches – pretty much anything that popped into my head.
You can definitely see the blue lines on the front of the swashy tail.
And, in fact, you can see blue on the head, too.
I wasn’t sure if I had drawn quite enough blue, so I penciled in a little more, for good measure.
Then I decided that testing with white threads only was a little restrictive – so I started adding some colored bubbles. And I drew some Very Dark Circles for the bubbles. (Well, why not? This is a test, this is only a test…) Since yellow and pink would definitely turn if blue soaked in, I chose yellow…
… and a wee bit of pink. I also left a few bubbles blank – it would be interesting to see if traces of them were left on the fabric.
I decided there wasn’t quite enough blue around the yellow, so I colored in a bubble.
Then, on a whim, I went back to the swashy tail because I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I added more blue around the tail.
Then, the fish was introduced to water. I dribbled a bit on at first, just to see what would happen. Would the blue run? Noooo. It didn’t really do much of anything. So I soaked the thing. And soaked it. And soaked it a bit longer. (In fact, I got busy doing something else, forgot about it, and came back to it the next day!)
I removed the fish from the water and committed a Grave Error – but one I felt necessary for the sake of photographing the thing – and I ironed it before all the transfer color was removed. Actually, I figured if the color weren’t gone after 16 hours of neglected soaking, would it really ever leave?
Much of the blue did indeed leave – but not all. Considering the heavy dose around the tail, this actually isn’t that bad when it comes to residue. Still, it’s more than I’d want on a finished piece of whitework.
There’s a faint bit of blue around the fishbone fish fins. From farther away, this is, in fact, not too noticeable.
The buttonhole back of the swashy tail actually came out terrific – nary a hint of blue, or if there is, it is ever-so-faint.
The bubbles are a bit of a different story. I drew them with all four blues at first, but then I went back over them (in my frenzy to add Enough Blue) with the darkest blue. I don’t really like the removal results here. The unstitched bubbles are still quite visible, as is t
he blue inside the yellow bubble, and faint circles of blue around all the rest of the bubbles.
The lighter of the four blues – 140 & 147 of the Faber Castell pencils – worked best as far as removal went. Would I use these again? Well, yes. In fact, I did – to transfer my Schwalm design.
I would not use the two darker blues again, even with a light hand.
My conclusions on the Faber Castell watercolor pencils: the lighter ones work ok, but go easy in applying the marks.
You may wonder why I would try the watercolor pencils at all, when “water soluble” dressmaker pencils are widely available. The fact is, I’ve never had good luck getting ALL the blue out, after using a dressmaker’s transfer pencil. I am hoping to find the “perfect” tool for tracing an embroidery design – the pencil that leaves No Trace Behind!
I’ll be trying Prismacolor watercolor pencils next, as soon as I have a chance. Joey has used Prismacolors with very good results. The Faber Castell pencils (which are called Albrecht Durer watercolor pencils) have the highest amount of pigment in them, according to the description. There may be a significant difference between the two types of pencils, so I’m looking forward to giving the Prismacolors a try.
Incidentally, I didn’t wait to buy a Prismacolor watercolor pencil before transferring the Schwalm design…
Perhaps I should have!