Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Proserpina: Choosing Linen and Transfer Method


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This past weekend, my goal was to get Proserpina onto fabric so that I could test various embroidery threads and colors, to narrow down some choices.

The first consideration with this embroidery design was fabric choice. Working with Access Commodities, I considered various possible linens as a ground fabric for Proserpina. There are two choices of fabric I’m debating on now – narrowed down from about six.

Transferring Embroidery Design on Linen

In considering the project overall, what I was looking for in linen was a fine enough ground fabric that would take detailed stitching in fine threads. I considered some color and tone options, only to dismiss those ideas and settle on white. I’ve narrowed my linen choices to Alabaster Angel by Legacy Linen, and Legacy’s Ecclesiastical Linen. Between the two, the ecclesiastical linen is a finer linen, and I think it will end up being my final choice. Still… I will practice a bit of stitching on both linens, to see which one I really like best.

Then, there was the matter of transferring the embroidery design on the two types of linen I’m considering. Transferring an embroidery design always poses some kind of difficulty for me, for some reason. These are the things I thought about while approaching the design transfer:

1. The embroidery will not be washed upon completion. All transfer lines must therefore be thoroughly cover-up-able.

2. The embroidery design is detailed and relatively small. The transfer lines, therefore, need to be precise and fine.

3. At the same time, they need to be really visible, without the lines being too dark.

Transferring Embroidery Design on Linen

I began with a few options: a Bohin transfer pencil, a #2 hard lead pencil, and a pen.

With the Bohin pencil, despite efforts to sharpen the ceramic lead with various implements, I was not satisfied with the precision of the line. For larger or less detailed designs, it’s great. For this, it wasn’t going to work. The #2 pencil was a source of irritation, for some reason, and I figured if I have to transfer this design several times, I was not going to be a happy camper with the pencil. And so, a pen.

Transferring Embroidery Design on Linen

Good ole Martha Stewart does it again. My 1st Bambina introduced me to these pens. They’re fine-tipped, and they come in a color called “moonstone,” which is a pale brownish grey – not nearly as dark as sepia, but dark enough to see well. They’re archival quality, permanent pens (like the micron art pens), but unlike micron pens, these come in this unique color that is pale, without being too pale, and dark, without being too dark…. if that makes any sense at all.

Transferring Embroidery Design on Linen

The tracing came off fairly well, thanks to my contrived light table and the fine-tipped pen.

My next step, which I’ll show you soon, is to test out a few threads and colors. I haven’t done that yet! Semester exams are in the way, but they’ll be over shortly, and then I can concentrate solely on Proserpina long enough to make some vital decisions about her looks! In addition to Proserpina, I have another project I’ll be transferring in order to make some similar decisions, so that will be unfolding in the next few weeks as well.

Any feedback, ideas, questions, comments, suggestions??! Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know!

And now, back to the books! See you tomorrow!


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(18) Comments

  1. The design looks lovely, Mary. As always, I look forward to watching your progress. I find your preliminary work fascinating and very helpful. Thank you for sharing this part of the process with us.

  2. Once again you have surpassed what I would consider a project and would love to be able to follow you through this one.

    Beautiful explanation etc.

  3. prosperina is beautiful. what an undertaking!

    may I ask where to purchase that pen of martha stewarts? on line, in the store? Thank you very much and good luck with the project. Will it be deep tones or pastels or gold?


  4. What a finely detailed drawing, will you be working in silk? This will undoubtedly require thought for the colors all the different elements. I have several of the micron pens but will have to try the Martha Stewart pen. Thanks for the tip!

  5. Hi, all – thanks for your comments! I am really excited to get going on this project. Once I work out a few details on threads, it’s just a matter of working diligently and carefully through the stitching! It’ll be challenging, but a lot of fun.

    Silks, yes, Cynthia – definitely! A variety of them, actually! More details on that to come….

    Colors, Lyn – more on that to come! I’m still working out some details. But I suppose I can say with certainty, not pastels.

    The pens are available at Michael’s craft stores (in the stores), at Martha Stewart online, and I think at Michael’s online. They’re also available through a lot of scrapbooking stores and so forth online, like K&Company. I was given some of them, and then I found these in person at Michael’s, where you can buy the moonstone color individually in the “writing pen,” and it worked out pretty well.


  6. Hi Mary, I am enjoying your daily posts as usual. How you keep up with posting every day I don’t know, but I do so enjoy them. Ok, on to the comment. I looked for the pen at the Martha Stewart web site and couldn’t find it. They only had fine point pens in “sepia” or “ebony”. Can you tell us where you bought your pen?

  7. This looks like quite a large project. I’ll go back and see if you mention the size. I hope you’ll explain how you choose your colors. That’s the biggest challenge for me when doing a project. Cross stitch comes with a list of colors (most of the time) so I know I’ll get it right. In quilting I have a terrible time deciding. Let us know your thinking as you choose.

  8. I tried your link to learn about the good marking pen and it took me to one about needle organization. Could you please give me the correct link? thanks LMC

  9. Hi, all – here are some answers:

    LMC – the link is to My 1st Bambina’s blog, because she’s the one who initially sent me this type of pen. She liked it and thought I might like it, too. You can find them at Michael’s craft stores, Martha Stewart online (but I think you have to buy a four pack of the writing pens to get them individually).

    Joan – The only place I’ve found them individually is actually in Michael’s (the store, not online). The four-pack of writing pens online carries the right color, but I haven’t seen these available individually online. I keep looking…. if I come across them, I’ll let you know!

    Caroline – no, Access Commodities is an importer and manufacturer. They sell to retail needlework shops. So if you’re looking for AC items, the best bet is to go through a local needlework shop that stocks their items and special order whatever you want, or, if you don’t have a local shop, to shop online through places like Hedgehog Handworks, which carries Access Commodities’ goods.

    Hope that helps!

  10. Hi Mary,
    A friend found Frixion pens by Pilot as a good one for transfering designs to fabric. Why, it erases with heat, so when finished a light steaming or touch of the iron and the marking is erased. The lines do come back if exposed to 14° F or lower. Find these pens in Office Supply stores. They come in black, blue and red.

    1. This particular pen is available at Michael’s craft stores. I’ve only found them individually in the store, not online. But I’ll keep looking….

      Loretta, thanks for the heads up about the Frixion pen. For this project, it wouldn’t be ideal, I’m afraid, as I don’t think I’ll be steaming it. I’d also worry about the ability of the lines to re-appear…. that means there’s a residue on the fabric, whether you see it or not. In the long run, how will that affect the embroidery? Will anything else (besides cold) make the lines re-appear? These are the kinds of questions I’d like to test! So I’ll look up the pen and see about trying it out! Thank you!

  11. Have you ever used Transfer-Eze for embroidery? I bought some recently for a crewelwork piece I’m going to do. I did not want to mark on the linen base and don’t mind submerging the finished piece after I’m done with the crewelwork. (I will try a sample piece first to see if it dissolves like it says it will) Also, was wondering….if I do use this product, should I adjust the tension on my stitches a little?


    1. Hi, Linda – I recently purchased Transfer-Eze to do a review on it. I notice there are lots of reviews floating around on it right now, and it sounds like a great produce. To tell you the truth, though, I’d be more inclined to use it only for cotton-on-cotton and things that are going to be (and are meant to be) washed. I have a few reservations about water-soluble stabilizers…. while they don’t seem to leave residue, I wonder if they actually do, and in the long-run, how this would affect various types of threads. For washable things – flour sack towels, aprons, quilt squares, etc. – and especially if those things will be used and washed, I think it looks like a terrific product. I wouldn’t personally use it for a project that involves finer and more expensive threads, such as silks and even wools, and especially for things that are not normally washed. But, if you do launch into your crewel piece with it, it’ll be a good lesson, and I’d love to hear how it goes, and your results with soaking the transfer away! I would adjust the stitches a tiny bit, but from the feel of the transfer-eze, it seems thin enough not to make too much of a difference. If you over-compensate, you could end up with puckers. So I’d go carefully on the compensation. ~MC

  12. I see everyone is asking about the pen!!! I also went all over looking for it without luck – even to Martha Stewart site but I am primarily looking for someone with this in the UK seeing I live this side of the pond. I would even buy a pack of 4 but cant even find one!! Any suggestions – will look at scrapbooking places in the meantime. So enjoying your daily writings – dont know how you manage it but we all enjoy it – so looking forward to the further events on your project. All the best Eleanor x

  13. Prospernia is a great design. I am glad you found something to transfer with that has a nice fine line. Nothing looks worse than seeing the design lines.

  14. Okay dumb question…how did you get the design on to the fabric, aside from the pen? Do you trace it first then use dressmaker carbon to get it one the fabric? If that is the case, where are you using the pen? Okay, I’m new to this so I’m sooo confused!

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