When you use the right product in a given process you can be assured of a better final product.
Last week, when we spoke about packaging of supplies and looking for needlework tools outside the Needlework Industry Proper, we were looking at buying charcoal powder to use as pounce for transferring embroidery designs.
Today, I’m going to continue in the same line, talking about another type of product that is suitable for embroidery design transfers. At the same time, I’ll answer some questions that came up after last week’s article on charcoal.
I guess what I’m trying to do here is two-fold: 1. to encourage you to look for the needlework tools you need outside of the normal needlework channels, either because they might be overpriced when bought with a “needlework” label or because they might just be impossible to find in the needlework industry of today; 2. to encourage you to at least try a form of embroidery design transfer that may seem to be inconvenient, but in fact, is most gratifying because it is so accurate and because it is a “satisfying” part of the whole embroidery process.
That being said, prick & pounce is a process you have to get used to. But once you get used to it, you may actually end up preferring prick & pounce to any other form of design transfer. The more you do it, the easier it is and the faster you can accomplish your transfer.
On to the product.
When I want to transfer a design onto dark fabric, I need to use a light pounce powder. It used to be that cuttlebone was the favored “white” pounce powder (it’s not actually white-white, it’s kind of speckled and off white, depending on the cuttlebone used). But cuttlebone is difficult to find ground up to a very fine pounce. You could do it yourself, but then you’d have to find a source for cleaned cuttlebone that hasn’t been treated or fortified for bird consumption (some are, some aren’t), or that isn’t so expensive because it’s been marked up for the pet supply industry. Trust me, I’ve gone this route – it’s a pain in the neck!
So, today, what can you use that’s fairly readily available? I use talc. Pure talc. No oils, no additives – just pure talc.
A couple weeks ago, I was having a conversation about this whole embroidery design transfer question with a friend, and the subject of Clover’s “chaco” products came up. I had not used any of the “chaco” products from Clover, so I betook myself to a local seamstress (who also teaches sewing classes, sells sewing supplies, and so forth) to see if she had any on hand. In fact, she did. She loves the chaco transfer wheels and she sells them and the refills.
I forthwith bought the refills, which you can see in the photo above. The ruler is there so that you can see the actual size of the little bottles. You get two of these bottles for around $4.00. The total quantity of “chaco” inside both little jars together is 0.196 oz.
What is “chaco”?
It is pure talc and “cosmetic powder,” which is a tiny bit of additive that gives chaco a subtle almost-reflective quality. Slightly shimmery stuff.
But, down deep, all it really is, is talc. That’s the majority of its contents. That’s why it goes on and it brushes off smoothly and easily. It’s just cosmetic grade talc.
Pure USP grade talc can be bought in bulk, in 1 pound bags, for around $5 or $6.
For the embroiderer who wants to transfer designs onto darker fabrics with talc, it makes more sense to have a larger quantity on hand. After all, you have to dip into the powder it with a pounce pad of some sort, you have to work the powder into the pad a bit – and so 0.196 oz isn’t going to get you far.
For the clothes maker and the sewing enthusiast, I can almost understand paying for the small refills for the chaco wheels (almost). The refills are convenient, the stuff isn’t normally used in larger quantities at any one time – so basically, if we buy the refills, we are paying for convenience and packaging.
But the embroiderer who wants to make use of talc in bulk for design transfer definitely needs to go a different route! Look for pure USP grade talc, instead! You can find it through folks who supply it for scuba divers, and also through fountain pen specialists, because it’s used when replacing the sac on a fountain pen.
Questions about Prick & Pounce Transferring
Is it messy?
It can be messy if you’re not careful, but with proper care, there’s very little mess or no mess at all. I should probably clarify that when I took the photo that’s found at the beginning of the charcoal article – with the speckles of pounce outside the container – I actually speckled that on purpose. That being said, yes, occasionally, you’ll get some speckles about the place, but it comes off with a quick wipe of a towel. This is what I do when I transfer a design: I clear off my workspace, lay out a cotton towel towel, upon which I set my pounce supplies. When I’m finished, I put the tool and powders back in their box, wipe off my workspace with the towel (though it’s not always necessary), and then I use the towel to wipe down my patterns, which then go into an envelope. The patterns won’t be perfectly clean, but they’re ready for the next time I want to use them. Then I step outside to shake out the towel, and if it needs it, I throw it in the wash. Sometimes, a good shaking is all it needs, and it goes back into the box with the pounce supplies.
As far as the stuff getting on your hands, smearing on your fabric and so forth, you just have to be careful. Realize what you’re doing, and take things slowly and carefully. If I get pounce on my fingers, I wipe them on a corner of the towel. It comes right off, and it doesn’t stain. I am always quite careful about the fabric that isn’t covered by my pattern – but even if you do get a little pounce on it, a good flick or so after you’re finished with your transfer will usually remove any residue.
Why is this method better than tracing?
It’s more accurate. When you trace, even with a light table, it’s often quite difficult to see the pattern. How many times have you traced a design on linen, and as you’re tracing, your eyes start playing tricks? The weave of the linen looks darker here, for example, so you confuse it with the design line. Or you just can’t see the line well because of the weight of the fabric. Prick & pounce can be used with any fabric and produce an accurate transfer.
This isn’t to say I never trace – I do when all the circumstances are right (the fabric is light enough, the design is bolder and simpler, etc.). But prick & pounce works under any circumstances, on any fabric, without having to strain to see what you’re tracing. It’s like playing dot-to-dot. The design is all laid out for you and you just connect the dots.
Transfer is Important!
So, this was a long and rambling post about product and process, to achieve a decent final product. Your embroidery project begins with your design transfer. Transferring the design is perhaps the most important step in preparing a surface embroidery project. If the design transfer isn’t right, then chances are, your end product will not be right, either. It’s worth taking time and care over the transfer of the design.
Now that I’ve put you to sleep, I should warn you that I’m going to show you some science experiments on this whole subject in the near future. I’ve got my Bunsen burner, my white lab coat, my safety goggles, and my Mad Scientist Personality all laid out and ready to go – so look out!
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