When I’m working with a small embroidery design – for example, a small sample element like the interlocking knot in the plaited braid stitch sample I showed you yesterday – to transfer the design to fabric, I use a very simple method that many of you may already know. I think it’s worth mentioning, though, in case you don’t know it, because it’s definitely a time saver and very convenient.
I call it soft lead tracing, but I’m sure there is some technically correct term out there besides this. The idea is the same as carbon paper, without the carbon paper. When you can’t readily trace your design, either because you can’t see well enough through the fabric or you don’t have a sunny window or light box available, this method is a quick life-saver with certain types of designs and certain types of fabric. In fact, I generally prefer it to regular tracing with small motifs, because I think it’s more accurate, and it’s a lot faster and more convenient than hauling out the light box or taping my pattern to a windowpane.
The conditions under which this design transfer method works best are: 1. that you’re working with a small, clear design (nothing too complex that will take a while to draw); and 2. that the fabric you’re using is relatively light colored and has a smooth hand (i.e. higher count lines, cotton, etc., that aren’t “bumpy”).
I always print or draw my final designs on drafting & design vellum, which is a smooth, somewhat transparent paper, but this method works with any type of paper, really, as long as the paper will hold up to a good working over with a semi-sharp tipped pencil or pen.
Start on the back of the design paper. Using a soft pencil (I’m using a 5B here – you can find various types of pencils in the drawing section at any art store), trace over the design on the back of the paper.
No need to be too incredibly neat here – just a good coating of the soft graphite following the design line works.
Turn your paper over so that the front is up, and situate it on your fabric, wherever you want your design. Then use a regular pencil (I used a mechanical pencil) or a pen with a hard tip (like a ball point) and trace over the design lines on the front of the paper, pressing firmly.
When you remove the paper, you’ll end up with a clear enough line to see the design fairly well, but…
… you can always darken the line further by drawing over the graphite transfer line with a fine tipped art pen (I use Sakura micron pens).
This is a fast, easy, accurate way to transfer a simple design to fabric. Next time you’re in a design-transfer bind, give it a try! (As always, with any new-to-you transfer method, you should practice it first on a scrap of fabric.)
If you’re curious about other methods, you can find an extensive list of other embroidery design transfer methods here on Needle ‘n Thread.