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5 tools to transfer a design to your fabric

In my previous post, I already discussed 5 ways to draw directly onto your fabric when you want to embroider something. But what if you want to transfer an existing design onto your fabric, so you can embroider it on your clothes? There are different tools available that can help you do so, and in this post I will discuss 5 of them.

1. Use a light box to draw on your fabric

Will you work on a light, light-coloured fabric? Then any source of light with a flat surface can help you to easily transfer your drawing on your fabric. You can do so as follows:

  1. Collect the necessary materials: a drawing, a marker that is suitable to draw on fabric and maybe some tape to keep everything in place. You can use a light box as your light source, but your mobile phone or a desk lamp can do the trick just as well. And if it's still light outside, you can even use your window.
  2. Place your drawing on your light box.
  3. Place your fabric on your drawing. Make sure that your fabric covers your drawing completely, and that the fabric is nice and tight and not creased.
  4. Trace your drawing onto the fabric with your pencil or marker. Do so carefully and with small movements, so your fabric stays in place.
  5. Check your transfer: carefully lift one corner of your fabric to check whether you see any lines on the drawing that you haven't transferred yet. If you're still missing some parts, put your fabric back on your drawing and continue tracing.
  6. Check what you drew on your fabric, and see whether you need to make some finishing touches.
Pros when using a light boxCons when using a light box
- You draw directly on your fabric
- You can use any light source as a light box, you don't necessarily need to buy one
- Only works on light coloured fabrics
- Not so handy when transferring drawings onto clothing

2. Using water soluble transfer paper

Fly embroidered on a dark piece of fabric using some water soluble transfer paper on which the fly had been drawn first.

Water soluble transfer paper does exactly what its name says: transfer drawings, solve in water. You can buy it per meter, and use it as follows:

  1. Cut a piece of water soluble transfer paper that is at least the same size as the drawing you want to transfer.
  2. Place your piece of water soluble transfer paper on top of your drawing, and transfer your drawing onto your transfer paper. What you draw with isn't that important, as long as you can draw sharp lines.
  3. Pin your piece of water soluble transfer paper onto your fabric.
  4. Embroider your drawing, on top of your transfer paper.
  5. Ready? Rinse your fabric under running water until your water soluble transfer paper has solved completely.
Pros water soluble transfer paperCons water soluble transfer paper
- You can use it to transfer designs to any colour fabric
- You can easily draw on it to transfer your drawing
- You need to solve the paper in water, meaning you have to make your fabric wet
- You need to pin your transfer paper carefully so it won't shift
- It feels a bit granular, which can make it hard to draw fine lines

3. Print a drawing on magic paper

Piece of magic paper with a print of a ladybird spider that has been partially embroidered already on some grey fabric

Magic paper works in the same way as water soluble transfer paper, but comes with some additional advantages: you can stick it onto your fabric, and you can print your design on it. It's available in 2 sizes: A5 format (without a grid on it) and A4 format (with a grid on it). You use it as follows:

  1. Prepare your drawing for printing by setting it to the correct size in your favourite software.
  2. Adjust your printer settings to print in eco mode.
  3. Test on a regular piece of paper first, one that has the same size as the magic paper you'll be printing on. This way, you know for sure that your drawing will fit your magic paper.
  4. Print on your magic paper.
  5. Cut your drawing out. Make sure to leave enough space to clearly see the edges of your drawing.
  6. Stick your design on your fabric.
  7. Embroider over your design.
  8. Ready? Rinse your fabric under running water until your magic paper has solved completely.
Pros magic paperCons magic paper
- You can use it to transfer designs to any colour fabric
- You only need to print your design and you can get going immediately
- You can stick your design on your fabric, you don't need any pins
- You need to solve the paper in water, meaning you have to make your fabric wet

4. Using a transfer veil to transfer your drawing

A transfer veil is a see-through, washable veil that allows you to easily transfer your drawing. You do so as follows:

  1. Place your transfer veil on top of your drawing.
  2. Use a pen with water soluble ink to transfer your drawing onto the veil. Careful, though: your ink will bleed through your veil, so you'll leave ink on your drawing. If you don't want to mess up the original drawing, make a copy first. Or place a plastic sheet between the veil and your drawing.
  3. Place your transfer veil on top of your fabric, and use the same pen to trace your drawing again.
  4. Your drawing is now on your fabric.
Pros transfer veilCons transfer veil
- You can see clearly through the transfer veil, making it very easy to transfer your drawing
- You can keep on reusing it. Just rinse your veil with some water, let dry, and draw on something else.
- It's very easy to remove the ink, a few drops of water are enough
- You can only use it on light-coloured fabric
- The ink bleeds through the veil, so you draw on the original drawing as well

5. Using carbon paper

Less handy, but also a method: carbon paperlike the one you sometimes use when transferring a sewing pattern.

  1. Place your clothing/fabric on a hard surface, right side up.
  2. Place your carbon paper on your fabric, colourful side facing down.
  3. Place your printed drawing on top of the carbon paper. Make sure to put the drawing exactly where you want it to be, and that it covers any holes completely if you're looking to repair something.
  4. Use a hard pencil to draw over your printed drawing, and push down when doing so.
  5. Carefully check whether your drawing is transferring correctly. Repeat these steps if necessary. If you can barely make out the lines on your fabric, you can still use a pen or a pencil to draw over them again directly onto the fabric.
Pros carbon paperCons carbon paper
- Available in different colours
- Can come in handy for dark-coloured fabrics
- Rather difficult to transfer your drawing completely and correctly
- Hard to use on soft, thicker fabric
- Not easy to see what you did already and what you still need to do

Bonus: directly on the fabric

Do you have a talent for drawing? Then skip all these tools, and just use a pencil or pen to draw directly onto the fabric.

So, how about it? What's your preferred method?

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