Tools of the Trade

I’m often asked about the best way to transfer a design onto fabric for embroidery so I thought I would share some different techniques that I use regularly in the studio. When I’m creating a new design, I like to draw it first on paper. This helps me to get the scale and images right before I start stitching.

Tip… When using any marking tools and techniques you should always test on a piece of the fabric first to check if it’s suitable for the project you are working on.

Tissue Paper

This many sound like a strange way to transfer a design onto fabric but I use this for precious fabrics that won’t take well to being drawn on to. I always put my fabric in the hoop or frame before I attached the tissue paper. I trace the design onto a piece of tissue paper using a fine pencil. I then tack the tissue paper to the surface of my fabric with a contrasting thread.

Once the paper is secured in place, I started to stitch through the paper and the fabric to copy the design. When I’ve finished stitching, a carefully tear away the paper and tacking stitching, leaving my embroidered design on the fabric.

Air Erasable Pens

I’ve been using air erasable pens for many years, in particular the Barnyarns Magic Pen. They’re great for drawing out designs onto fabric ready for embroidery. Some of the pens have a finer nib so you can do some really detailed lines. You can also get a white pen for darker fabrics. I found this is hard to see at first as it writes clear and turns white.

This type of pen fades differently depending on the fabric. I’ve found that on vintage fabrics it doesn’t last as long. If the pen hasn’t faded when your design is finished, you can dab the marks off with a damp cloth.

Heat Erasable Pen

Pilot Frixion pens are a newer edition to my stash after they were recommended by a dressmaking friend. I picked up a bargain pack in Tesco and you an find them online and in stationery shops too. I tend to buy the black ball point types but you can buy other colours too.

I use them for drawing designs on my fabric for workshop samples, around patchwork templates and for larger designs that I need to spend a few days on. When the design is finished, you can use an iron or hairdryer to remove the design. Please be mindful that that this pen may come back if the fabric gets incredible cold. I also had a ghost image left on the fabric when I used a very fine vintage cotton.

***Please note that this is just my personal observation on the techniques I use regularly, everyone has their favourites and I recommend trying lots of different types to find the best one for you. ***