Mobile Phone Flashlight: Transferring Patterns to Fabric
One of the first steps for working on an embroidery pattern is transferring the design to your fabric. There are lots of different methods of doing this – which is great (lots of options, woo hoo!) but that can also make it quite daunting for beginners (how on earth do you know which one to use?!).
But don’t worry, I’m here to help! I'm going to teach you one of my favourite (and in my opinion, easiest) ways to transfer patterns onto fabric: using a mobile phone flashlight.
So let's get started!
Quick and easy
Works on light or see-through fabrics
Pen lines removable
Pen lines clear and visible
Works day + night
Supplies easy to find
No need to stitch through an extra layer
Doesn’t work on dark or thick fabrics
Drawing skills required
Let’s start with my favourite method for transferring embroidery patterns to fabric, which I’ve taught successfully to thousands of beginners. It’s great for light-coloured fabrics which you can see through to trace.
IN A NUTSHELL: Print your template and tape it to the underside of your dressed hoop. Trace the design using a heat erasable pen, using the torch on your mobile phone asa light source.
Dress your hoop: I think it’s easier to trace your design template on fabric that is already mounted nice and tight in your hoop. So go ahead and do that step first. Here’s a quick recap: separate the 2 sides of your hoop and place the inner hoop on a flat surface. Centre your fabric on top, fit the outer hoop over it, and tighten. Pull the excess fabric taut, twist the closure, and trim any excess fabric (an overlap of about 2 inches or 5cm works well).
NOTE: You’ll find the detailed step by step instructions on how to use Sulky Stick & Stitch stabiliserand Sulky Tender Touch at the end of this blog.
Tip if you’re using two pieces of fabric:
If you can easily see through both layers, then you can hoop both layers now. If not, re-hoop after the transfer step to add the second layer.
Prep template: Cut out the design template, so that it's a round piece which will fit inside your hoop.
Stick template to fabric: Flip your hoop your template face-down on the fabric, and position the design wherever you want it on the fabric(usually this would be in the centre). Secure it in place using clear sticky tape or pins. Now your template is nicely secured to your fabric and you don’t have to worry about it moving around when you trace it.
Check transparency: Flip your hoop over, and take a look – can you easily see the template through the fabric? Is it visible enough for you to trace over? If it’s nice and clear, then jump straight to step 6 below. Or, if your design template is a bit tricky to see, then go to step 5.
Get your make-shift flashlight ready: Turn on your mobile phone’s flashlight function, then lay your mobile on a flat surface with the light beaming upwards. Position your hoop over the top, so that the fabric is facing up. See how this makes the template much easier to see on the front side of your fabric? Now we’re talking!
Tip to use window light instead: If you prefer, you can totally use a window as your light source (instead of your mobile phone’s flashlight). In fact, I often switch between the two, depending on where I am and the time of day. To do this, simply hold your hoop up to a well-lit window (you can rest the rim against the pane), and it will allow you to see the template through to the front side of your fabric. You can flip your set-up so that you trace onto the underside instead, which enables you to rest the pattern flat against the window – more on this topic later.
Trace: Now go ahead and trace your template onto the front of the fabric. As you go around the template, move the hoop to position the part you’re drawing right above the flashlight - doing this maximizes the light, making the template stand out as much as possible. Another tip is to press the paper template hard up against the fabric, right where you are drawing. Take it slow, and go over all of the template lines with your transfer pen. You don’t need to press super hard or do a thick line – just a clear fine line works well. And don’t worry it doesn’t need to be perfect, especially when you’re a beginner! Just keep adjusting your position and pushing the template against the fabric, until you’ve traced over the entire template. Amazing job!
Remove Template: Now you can flip over your hoop and remove the paper template (plus any sticky tape or pins). I often keep this printed copy of the template (it’s sometimes helpful to refer to later as you stitch the pattern).
Now your template has been transferred to your pattern and you can move to the next step of making your pattern, woo hoo! You’ll find more info soon about transfer pens and how to remove any visible pen marks at the end.
Q & A
Can I trace on the underside of my dressed hoop?
Many people prefer to trace their design onto the underside of the hoop (unlike the top-side as I’ve shown in the first method). This allows you to rest your design flat on a surface (e.g. a window or screen), making it easier to draw the template lines. So, feel free to do this if you prefer! Then once your design is traced, you can either flip your fabric and re-hoop it the other way up, or leave it in the hoop and stitch on the underside—whatever works best for you.
Can I transfer on loose fabric or re-hoop my fabric AFTER the transfer step?
Yes, you sure can! When tracing onto loose fabric, it helps to stick both the template and fabric to the tracing surface (e.g., window or light box). This will keep both layers nice and still while you trace the design. Personally, I prefer dressing the fabric in the hoop before transferring the design - it’s easier to draw on taut fabric that doesn’t move.Also, sometimes when you stretch out the fabric after transferring it can distort the design – but hey, that usually this isn’t a problem (especially if you’re using non-stretch fabric). So feel free to do whichever method you prefer.
I hope that this guide has made it easy and fun for you to transfer your patterns onto your material, without being overwhelmed.
I encourage you to practice transferring your pattern on with different techniques, and you’ll find a favourite method that you can easily whip out each time you start a new project.