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: transferring directly from a device or computer screen.
So let's get started!
No printer required
Quick and easy
Works on light or see-through fabrics
Pen lines removable
Pen lines clear and visible
Works day + night
No need to stitch through an extra layer
Doesn’t work on dark or thick fabrics
Drawing skills required
Challenges to keep digital template still
(depending on software)
Lightbox software required (usually)
Limited to screen size
Let’s explore how you can transfer your design directly from your computer or device, using it as a make shift light box! Many people love this method, especially when they can’t print out the design template. It works really well with light-coloured fabrics which you can see through to trace. But be warned – the tricky part is figuring out how to keep it all steady and still.
IN A NUTSHELL: Bring the design template up on your screen, place your fabric on top, and trace the design directly from the device onto your fabric.
Open Digital Template: Bring the design template up on the screen of your device. Now check, is your design showing up to the correct scale, or in other words at 100% size? Can you lock the image in place at the correct size? Depending on your software, you may need to adjust this and check the size with a ruler.
Position Fabric: Dress your hoop (i.e. mount your fabric tightly in the hoop and trim away any excess fabric), then place it face down on top of the template, and position it so that the design sits wherever you want it (usually this would be in the centre). It’s also really helpful (believe me!) to secure your hoop into place, so that it doesn’t move around on the screen as you do the tracing step. So I’d recommend that you use clear sticky tape to tape your hoop to the device – but please take care when using tape on your screen.
Tip to trace onto loose fabric instead:
If you prefer, you can dress your hoop after the tracing step. In this case, you would lay your fabric over the screen and secure it into place with clear tape, then do the tracing step. Personally, I find it easier to trace onto stretched fabric rather than loose fabric, even if it’s taped down.
Check Transparency: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 5. Or, if your design template is a bit tricky to see, then go to step 4.
Increase Light: Your first option is to turn up the brightness on your screen. If that isn’t enough, you can download light box software, which will brighten your screen. This software can also be helpful for sizing, positioning, and locking your digital template in place. Read on for some tips on which apps to use.
Trace: With the light shining up through the template, you should be able to easily see the design clearly on your fabric. So go ahead a trace the template onto your fabric.
Now your template has been transferred to your pattern and you can move to the next step of making your pattern, fantastic work! You’ll find more info about transfer pens and how to remove any visible pen marks at the end.
TIP: If I don’t have a printer, I will often follow the steps above to trace my design onto a piece of paper instead of directly onto the fabric. Then I’ll use go ahead and transfer using method # 1 (my go-to!). I find that easier than tracing straight off a screen to fabric. But do whatever works for you!
Q & A
Help, everything is moving around on my device screen!
As you trace your pattern and apply pressure to the screen with your transfer pen, you may notice that your digital template moves around, or even disappears! This can be really frustrating. But don’t worry, you can usually turn on a function on your device that locks things in place. For example, if you’re using an iPad, you can turn on the ‘guided access’ function. For tablets, look for the ‘Screen Pinning’ or ‘Screen Lock’ feature. In any case, you’ll need to use whatever locking function is available on your device.
What Lightbox app should I use?
There are loads of different options out there, and I encourage you to do your own research before you choose. But here’s a couple of ideas: