How to do an embroidery pattern transfer on fabric

how to transfer embroidery patterns

So you have your embroidery pattern ready to go but wait… how do you transfer that embroidery pattern on your fabric?
To get your embroidery pattern on the fabric there are a couple of methods. If you want to draw the pattern freehand you have more freedom in handling the situation. However, if you want to transfer it directly from the pattern the methods available to you depend on the fabric you are using. In this article, you can see some tips for embroidery pattern transfer on light fabrics. Go to this post if you have a dark or patterned fabric.

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how to transfer embroidery patterns on fabric

Pens, markers & chalk for embroidery pattern transfer

  • Pencils can leave a nasty grey shade. If you cover the lines completely it can be ok, but use a harder pen, not the soft ones which smother easily.
  • Water-soluble fabric pens can be washed out later.
  • Frixion ball pens disappear when you apply heat (like a hairdryer or ironing).
  • Tailor’s chalk is also available as a chalk pen. It disappears quite quickly because it’s only attached to the surface. Chalk is the easiest to remove permanently.
  • An iron-on transfer pen is permanent so use it only for patterns that you’ll cover with stitches completely.
  • There are embroidery stabilizers that you can print on and stick to your fabric. I like this Sticky Fabri-Solvy by Sulky. It works great for intricate designs.

The Window Method

Now on to tracing a design on the fabric. I like to use the window method as most people have one and it’s easy to do. However, it does not work for dark fabrics.

• tape the printed pattern to a window with masking tape
• tape the fabric over the pattern with masking tape
• trace the lines with a pen of your choice

BONUS TIP: If it‘s dark outside, you can set up a glass pane (e.g. from a picture frame) or large glass bowl/vase with a flat bottom and put a lamp or even your phone’s flashlight underneath it to shine through your pattern and fabric.

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What if you have a dark or patterned fabric?

The light method doesn’t work very well on darker fabrics or fabrics with a pattern or ones that have a distinct structure. Even if you have a strong light source most of the time it is not strong enough to see the lines crisply.

That is why I recommend other transferring methods for dark and patterned fabric like using transfer paper or Solvy. You can read more about that in the article Pattern transfer on dark fabrics.


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If you are a beginner, you can read even more about basic embroidery tips & tricks over on the beginner embroidery guide article.

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