Pattern transfer on dark fabrics with transfer paper

Transferring an embroidery pattern on light fabrics is a piece of cake. In many cases, you can just lay the fabric on top of the pattern template and see the lines shining through. In some cases, you might need to put a light source underneath to enhance it, but typically it is quite easy to do. Now, pattern transfer on dark fabrics is a whole different story.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links to Etsy shops.

I love using dark fabrics for embroidery, but the act of getting the pattern on there has been a challenge for me, too.

One simple way of transferring a pattern to dark fabric is using transfer paper also called tracing paper like this. Let me tell you, once I tried it out, it was a game changer for me! Here is how it goes:

embroidery pattern transfer on dark fabrics

How to do a pattern transfer on dark fabric with transfer paper

Unlike tracing from behind, transfer paper works from laying the pattern on top of the fabric. This way you can see every detail clearly.

embroidery pattern transfer on dark fabrics

1. Lay the ironed fabric on a solid surface. Avoid table cloths or other soft surfaces.

2. Put the transfer paper on the fabric. There are two different sides to the transfer paper. One is much more vivid in color. That is where the pigments are and this side has to face towards the fabric. To test if it is the right side, slide your finger over it. If you have color on your finger, it is the right side. In the picture above, this is the yellow edge. It has to face down.

3. Position your pattern template on top of the transfer paper. Make sure it is in the exact position you want it to be on the fabric. Check if the transfer paper underneath covers all of the pattern template. Then use masking tape to fixate the pattern on the fabric.

4. Use a fine pencil (or knitting needle like I did) to trace all of the lines. Try to trace strategically to avoid missing some lines. I like to trace from left to right or from the middle outwards. Check if you missed some lines by peeking under the paper.

5. Take off the masking tape and gently pull off the template sheet and transfer paper. See? This method of pattern transfer on dark fabrics is so easy and quick!

embroidery pattern transfer on dark fabrics

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Tips and tricks on using transfer paper

Depending on the brand you are using, you have to press more or less. I used a lot of pressure for the fern and very little pressure for the little leaf marks (I used this DMC tracing paper) and both transfers look the same.

Be careful though to not press on the paper with your fingers too much or it will leave marks on your fabric, too.

The lines will fade if you rub over them continuously, but they last longer than most chalk pens I tried. Depending on the brand you are using, you can rub the marks off with an eraser or damp cloth.

The lines are not permanent but make sure you are using transfer/tracing paper that is meant for fabric. The ones for paper might not come off the fabric as easily or even dye the fabric. Always test on a small piece of your fabric first to be on the safe side!

Below you can see how the transferred lines hold fast after quite a lot of stitching time.

embroidery pattern transfer on dark fabrics

The Mushroom embroidery pattern

If you are wondering about the pattern I’m using in this tutorial, it is the mushroom embroidery pattern made by Emillie Ferris. This pattern is so carefully put together with step by step instructions and photos. There honestly are no questions left after going through all the pages.

Needle painting still is very new to me and I find it rather intimidating.

However, I feel very well equipped to make the pattern work every time I follow Emillie’s guidelines in her patterns.

If you feel intimidated, too, but would love to give needle painting a try – and love natural motifs – Emillie’s embroidery patterns are THE place to start.


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