pattern transfer is just one of those things, you have to do it to get to the fun stuff but no single method ever seems perfect! I am frequently asked what I use for transferring my patterns so this post is just to show the different pens I use. It is also possible to use carbon paper for fabric but this is a method I have never tried although I will probably give it a go soon and will blog about it.
My absolute most preferred method is the pilot frixion pen, I have mentioned it before. I find I can get all the detail as it is more or less like a biro and I like being able to just iron the lines away. The only downside is that you can't iron anything until you've finished sewing as your lines will disappear! This is definitely the pen I find easiest to use for detailed patterns.
If you prefer to wash the pen out then a water erasable pen is for you. They are more like felt tip pens, this particular one is quite thick (like a normal felt pen), I tend to use it if I want a very clear line and the pattern is very simple, usually for my daughter. You can get a finer line pen as well but I don't find them great for really detailed patterns. This pen just washes out when you've finished but it's worth doing a trial run on a scrap of the fabric you're going to use just to be on the safe side.
Both these pens are tracing pens. I use a light box but you can tape the pattern to a sunny window with your fabric over it and trace the design.
Iron on transfer pens are quite new to me. You trace the pattern onto paper (I've used tracing paper and cheap copier paper both work but I got more transfers with the copier paper)
You iron your fabric so it's warm then place the image on the fabric and move the iron over it (on a high heat) while keeping the pattern still. The image is very clear but it is also permanent (it faded a little on washing) so you would need to cover the lines with your stitches.
the advantage of this sulky pen is that you can get more than one image from your transfer (with the tall roofed house I got three good images). I couldn't get a really fine line on it but it could be lack of practice. The pen flows nicely and is easy to draw with.
these houses were transferred using a heat transfer pencil. I could get a fine line with this which was great and I got two stitchable images from one pattern. Again this method is permanent but the line is finer so you may find it easier to cover with stitches. It doesn't flow quite as easily as the sulky pen but for detailed work it's definitely preferable.
All my pens were from The Cotton Patch.
If a design is quite complex and I know I'll stitch it more than once I will use a heat transfer pen or pencil as I can get more than one image for all that tracing work! But usually I use the frixion pen and a lightbox.
Once my personal computer skills mentor returns from his travels I will ask for help setting up a tutorials and methods page where I will gather useful information for beginner embroiderers and I will add this post to it so that it is easy to find!