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August 2015

transfer methods

Transfer collage

A few weeks ago I ordered a parcel from sublime stitching so that I could try out some other transfer methods.  The main reason I ordered from them was a new fine line iron on transfer pen.

I have a sulky iron on transfer pen which gives lines that I find too thick to use with my patterns, certainly they can't be covered by two strands of thread, so I was quite excited by the idea of a fine line pen.  I also ordered some of her tracing paper, which is a thick vellum, and some black and white carbon paper along with a stylus.

Transfer pen 1

So to begin with the iron on transfer pen.  The idea is that you trace the design onto the vellum paper (eliminating the need for a light box) and then place the vellum ink side down on top of your fabric and iron the design onto your fabric.  The vellum is  nice and thick but you can still see the design well.  The pen is smooth to work with, just like a drawing pen really.

Transfer pen 2

I was very conscious of being very careful with the initial tracing because the design is permanent once it is on your fabric so you need your original tracing to be perfect.  I used a design that was fairly similar whichever way around you use it, but if you have a design with writing on it you need to make sure that you are tracing a reversed image so that when you iron it on it will be the right way around


Transfer pen 4

this is the traced design, the lines are pretty fine (not quite as fine as the frixion pen).  I was lazy about the stripes on her sleeves and I don't want stripes on her boots. 

Transfer pen fabric

Ta Dah!  I used a hot iron and held it in place rather than moving it across the design so that nothing moved.  The boots are actually clearer than they look I didn't iron them properly but there was enough there for me to see for stitching.

Transfer pen 5

Next I did something daft... I was going to transfer another girl to show you the second print from the same transfer but I ironed the wrong side of the vellum, which stops it from working!  So I drew the little string of hearts above.  A is the first image, B the second and C the third.  At a push you could stitch the third.  Perhaps a gentler ironing the first time might mean the ink lasts longer.

Transfer pen 6

and finally two strands of thread covers the line nicely.

Overall I was pleased with the results of the fine liner pen.  You get a smooth and even line and it prints onto the fabric well.  With this method you don't need a light box and you can get two or more prints from one tracing.

The pen and tracing paper are only available in the USA at the moment as far as I know but please let me know if you find a UK stockist.  I got mine (along with the carbon paper and stylus) directly from Sublime Stitching and I think it took just over a week to arrive.

Carbon 1

The second method I tried was black carbon paper with a stylus.  The stylus is a rather nice wooden pen type thing with a metal point and ball at each end (see above) one end is smaller than the other.  I chose to use the smaller end to give a finer line.

With this method you place your fabric down first then the carbon paper on top with the ink face down and finally your design on the top of the pile.  Now just trace the pattern using the stylus and quite a lot of pressure.

Carbon 2

I really liked the end results of this method, the line is finer and a bit less marked than the transfer pen.  It is more like a pencil or biro mark.  But I found the carbon paper harder to use.

It requires concentration, especially with a complex pattern, so you can't be distracted by fire engines going past your work room window because when you look back it's harder to tell which lines you've traced.  I also found that if I lifted the carbon paper to check that it was tracing properly it was difficult not to move it slightly.  You do need to put quite a bit of pressure on it.

Carbon 3

But I loved the end result.  The lines are easy to cover and are clear.

I would be more inclined to use this method, despite it's difficulties than the transfer pen.

I did also try out the white carbon paper on grey fabric with less success

Carbon white

the lines really aren't clear enough.  I suspect they would be clearer on black fabric but unfortunately I don't have any at the moment so I will try the white again when I have some darker fabric.

Overall I was happy with both methods but I think I still prefer to use a light box and a non permanent marker.  But I would definitely recommend the above methods if you don't have a light box, especially the carbon paper.

The downside for some may be that you still have to carefully trace the design in the first place.  But there is a product (thank you stitch 'n' dye :)) that allows you to print the design straight onto the fabric - sulky's sticky fabri solvi

I haven't tried this yet but I'm quite excited by the idea so that will be my next test I think.

Anything that makes the transferring easier!

The carbon sheets are available in the UK here

I would love to know more about the methods you have most success with

beginning stitching - stitching

Main pic

So you have gathered your materials and traced the pattern and you've chosen your colours.

Now it's time to start stitching.

This post has quite a few links to other tutorials for the actual stitches but a short note about beginnings and endings

Beginnings 1

when you take your first stitch leave a tail about as long as your needle

this will be woven into the back of your stitching as you stitch

Weavings beginnings

You just catch the tail on the back of your work as you stitch your first few stitches as above.

Weaving collage

when you finish make sure you have a couple of inches of thread left and weave the thread through the back of your stitches as above.

Back stitch

I have tutorials for the following stitches on the blog, just click on the stitch to be transported


chain stitch

french knots

I also have posts on how I applique the dresses

 if you are making lavender girls I have a tutorial in two parts here and here

and if you want to frame your embroidery in a hoop here is a tutorial

I will be doing more stitch tutorials on Tuesdays beginning next week with stem stitch.

I also really recommend these you tube videos made by the fabulous sublime stitching


Beginning stitching - transfer your pattern

Transferring patterns main

This post answers the question I am asked the most - how do I transfer the pattern onto my fabric.

The photos in this post are a little dull I'm afraid, no pretty colours.  Not helped by a grey wet summery August day!!

If you buy a pdf embroidery pattern from me you receive a file that you print out onto paper consisting of pattern notes (stitch guide and colour guide) and the pattern itself. You can just print the pattern and keep the notes on your computer if you prefer (some of the notes have a lot of photographs that you may not want to print out).  

Transferring patterns 1

The pattern will be printed on A4 or letter size paper and look like the picture above.

If you would like the pattern to be bigger (or smaller) then simply photocopy it at a larger or smaller size, eg. 150% for it to be one and a half times bigger or 75% for it to be three quarters the size.

Once you have the pattern the size that you would like it you will need:

a removable pen

a light source (a window or a lightbox)

masking tape


The pen I use is a pilot frixion heat removable pen.  I use this because it is really a ballpoint pen and so much easier to trace the details with.  At the end it irons away.  Always test your pen to make sure it does remove cleanly from the fabric!  

There are other methods and pens available and I will be doing a post on those in a couple of weeks but today I wanted to focus on the method that I find works best for me.

Transferring patterns 2

This is the fabric placed over the pattern.  As you can see, if you are using a white fabric you can just about see the pattern even without a light source.  

Transferring patterns 3

If you don't have a light box then you will need to tape the pattern to a window.  I usually say a bright sunny window but as you can see, from this murky picture, today is not a bright sunny kind of day!

Transferring patterns 4

Next tape your fabric over the pattern, placing it carefully where you want the pattern to be.

You can see the design a whole lot better even though it is definitely not a sunny window!

Transferring patterns 5

And now the achy arm bit, you trace the design onto your fabric using the pen.  I use quite light short strokes so it doesn't pull the fabric too much.  If your arms are very achy I would recommend missing out the lines on the legs and winging it later!

Transferring patterns 6

but this is what you end up with, a fine tracing of the pattern all ready to be stitched up.

It is easier to see the design using white fabric if you are using a window on a dull grey day.

The fabric I used here was Robert Kauffman essex linen in white.

Transferring patterns 7

This leads to the best bit of all (and a little bit of colour).  You get to choose the colours!  

The pattern comes with a colour and stitch guide to the colours and stitches that I used to create the picture in the photo.  But you might want red hair instead of black hair, and your favourite colours might be very different to mine.  Choosing the colours is without doubt my favourite part.  This girl's dress could be stitched over and again in a rainbow of colours!

(The pattern for this girl and her pumpkin holding friend will be in my shop later this week hopefully!)

Next week beginning stitching and finishing off

Beginning stitching - Gather your materials

Gather 1

One of the reasons I love stitching is that it requires so little to begin.  At it's most basic you need fabric, a hoop to hold the fabric, thread and a needle.  But those few things can range from being very practical and simple to being very beautiful, embellished and still practical.  And of course there's the storage!

This post is all about what I use for stitching and transferring so it's very much about my own preferences.  It covers everything you would need to make up my patterns.

Gather 2 threads

I have to start with threads as they are my favourite thing.  I love the moment when I have a new project and I can stand in front of the thread stands in our local sewing shop and choose colours!  It's my happy time.

For my patterns I only use stranded cotton, either DMC or Anchor (or both).  If you can only get hold of one of these brands there is a converter here that gives similar colours in both DMC and Anchor.

I keep all my stranded cottons wrapped around card thread holders with the numbers written on them.  I even have them sorted into colours (what can I say?  I like to be organized!).  The threads are in (unattractive but practical) plastic thread storage boxes that I can stack away in a cupboard.  

There are lots of prettier methods of storage over on pinterest, but I find this works for me.

Gather 3 threads

And sometimes I've been lucky enough to have been gifted some luscious threads in beautiful boxes to add a little beauty.  

The bright box is full of perle cotton no.8.  This cotton is thicker and plied together rather than stranded (although you can untwist it and use separate threads)  I find this good for bold embroidery, like the stitching on the box.  I don't use it in my patterns because I like to use finer threads for all the detail.  But it is beautiful for writing.

The other box contains some lovely vintage (1960's) linen threads that my partner found in a shop in Falmouth.  I love linen thread because I love the matte effect, but it is not as smooth as cotton and therefore a little more difficult to work with.  DMC did do some beautiful linen threads but sadly they have discontinued them. 

Gather 4 threads

DMC do also do speciality threads, glitter threads and satin threads.  Both of these have their difficulties (to put it politely) and can make stitching a little bit sweary and less relaxing than usual.  But it is worth it for the effect (sometimes).  The satin thread is slippery whereas the glitter thread is not smooth and can catch as you're stitching.  The trick really is to cut the thread a lot shorter than usual and go slowly. 

Gather 5 threads

For the patterns you will only need DMC or Anchor stranded cotton

Gather 6 threads

This stranded cotton is six strands of thread that you can separate into single, two, three etc. to have control over the thickness of line that you stitch.  The patterns mostly use two strands of thread but there are places where I just use one for a finer line and these are noted in the patterns.

Gather 7 needles

Needles are simple for me, I use a no.7 crewel needle for all the patterns.  I love the ones with the gold eye (I don't know why!) but I have many more without a gold eye.  I do have a few 8s and 9s but I tend to favour the 7s.

Gather 8 needles

and then there are the places to put your needles... I have numerous needle cases because I like embroidering them but I could only find this one to photograph!  I also have endless pin cushions because I love using up scrap fabrics.   Pin cushions are also a good place to practice a bit of stitching, whether it's simple straight stitching or more complicated knots.  

I also have this lovely metal needle keeper that I pop in my sewing basket with spare needles in it.

Gather 9 pins

I use two types of pins.  The long (I think they are quilting pins) pearl headed ones for most fabrics and these fabulous merchant and mills fine pins (I think they are meant for butterflies!!) perfect for delicate fabrics like the liberty tana lawn that I use for the lavender girls' dresses.

Gather 10 tools

I use two small pairs of scissors, mainly because I found the silver ones too small to cut the dresses out for the applique.  So the little silver ones are thread snippers and I use the fiskars 5" scissors to cut out the fabrics for the embroidery.  

The pen I use for transferring the patterns is a pilot frixion.  I have written about it before over here along with other pens that I occasionally use.  The reasons that I like it are that it is heat removable (it irons away after stitching) and it has a fine line for the details.  I have noticed that sublime stitching has created a fine transfer pen but at the moment I can't get hold of it in England.  I'd love to hear from anyone who has used it though.

Gather 11 hoop and fabric

  Hoops and Fabric.  My preference is for a wooden hoop, I do have some plastic ones but if I leave the fabric hooped up overnight accidentally (!) they tend to leave a mark that is difficult to remove.  And I like the feel of wood a lot more.  I usually use between a 4" and a 6" hoop depending on the size of the embroidery.  I don't especially like using a bigger hoop, I would rather move a smaller one around the work.

The two fabrics I use are Robert Kaufmann essex linen in natural which I buy here and cotton calico which I buy here

They are both medium weight fabrics and are not specifically for embroidery.  The calico needs a couple of washes to soften a little but adds a lovely texture to the work.  I tend to favour the linen cotton mix partly because of the colour, it really makes the thread colours pop.  

You can use any medium weight fabric that is smooth to stitch on.  You just need to make sure your stitches don't pull on it. 

I also use liberty tana lawn prints and bonda web for applique.  I have a post here to help with appliqueing the dresses.

Next week I will be looking at transferring the pattern to the fabric.  Please feel free to share your own tools and materials in the comments I love finding out what other stitchers use!

If you are in the UK you can buy threads, hoops and needles from sew and so if you are not lucky enough to have an embroidery shop nearby.

I buy liberty scraps for applique from very berry fabrics on folksy and larger pieces of liberty from Alice Caroline on Etsy