How To Transfer Embroidery Patterns

If you are new to embroidery, here are some simple ways to transfer embroidery patterns + designs to your fabric.

Lightbox Tracing Method

The lightbox tracing method is probably the easiest method of them all if you are working with a single layer of woven fabric. If you’re planning on embroidering on denim, foundation pieced fabric, applique or crazy quilting, you’ll want to use our other transfer methods instead.

To trace your patterns onto your fabric, you’ll need a bright window, a lightbox, tablet, or smartphone.

If you are transferring onto a lighter fabric, the best pens to use are the Pilot Frixon pens as they will disappear if you hit them with a blow dryer when you are done stitching. There are no erasable white pens for dark fabrics that we are aware of yet – but you can use the Sakura White Gelly Roll pens to write on fabric as long you aren’t too worried about it being permanent.

To get started, print the embroidery pattern. Place the embroidery pattern with the fabric on top onto the window, lightbox, or tablet/smartphone. You may want to use a piece of washi tape to hold it in place while you trace.

Trace over the design and once you’re finished tracing you are ready to stitch!

Tracing Paper/Tissue Paper Method

Another option you can do that works great for thicker fabrics such as denim, upholstery fabric, felt or pieced blocks is the tracing paper/tissue paper method.

With this method, you simply trace the pattern onto tissue paper or tracing paper and then you pin it into place on your fabric. Start stitching through the paper and then when you are done, you can easily tear the tissue paper/tracing paper away.

This is my go-to method for crazy quilting and embroidering on denim and other heavier fabrics.

Heat Transfer Pens / Iron-On Transfers

I generally don’t recommend these methods because they can be a bit confusing and a bit finicky – sometimes your designs won’t transfer at all or they will be blurry/smudged.

Many people have had success with the pens and iron-on transfers so I’m listing them here as an option and for reference but I don’t like using them at all.


Once you have your embroidery pattern transferred over, you’re ready to start stitching!

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