Transfer images from paper to cloth
July 30, 2012 1:24 PM   Subscribe

I like to draw. I like to embroider. Help me get my drawings on the fabric.

I like to draw. I also like to embroider - usually on flour sack cloth tea towels or napkins or pillowcases. I'm looking for the best way (neatest, most crisp) to get my designs on the fabric. I've tried tracing with a fabric pen or pencil and transfer paper but haven't loved the results.
I'm not sure if my issues are technique or materials (using the right technique but the wrong brands, perhaps) or something else. Would love brand recommendations, materials, etc. Thanks!
posted by pointystick to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Have you tried using a light box? You can buy one or you can make your own.
posted by at the crossroads at 1:28 PM on July 30, 2012

I haven't used transfer paper because it looks messy. What I have been doing is tracing the design (via window - don't have a light box yet) with the finest micron permanent marker you can find. The lines are so fine they won't show up after they're embroidered over, and it is a lot less messy than the carbon paper or pencil.
posted by Pademelon at 1:34 PM on July 30, 2012

I use a light box. I print out my design and place it on my lightbox and the put my fabric over that. I sketch in a freshly sharpened pencil or with a fine uniball. Works great.

Also, I love just using my screen/monitor as a light box. Just load your design from an image file and drape the fabric right over your screen. The ipad works so very well for this and so do laptops, because you can lay the monitor flat on a working surface. But on my pc, I have taped fabric to the sides of the frame of the monitor to hold it in place while sketching. You have to use a uniball or other fine marker-type pen so there's no pressing, which might mar the monitor/screen.

Pro tip: If the fabric is smaller than the width of your printer and is single thickness, you can also print directly onto it. Get some spray glue and some cardstock. Spray the whole piece of cardstock with glue and immediately lay your fabric on it, smoothing out all creases. Trim off any cardstock that has glue on it but no fabric. Wait 2 hrs for the glue to dry and run the whole thing through your printer. Been doing this for years with great results. Has to be single thickness, so no pillow cases, unless you do a patchwork-sized piece and then add it to a pillowcase afterwards.
posted by iconomy at 1:38 PM on July 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

(I should add that I have only ever used 100% cotton or linen in my printer, wool or stretchy knits or polys or anything like that. Only cotton or linen.)
posted by iconomy at 1:40 PM on July 30, 2012

How to turn hand-written recipes into a tea towel, via Spoonflower. You could then, just embroider over the printed lines.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:07 PM on July 30, 2012

If the embroidery piece is going to be small, you can cut the fabric down to the size of a standard piece of paper (whatever your printer handles), do the same with a piece of freezer paper, then iron the freezer paper to the fabric (the waxy side of the freezer paper against the fabric). This makes the fabric stiff enough to run through your printer, and print the image directly on the fabric. The freezer paper then pulls right off of the fabric without leaving any residue. The printing obviously isn't removable, so you would probably want to use light/thin lines. I've done this before and it worked well.
posted by Safiya at 2:09 PM on July 30, 2012

You can print scanned drawings directly onto water-soluble stabilizer sheets, embroider, then wash the stabilizer out when you're through. (Apologies for no link, the phone is not behaving today!)
posted by corey flood at 2:18 PM on July 30, 2012

Transfer paper isn't really that messy. You can also buy pens to trace your drawings with - then iron the drawing onto the fabric.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:27 PM on July 30, 2012

I've had great luck with a light box and Aunt Martha's transfer paper/transfer pencil combo. It irons on easy peasy and the only issue I've had was making sure my transfer pencil was super sharp.
posted by bayliss at 6:26 PM on July 30, 2012

I really like these iron-off gel pens. Some might say I'm doing it wrong by holding an iron very close to my embroidery, but I love that it disappears instead of being covered up by the threads. I'm not sure from your question what exactly you don't like about your current method. Can you maybe say more?
posted by freezer cake at 9:27 PM on July 30, 2012

Thanks for all the great suggestions!

I haven't liked my results for various reasons - transfer paper cumbersome and faint, pens that don't write smoothly - and it seems like I can do better with techniques (light box! spray glue!) and have some good brand recommendations (Aunt Martha, Micron, etc).
posted by pointystick at 8:15 AM on July 31, 2012

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