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to trace, or not to trace

In this tutorial, we dive into three of our favorite ways to transfer a PDF embroidery pattern, using various tracing techniques and a printer. Deciding which method to use depends on the weight and color of your chosen fabric, and the complexity of the pattern. Each process below will show you how to successfully transfer your pattern with any of these variations. Let's have a look.  

1. Trace with water soluble pen.  

This method is perfect for simple patterns, light weight and light colored fabrics.
  • Tape the pattern to a light box, or window (if you don't have a light box).
  • Tape the fabric over the pattern. The pattern should clearly be visible through the fabric for tracing.
  • Trace the pattern.
  • When finished stitching; wash the pen ink out with cold water and hang to air dry. Keep the fabric taut as you rinse and dry to prevent any wrinkles.¬†
*If you don't have a water soluble pen, a sharp pencil works in a pinch as well.
 2. Iron fabric to freezer paper and print. 
This method is perfect for complex/intricate patterns, light weight and light colored fabrics. Some designs (such as our Paris or Amsterdam patterns) are too complex to trace by hand - it's much easier to print with the help of freezer paper (a quilter's secret used to stabilize fabric). 


  • Purchase pre-cut freezer paper sheets, or cut your own (fit to size of your printer feed).
  • Cut the fabric a little larger than the freezer paper and iron the wrong side of the fabric to the glossy side of the freezer paper. TURN STEAM OFF! The paper won't stick to the fabric if your iron is using steam. Iron till there is a solid bond between the fabric and paper (be careful not to burn your fabric).
  • Trim¬†fabric along the sides of the freezer paper¬†- this step ensures you have clean cut edges for the printer. Give this one more iron to make sure the bond is secure between the materials.
  • Run the "fabric paper" through the printer (image prints on the fabric). Help guide the "fabric paper" into the printer to make sure the printer feed grabs hold.
  • Once your image is printed, peel off the freezer paper, and voila! You have a perfectly printed pattern ready to stitch!¬†¬†

*Sometimes the paper will jam in the printer, and no amount of crossing your fingers and encouragement to your printer will stop this from happening. It may take a few tries before it prints out correctly (so make sure to have a little extra fabric and freezer paper to work with).


3. Transfer with carbon paper:  

This method is perfect for  simple to complex patterns, heavy weight and/or dark colored fabric. 


  • Lay the fabric face-up on a hard surface, such as a desktop or kitchen counter.
  • Lay the carbon paper over the fabric with the waxy ink facing the fabric.
  • Lastly, place the pattern on top of the fabric and carbon paper.
  • With all three layers in place, trace the pattern using a pencil, stylus or empty ball-point marking pen. Be sure to press hard enough so that wax from the carbon paper marks the fabric.¬†

*Be careful when tracing. The waxy ink usually does not wash out of most fabrics. Clean your needle after stitching as well, to get rid of any residue from the waxy ink. 


Hope this tutorial was helpful. If you are ready to get stitching, check out our collection of PDF patterns! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact E+S. We are always happy to help. 


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