How to transfer an embroidery design onto fabric


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Prick and Pounce Method

The prick and pounce method of transferring embroidery designs is used for Applique, Brazilian, Free Embroidery, Goldwork, Needle Painting, Modern Jacobean, Traditional Jacobean and White Work. A desired design to be worked is placed beneath a piece of Velum tracing paper and all the lines of the design are traced onto the tracing paper.

A No. 10 embroidery needle is screwed into a pricking tool and then holes are pricked along all the pencil lines on the tracing paper puncturing the design lines at 1/8th of and inch (3 mm) intervals, when all the lines have been pricked the tracing paper is held up to the light to check that all the lines have been pricked. Horizontal and vertical center lines are drawn onto the pricking in preparation of positioning the pricking onto the fabric.

The pricked tracing paper is placed on to fabric (smooth side up) and the center lines on the pricking are lined up with the center lines tacked on the fabric. The tracing paper is held in place with weights on the corners of the tracing paper or by pinning the tracing paper to the fabric.

A pouncing tool is used to rub pounce over the whole of the pricked design, dark pounce is used for light fabrics and light pounce for dark fabrics. The tracing paper is carefully lifted away leaving a pounce outline of the design on the fabric.

Excess pounce is blown away, then the pounce lines are drawn over with a lead pencil or white pencil depending on the colour of the fabric or painted over with permanent paint i.e. acrylics or oils. Any excess pounce is removed by tapping the back of the work and brushing the remainder of the pounce away with a baby brush or cotton wool puff – brushing in towards the design.

The prick and pounce method is the most accurate method of transferring a design onto a piece of fabric for embroidery as you can transfer intricate and fine lines, in comparison to a light box where the fabric can shift distorting the design or using transfer paper which can smudge on the fabric. A mechanical HB pencil with a 0.7mm lead (which can be purchased at an office supply store) or acrylic paint are the best implements to use to draw or paint over the lines as you can get a nice fine line compared to some transfer pens.

Tissue Paper Method

The tissue paper method of transferring designs is used for counted thread work such as Blackwork, Pulled work and Drawn thread and for any embroidery where a permanent line is not wanted.

A desired design to be worked is placed beneath a piece of tissue paper and all the lines of the design are traced onto the tracing paper.

The tissue paper is pinned onto the fabric so that it is in the desired position. A single length of sewing thread in a contrasting colour to the fabric is used to sew the tissue paper to the fabric with long stitches over the lines on the tissue paper on the front and short stab stitches on the back. All the lines on the tissue paper are sewn, ensuring to start and finish threads securely.

When all the lines have been tacked then the tissue paper is ripped away, tweezers can be used to pick out the very small pieces of tissue paper. You are left with a tacked out line of the design on the fabric, this will be your guideline in which to do your counted stitches. The tacking lines can be un-picked once the stitches have been worked.

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