How to transfer embroidery designs onto fabric

Updated April 17, 2017

Embroidery enhances clothing and home decor items. You can transfer embroidery designs onto fabric using an inexpensive heat transfer pencil. Draw or trace your design on paper, and transfer it to your fabric with an iron. Choose light coloured cloth for best results. Always conduct one or more tests on a scrap of the fabric, or in an inconspicuous spot, to determine the best iron temperature setting and pressing time.

Draw test patterns with the transfer pencil on a piece of the same paper to be used for the transfer. Create lines of varying width and darkness by using different amounts of pressure when drawing.

Place the test design face down on a scrap of the fabric on which you will be embroidering, and press with medium heat for 5 seconds. Lift the paper and check the result. Perform additional tests with a longer pressing time and/or higher heat, if necessary, until you achieve a clear test transfer.

Trace or draw the pattern on plain white copy paper with the transfer pencil. Press down firmly with the pencil while drawing to make crisp, clear marks. Note that the transferred image will be a mirror image of the drawn design, so trace letters or numbers backwards.

Lay the fabric right side up on the ironing board and iron to remove wrinkles.

Position the transfer design paper on the fabric in the desired location, with the drawn side down. Press with your iron at the temperature setting for the time determined during your tests. Gently move the iron around without moving the paper to press the entire area over the design.

Lift the iron straight up without disturbing the paper. Hold the paper in place with one hand and lift a corner of the paper to peek under at the design without moving the position of the paper on the cloth. Turn up the iron and press the paper again if the transfer is not dark enough or has areas missing.

Remove the paper and store the design flat or in a file folder for later use, if desired.


Place the design to be copied under plain paper against a bright window to better see the design for tracing. You can rejuvenate used commercial embroidery transfers by drawing directly over the lines with a heat transfer pencil.


The transfer pencil may not wash out of all fabrics, so take care to avoid stray pencil marks and make the transferred design no darker than necessary.

Things You'll Need

  • Transfer Pencil
  • Copy paper
  • Iron
  • Ironing board
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About the Author

Crystal Marie launched her freelance writing career in July 2009 after working for nearly 20 years in public health. She writes for various websites and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in business and human resources management from Simpson University.