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How to embroider patterns on to dark fabrics - Part One!
How do you get a design onto dark fabric? This is one of the most often-asked questions that comes my way. Do you really wear that much black? It seems like I'm asked oh...about once a day. Getting a design on dark fabric poses some challenges, for sure. There are numerous ways to do it, some that involve pin-pricking your design and pouncing it with chalk dust...but who wants to bother with all that? Not me. I'm going to show you what I think are the two easiest methods. This is the first one!

Posted by Sublime S. from Austin, Texas, United States • Published See Sublime S.'s 12 projects »
  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 1
    Step 1

    Here we have a dark shirt. You want to stitch on it, but don't know how to make a pattern show up.

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 2
    Step 2

    You will need this carbon transfer paper.
    There are multiple kinds of transfer papers for transferring designs to fabric, and you should try them out to see what you like best. Personally, I never liked the chalky blue stuff (aka "dressmaker's carbon"). I find that it gets onto my fabric where I don't want it, and the lines are too faint and rub off before I can finish stitching up my design. This carbon transfer paper comes in two sheets of dark gray (easy to see, won't rub off) and two sheets of white. You can use the sheets again and again and again and again before you'll need more.

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 3
    Step 3

    When you take the paper out, be sure to separate them (they are superthin). The lighter side of the sheet is the transferable side that will go against your fabric. (It's the opposite for the gray sheets: the darker side goes against your fabric.)

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 4
    Step 4

    Pick a design to trace. I'm using the heart from Vital Organs! Place the carbon paper with the whiter side down to the fabric. Now place your pattern on top.

    HINT: If you want to tape or pin your pattern to the fabric, do it in this step. I'll talk more about doing that in a bit...I'm just going to be really careful and hold the pattern in place with my fingers.

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 5
    Step 5

    Step 5: Say, do you have a big craft book around here I could use? Because I'm stitching on a shirt (instead of just a single-layer of fabric) I'm going to stick a hard-cover book inside so that I have a nice, smooth surface to trace against. You could also open the shirt up and lay it flat against your surface, just don't try to trace against it with two layers of fabric underneath. Why? Well...

    IMPORTANT: When you are tracing a design with the carbon transfer papers, it's extra important that you have a smooth, hard surface underneath your fabric to trace against. If the surface is too soft, uneven or spongey, your pen or stylus will just tear through the carbon transfer paper. (I show you how to deal with soft, spongey fabrics in this tutorial.)

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 6
    Step 6

    Step 6: Trace! You will need to press firmly, but not so hard that your hand will cramp up. I hate when that happens.

    Tape (or pin) the pattern in place to your fabric, but not the carbon transfer paper. The carbon paper is so thin, it will just tear when you try to remove the tape and you'll be bummed. It's fine if the carbon paper shifts when tracing, but not your pattern. Tape the pattern where you want it, and slip the carbon transfer paper underneath it.

    If not using a tracing stylus (used when you don't want to leave a trail of ink over the design you're tracing), a pen of a different color will let you know where you have and haven't traced.

    Be careful not to get ink stains on your fabric from the side of your hand. I speak from experience. This is why a stylus is a pro move.

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 7
    Step 7

    YESSS! Can you believe it? It's a clearly visible pattern in white!
    It won't rub off, and you won't be squinting, trying to figure out where the lines of your pattern are!
    Let's move on to the best part:

  • How to embroider . Embroider On Dark Fabric - Step 8
    Step 8


    What about white transfer pens? They exist -but with mixed results. To be perfectly honest, what I've found and tried I opt not to use. But hey- you might have better luck than I did with it.

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Regina K.
Regina K. · Thisted, North Denmark Region, DK · 5 projects
What brand of carbon paper did you use?

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