Stage Two Design Outline

Hello Everyone

This week we will continue with the article on Designing An Embroidery Project – STAGE TWO, Drawing The Outline & Transferring Onto Fabric.

I know this is an area that fills some of you with trepidation but with a bit of practice and a steady hand,  it really is not  difficult, if all else fails you can buy the kit with design outline already printed onto fabric:)  Last time we discussed how I chose my design which is this little pansy basket below.

pansy basket
pansy basket


I will make two printouts of this one on photographic paper to refer to whilst I am stitching and one on plain paper to use for the outline.  Here are some of the materials you will need to trace the outline and transfer onto fabric:

  • Sheets of good quality 90 gsm tracing paper
  • Blue carbon paper (the type you use for writing or typing).  Blue is better than black as easier to cover.
  • A pigma micron pen width 01 for tracing the outline onto tracing paper – this is permanent and smudgeproof.
  • An HB pencil for transferring the outline onto fabric.
  • Masking tape to secure tracing paper and fabric whilst transferring outline.
  • A piece of Southern Belle 200 count fabric approx 25 x 25cm


Materials for tracing
Materials for tracing

The first thing I do is sketch an outline over the actual picture printout using my micron pen so I can see the lines clearly through the tracing paper.   At this stage I will decide which aspects to leave out and in some cases add in aspects from another picture – such as leaves or flowers etc.  With the pansy basket I decided to leave out the ribbon and replace it within another leaf – this means moving the tracing paper around on top of the shapes to find the right place for them – it usually requires several drafts before I get it right.  Next I will trace the outline onto tracing paper again using my pigma micron pen, scan it into my computer and save it in my printing file ready to go to the printers.   Here is the final outline on tracing paper.

outlines drawn onto picture
outlines drawn onto picture
Pansy Basket Outline
Pansy Basket Outline

I should mention that this is what I call DRAFT ONE – as I will make changes to it as I stitch and then adjust the outline again before sending for screen printing.

Transferring Outline Onto Fabric

1.  Place a large piece of white card onto your desk and secure it with masking tape (you can see this behind my tracings, it has scribbles on it from when I can’t find a piece of paper to take a phone message!).  The reason I work on top of a piece of card is to give myself a nice flat surface to work on, if I worked straight on top of the desk I would have lumps and bumps from the wood grain.

2.  Place your fabric (this should be ironed and nice and straight – no wrinkles ) on top of this and secure in place with tape.

3.  Place a piece of carbon paper, face down on top of this and secure in place with tape.  This should be centred – you can use your hoop as a guide to decide where the carbon should be placed.

4.  Place the design outline on top of this and secure in place with tape.  Again this should be centred.

5.  Using a fairly sharp HB pencil trace over the outlines – I sometimes use a harder pencil such as H or a draftsmans automatic pencil size 0.3mm to get finer lines.   You need to use a firm hand to make sure the lines transfer through the carbon.  When you have finished lift up a corner of the carbon to check that all the outlines have been transferred, if not place it back and complete.  When all the outlines have been transferred remove the tape, throw carbon away (don’t re-use it, not good!).

fabric taped on top of card.
fabric taped on top of card.
carbon paper on top of fabric
carbon paper on top of fabric
tracing paper with outline on top of carbon
tracing paper with outline on top of carbon


Here is the final outline on the fabric.  I had already started stitching, before I did this post so there is a bit of the basket done but you will get the idea!  You can see I have filled in the odd bit of outline that was not clear, and the direction lines, with my HB pencil.

blue outline on fabric
blue outline on fabric

So there you have it – my method of transferring a design onto fabric.  Of course you could use a lightbox or a window which I do sometimes but I find this way I can see the outlines more clearly.  Next time I will share with you how I decide which colours to use – my favourite subject:)  Meantime wherever you are in the world, be it winter, spring or summer have a wonderful week and happy stitching.  Trish


17 thoughts on “Stage Two Design Outline”

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  2. Trish, have you used Chacocopy transfer paper? It’s very similar to carbon paper, but comes in red,blue, yellow etc. I habitually use it in the same method as you describe above but would be interested in any pro’s and con’s in using carbon paper instead. (Cost is a con for chacocopy, different colours is a pro if you have coloured background). Are carbon paper lines as impossible to get out as Chacocopy ones? (ie impossible!)

    1. Hi Megan, no I find chacocopy paper does not transfer well – the line is not clear. I use a typewriter kind Pelikan or Kolok is good it provides a nice clear line. You can get it at a stationary/book store. Trish

  3. From a botanical fellow needler in Virginia,USA
    How about using a light box, available in art supply places? It will work for most light
    fabrics. It will reduce the preparatory time . There are erasable pens, (blue ink that washes off with just cold water). In the USA Michael’s craft stores and Moore’s sell
    those pens.
    Would this be of any help?
    Trish, wish you a inspired group at the Bower Center this month

  4. Hello Trish – I´ve been using carbon paper for most of my transfers without letting on (thought it was WRONG!). Now I can let the world know. THANK YOU! Love your work.

  5. Hello Mrs Burr
    What a wonderfull world I have discover with your work, I do painting embroiderie too ( not like you 🙂 ) but I try very hard and succeed sometimes because of you
    you are so generous with your explanation, every thing seem so much easy, I use al your tool ( book, dvd, blog)
    Thanks you very much for sharing your gift

  6. Great timing. Last night I used the computer to merge two pictures to place a bird on the part of the tree that I wanted to use and printed it out. Now I need to create the outline and will try your method. I had thought that I migth be able to do it on the computer but I am not skilled enough 🙁

  7. Hi Trish
    You make it seem so easy I’m going to have a bash. Somehow I just know I’m going to end up with carbon paper smudged all over the fabric!

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