Stitched Art

Three easy ways to transfer an image on to fabric for embroidery

Stitching a drawing

You’ve just done the most amazing design in your sketchbook and it is begging to be stitched. Mmm, now how to get that paper image on to a suitable piece of fabric?

There are lots of ways to transfer a drawing from paper to fabric for stitching and embroidery. In this post I am going to show you the three simple methods that I use most often. Which one I go for depends on:

  • the time of year,
  • whether I have an electricity point to hand,
  • how complicated the image is,
  • whether I want to have a permanent drawn line on my fabric,
  • and the type of fabric that I want to work with.

Finding your image

As I have mentioned in previous posts I try to draw in my sketchbook every day. Not only is it a workout and practice session it is also my way of problem solving, telling stories and generating ideas for further work. When a drawing evolves that is asking to be stitched (and I don’t want to go freehand on the fabric) the next step is to transfer it.

sketchbook page for image transfer blog post
A page from my sketchbook that is begging to be stitched

Using a sunny window

This method is weather dependant but if you, like me, are lucky enough to have a sun facing window you can simply stick your page on to the glass with masking tape, place the fabric over the top and with whichever tool you intend to use, draw over the image.

window shot for image transfer blog post
Using a window and sunlight to transfer an image on to calico

The advantages of this method is that it will only cost you a roll of masking tape. The disadvantages, other than requiring the sun which for some of us is in short supply at certain times of the year, is that the fabric needs to be relatively light coloured, not too thick and probably not patterned. It works very well with pale coloured cottons such as the unbleached, medium weight calico I’ve shown in the picture above.

It doesn’t work if you have drawn on the reverse of the paper as the light will pick up the lines from images on both sides of the page (unless you are going for something weird and wacky and probably semi abstract!).

Using a light box/pad

I have to say that one of the best and most used Christmas presents that my family have bought me in recent years was a good quality, A3 size, LED light pad. It isn’t much thicker than a digital tablet, is relatively lightweight and plugs in to the mains. Perfect for when the sun refuses to shine, the image is too big to fit on the window, or is too complicated to draw at a vertical angle.

Lightbox for image transfer blog post
My Huion LED light pad

Obviously the downside of the light pad is cost, although some basic light bulb and plastic versions are available at a fraction of the price of this one, from larger craft stores.

The comments I made about the window trace are also relevant here regarding single sided paper images and suitable fabrics.

Tissue paper 

While the previous two methods work very well when there is a single sided drawing and light coloured and relatively lightweight fabric involved, sometimes you want to use a thick, coloured, or patterned fabric and there is no way that an image will show through with even the strongest light source behind it. For these circumstances I use tissue paper.

tissue paper transfer blog post
The tissue paper method

Trace the image on to a piece of tissue paper and pin on to the fabric. Stitch over the lines through all the layers using your preferred stitch, e.g. back stitch. Tension is important when working with this method, as is fastening off and starting a new piece of thread. You don’t want the stitches to sag when the tissue is removed or the ends of thread to be pulled through. When all the relevant outlines are stitched, carefully tear off the tissue paper.

The advantages of this method, as opposed to the others, is that a pencil or pen line directly onto the fabric is not required. This could be useful if you decide during your stitching that you want to change something. It is easy to remove stitches, not so easy to remove all traces of pencil or pen (unless you’ve bought a fancy disappearing one).

It is also cheap and a great way of reusing the copious amounts of tissue paper that arrive as packaging with on line shopping and in shoe boxes etc. This method works best with simple line work as it can get a bit difficult to remove the tissue from under lots of close together stitches. It also works best with linear stitch types such as running stitch, backstitch, stem stitch, etc again to help ease of removal when the transfer is complete.

I hope that you have found this post helpful and maybe discovered a method that you haven’t tried before. If you try any of these for the first time I’d love to hear how you got on so please do leave a comment.

Right, I’m off to finish stitching a bulldog. Speak to you soon.

3 ways to transfer an image on to fabric







Exhibitions, General

Ally Pally Knit and Stitch Show 2017, Roundup (and three awesome Textile Artists to look out for)

An October highlight for UK textile enthusiasts is the Knitting and Stitching show at Alexandra Palace in London. Not only do we get to fill our boots with yarny goodness, it is also an opportunity to catch up with fellow enthusiasts from the Textile World, find out who is new and inspiring, and some of us get to spend a day with our wonderful Mums!

I was particularly excited this year as a friend of mine, the super talented and rather lovely Sarah Waters, had a solo exhibition in the textile gallery. I couldn’t wait to see what she had done with it and as expected it was amazing.

Sarah Waters Stones pairing
Sarah Waters from her exhibition: Stone

Sarah is an experienced felt artist based in the UK’s New Forest. Her work is inspired by our connection to nature and she has a particular interest in sustainability. Her exhibition at the Knit and Stitch shows this year consists of large scale wall hangings, rich with texture and full of beautiful natural colours, depicting stone, the natural inspiration behind it. Felt sculptures add a three dimensional element to the exhibition. Sarah’s exhibition will be at the sister shows in Dublin and Harrogate so if you are lucky enough to be going to these I highly recommend you pay her a visit. More information about Sarah and her work can be found on her website here.

Sarah Waters Stones beige hanging
Sarah Waters

Another gallery which stopped me in my tracks for a better look was Ann Small’s Layered Cloth exhibition. She has recently published a book of the same name and the work she had on display tempted me to add it to my Christmas List. Beautiful ruffles, folds, puffs, slashes, you name it, anything you can do to create a three dimensional effect from stitching and fabric was here.

Ann Small Blue sea urchin
Ann Small “Blue Sea Urchin”

Her work made me smile, it had a sense of fun to it as well as a technical wow factor hence I wasn’t surprised when I read that she has a background in theatre and fancy dress costume making.

Ann Small White shell
Ann Small’s “White Shell”

More about Ann and her work can be found here.

The final artist I’d like to introduce you to in this post is possibly my new favourite textile artist having not come across her work before. Rachael Howard’s gallery “Red Work” consisted of large scale grids of colourful, simplistic illustrations depicting everyday family life. Her inspiration for the exhibition was taken from 19th century red work story quilts and she likens the effect of these historical textiles to modern day Instagram.

Rachel Howard Red Work wall quilt
Rachael Howard

Her work is rich in humour, is very accessible and evokes a personal narrative from the viewer. If you get a chance to check out Rachael’s art she has a website here.

Rachel Howard Red Work dog in suit
Rachael Howard

In this post I’ve mentioned three of my favourite galleries from this year’s Ally Pally. There was so much to see I always wish I can have another day to fully appreciate everything but unfortunately dog dinners awaited and we had to dash off. We didn’t leave without a bit of shopping though (my Mum is such a bad influence on me!).

Kniting and Stitching Show, Ally Pally, 2017
Some of the goodies I had to hide from Mr B when I got home

Please feel free to leave a comment on this post if would like to share a highlight from this year’s show and if you are visiting the Dublin or Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Shows I hope you have a wonderful time.

Until next time……


Memories of Dad (or who invented Father’s Day anyway?)

My inbox is currently inundated with companies trying to sell me stuff for Father’s Day (19 June). This has prompted me to share with you some drawings and memories of my wonderful Dad who has encouraged and inspired me in so many aspects of my creative and sporting life and who I sadly lost at the beginning of this month (and who adamantly refused to believe in Father’s Day on the basis that it was an invented celebration purely created for commercial purposes while still appreciating the card that I would send him anyway!).

Dad 1965 low res
Dad on his wedding day in 1965 aged 27


A genetic predisposition to making stuff

Dad made stuff and while my art and textile interests are thought to come from my creative and talented Mum, I think Dad also played more than his part. Dad spent weekends in the garage creating amazing things such as the dolls house I was given for Christmas and which I treasured for many years, the go kart made out of pram wheels with a foot and string steering mechanism and a sibling powered motor, and the stilts on which the children of our cul-de-sac competed and broke records for number of widths, lengths and how many times you could go up and down the kerb.  My dining room table at home is referred to as the table of doom by my better half in reference to the vast quantity of drawing and painting materials, sketchbooks, needles and wool which cover its surface. It made me laugh the last time I visited my brother’s house to see his dining room table covered in bits of motorbike motor and bicycle. We can’t help it. Making stuff is in the genes!

Dad 1986 low res
Dad, 1980 something (although he never was quite as robust as this picture suggests)

An athlete was born……

Dad taught me how to ride a bike (a skill which through the encouragement of my husband I later learned I was good at when I started competing locally and nationally in cycle time trialling). All three of us children went through the rite of passage progressing from trike, to stabilisers on a hand me down bike which was usually slightly too big for us (we’d grow into it) and then to Dad holding the saddle and running down the road behind us. Or was he?! When it was my turn, I remember getting to the bottom of the road, putting my feet down and turning around to see that Dad hadn’t moved and was standing grinning at me from outside number 3 where we had started from. From then on I could ride a bike and as the saying goes, I never forgot it.  Bicycles have played a major role in our lives both socially and practically from the hours spent cycling up and down outside the house with the other children on our road, to being our main source of transport and our ticket to independence as teenagers.  For me, cycling also became a competitive sport.  A similar thing happened with swimming. I remember running out to meet Dad who was bobbing up and down in the Devon waves one camping holiday and being told to “swim to me Nicky”. And I did, completely forgetting that I hadn’t put my arm bands on.

Dad 2011 low res
Dad, 2011

Shine on you crazy diamond

Dad instilled in me very early on a passion for music. I was encouraged to play the piano for five years but never really got on with my teacher’s choice of music (classical or nothing) so fulfilled Dad’s prediction of “you’ll regret it if you give it up”. I continue to return to the piano from time to time and still dream of playing jazz. He went halves with me when I bought my first album, “Purple Rain” by Prince, another of my teenage heroes who sadly passed away this year. Dad had a really wide taste in music, with no genre excluded, and which thankfully I have inherited due to early exposure to jazz, classical, rock and blues. He told me I couldn’t sing but it never put me off. I can still sing whole albums that I haven’t heard since I was 15 (if only I could remember where I left my car keys or why I walked into a room) and as I have mentioned to you in previous posts, singing is a mood enhancing therapy that I have always resorted to in times of need and still use to this day. One of my greatest pleasures is attending live music and I am lucky to have a number of excellent venues within a three mile radius of my house which I frequent on a regular basis.  The music I associate most with my childhood and my Dad is that of Bowie, Pink Floyd, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and Kate Bush.

Dad 2016 low res
Dad the last time I saw him

Always in my heart

During his final year of life Dad would often ask me when I telephoned if I was happy. He also told me regularly during these calls how much he enjoyed hearing my cheerful voice and to “keep cheerful”. The happiness of his children was so important to him and I think he needed to know that he had done a good job.  I was lucky enough to visit him in the last few days of his life and while he wasn’t aware I was there I was grateful to be able to spend some time drawing him as he slept.  Dad told us that you make your own luck in this world through hard work and perseverance. I agree with him up to one very important point. You have no control or say in who you are born to and we certainly lucked out on that one. Rest in peace Dad.  I couldn’t have asked for a better male role model in my life and I thank you for your unconditional love and support which have encouraged and inspired me to become the person I am today.