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Sunday, August 31, 2014

Tutorial: Transfer an embroidery pattern onto dark or heavyweight fabric

This tutorial was written by Thorn Trace for her blog. Reposted with permission. You can see the original post here.

I used to avoid stitching on dark colored fabric because I had the worst time transferring the pattern.  I tried transfer papers from the sewing and quilting departments, but the lines always smudged and smeared or rubbed off entirely while I stitched.  I don't like transfer pencils because I want my marks to disappear.  Finally I discovered this stuff when a friend of mine started machine embroidering.

It's a water soluble stabilizer that's designed to be used with embroidery machines (yes, that's right, water soluble).  I use it to transfer my hand embroidery patterns. Solvy is made by Sulky, but Pellon makes a similar product.  I've also found it sold by the yard at some craft stores.

Here's how I use it: 

First tape your pattern onto your table and then tape a piece of your water soluble stabilizer on top.  The tape keeps things from sliding around while you trace.  I use permanent markers to trace the pattern and haven't had any trouble yet.  You have the freedom here to mark your pattern in different colors.  This can help you keep track of when you need to change thread colors. 

But wait a minute.  This piece of stabilizer isn't much bigger than the pattern?  How can I secure it to my fabric if it won't fit in the hoop?
No worries!  Just grab a glue stick.  I turned the pattern face down and applied the glue to the stabilizer around the outside of the pattern, avoiding the areas with markings.  I then gently laid the pattern-marked, glue stick-backed piece of Solvy to my framed fabric.  Next I turned my frame over so that my fabric was flat on my desk.  From that position, I could firmly press the fabric and Solvy together, so they would adhere.

After that I was ready to begin stitching.  Always cautious, I began with the outer ring first and stitched in the whole pattern.

Just like when I used a water soluble marker, I store my work in a plastic bag when I'm not stitching to protect it from accidental spills and Deep South humidity.  That said, I've never had a problem with this stuff gumming up my needles.  

Once the stitching was done, I peeled back the 
Solvy and you can see that the glue stick left no residue on the fabric.With a pair of scissors, I trimmed away the excess Solvy, but didn't worry about getting anywhere near all of it.  I didn't need to because it's going to dissolve when I give it a soak.  

I let it sit in a sink full of water for a few minutes, then rinse and dry.  Presto!  No more stabilizer.  Now, if you don't rinse it fully, your fabric may be a little stiff.  That's because this material is also used for sizing on textiles.   

So what is this magical material?  I researched a little bit and found out that it's a polyvinyl alcohol. It sounds strange, but it's used in lots of things.  From paper to concrete to eye drops, it's everywhere.  In this filmy form, it's probably most familiar to you as those trendy little pouches that contain dishwasher and laundry detergent.

I hope you found this tutorial useful.  It's my favorite method for intricate and/or large designs.  It doesn't smudge or smear like transfer papers do.  It's transparent so tracing the design is incredibly easy.  It is a little bit slippery, so be generous with your tape when you're tracing. 

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  1. The fact that I'm essentially using dishwasher pods in my sewing cracks me up! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I was wondering how I was going to transfer the TARDIS (when I got to it) for the DWSAL onto a darker fabric - thanks for this!

  3. If you've purchased a cutting machine, you can print on water soluble stabilizers by just using an older less sticky mat, your pen of choice, then run it thru like you would cutting anything else, just put the pen in instead of the knife.

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