Transferring Designs to Fabric

A few months ago, I began a series on working with text using your computer and using that resulting design in quilting. I promised a tutorial on transferring those designs to your fabric and here it is.

First there's a step I should have pointed out in Working with Text, Part One. When tweaking your text in Word, choose a line thickness that will be bold enough to see.

Not too thick, but not too thin, but just right. I prefer 1-1/2 pt to 2-1/4 pt lines. Sometimes this can vary with your printer settings. (By the way, Part 2 of working with text shows how you can enlarge your design using Paint. At some point, I'll do a third part on using a different program for a clearer enlargement.

With a good print from your computer, it is super easy to trace the design onto light colored fabric. I'm using Kona cotton for the white fabric shown below, which is a fairly substantial fabric.

First thing is to mark registration lines on your project. For this project, I'm quilting my word of the year, "Finish" onto a canvas covered frame. I traced around the frame with my air eraseable pen. I'll have to work fast with this.

Then some markings to show the center of the fabric and a line to rest my words on. Placing the word on the project can be as accurate as you want. It just requires more measurements and marking. The text above 'finish' has two purposes. The T is a place holder and helped me to move the word 'finish' lower on the page. Miandra GD is the font I used.

Since I'm marking the word onto white fabric, it's pretty easy to lay the fabric down and trace with my marking pen. I use painter's tape to secure the design and fabric to the table. Don't want either one to slip.

 But what if you're not using white fabric? Then you can use a light table to help you trace.

A light table can even help you mark dark fabrics! (Alas, I couldn't get it to also photograph well.) The fabric below was marked on the light table too.

Don't have a light table? Don't worry! Follow my blog with a feed reader (Feedly, Blog Lovin', etc.), by email, or just check back with me often as I've got another post in the works on make-do light tables and alternatives.

A fabulous way to mark dark fabrics is with your own freezer paper stencil and chalk. First get your design onto freezer paper (again, I've got some alternatives for this that I'll post soon). For this project I just traced the design by putting the printed page under a single layer of freezer paper. I didn't even need to use the light table.

Then I ironed the marked piece to another layer of freezer paper, shiny side to dull side. This causes some distortion as the freezer paper does shrink a bit. A heavy paper or cardstock will work without distortion or the second layer, but the freezer paper allows me to press it to the fabric later. Then poke holes on the drawn line with a seam ripper, awl, stiletto, or large needle.

It is better to get bigger holes that aren't too far apart than it is to get tiny holes very close together. Hold the stencil up to the light to see the results of your tedious poking. You'll also see if you've missed spots.

Then secure your stencil to your project. This is where the freezer paper comes in handy as you can iron the shiny side to the fabric. You can reuse it many times too. Then rub pounce powder/chalk pad over the stencil to mark it. If you've got a light fabric and don't have colored chalk (or don't trust the colored chalk), you can press the tip of a fabric marker through the holes.

I rub the pad over the holes a few times and then use the small sponge to rub excess powder into the holes. I use Miracle Chalk Quick Swipe Pad- . It 'erases' with heat. Don't skimp on the chalk.

Peel the stencil up slowly and see the marked fabulousness! The stencil method is also great for marking a quilt after it's already been layered with batting and backing.

Whew! Even with subdividing this into two other posts, that was long! Here in southern Virginia, the kids are having a "no snow" day. Temps right around freezing and some misty rain, so there must have been 1% chance of ice and they closed the schools. Even this former Florida girl just doesn't get it. Then again I leaned to drive in snow and ice in an 18 wheeler in the Northeast. (Yes, I have had an unusual life!)

Now, I'm going to go finish my "Finish". Stay warm and safe folks! And if you're in the southern hemisphere, stay cool!


  1. Thanks! That's very helpful!

  2. Thanks for the info. I'm tried the chalk with mix results - it works, the chalk is there easy to see - however, I can't follow the little dots. I get lost and confused. At least now I know how to make my own stencil for it. One never knows when they will need this information. Thanks!

    1. It's possible to do the same technique with an Exacto knife and cut slots, which might be easier to follow. But I find the exacto knife more tedious and of course dangerous. To cut the stencil, use the backside of a cutting mat and cut carefully, making two almost overlaping parallel lines and pull the sliver of material out. Make sure to leave enough spots of connected stencil that parts don't fall out (Like the center of an 'O')

  3. You're welcome everybody! Thanks for reading and commenting. One thing I should have mentioned is that an ironing table or pressing board is the perfect surface for poking the holes into the stencil.