dark fabric embroidery
'How To' Tutorials

How to transfer an embroidery pattern onto dark fabric

Update to this post 2019! Please read the following which is an update detailing a different carbon paper which is much easier to use.

Transferring an embroidery pattern on to dark, thick or even different textured fabric can be a bit of an issue.

What are the options?

If you have researched this topic, you will no doubt realise there are a lot of different ways you can go about this…

  • Prick and Pounce
  • Strong light source behind your fabric
  • Paper template
  • Water soluble stabiliser
  • Carbon Paper
  • The list could no doubt go on…

What should you choose?

Choose the one you can do with the least amount of frustration (!) and make sure you practice first before going straight in on a gorgeous piece of fabric!

Here’s my Experience…

Prick and Pounce  – I soon realised it was not within my patience realms to be pricking small holes in paper and trying to get a clear outline of my design by rubbing the powder over them. It just did not work for me!

Strong light source  – this can work but I always find with dark fabrics it is just too inaccurate and incredibly difficult to really see what you are copying. Paper Template  – personally I do not like this method as I find it inaccurate and cumbersome. Water soluble Stabilser –  for the right project this is great and you can read more about this in another post here. That leaves Carbon paper which is another great choice , let’s focus on that as it is by far (in my opinion) one of the better ways of getting a good result on dark fabrics. 

Carbon Paper

This is a paper with a waxy film on one side that comes in a few colours but if you want to transfer to a dark fabric – choose a white paper.

jellyfish embroidery design

Trace the design you have chosen on to the paper side of the carbon sheet.

As you can see I have traced a jellyfish in pencil on to the carbon paper.

jellyfish embroidery design

Place your tracing with the waxy side on the fabric and using a normal biro – trace over the design again.


Press nice and firmly as you trace the whole of the design with the pen.

jellyfish embroidery design

When you remove the paper you should have a nice outline on your fabric like so…

jellyfish embroidery design

Now for the stitching… or perhaps not just yet.

Looking at the transferred design on the black fabric above, it looks really clear so you might think – job done – now on to the stitching.

However, as you stitch you will find that unless you are in a really wonderfully lit room the lines are still a bit tricky to figure out.

Plus, as you stitch the lines can get rubbed in slightly making them less noticeable as well.

So, if you want to make stitching that little bit simpler, I would suggest going the extra step and just tracing over the lines one last time with a white gel pen.

jellyfish embroidery design
jellyfish embroidery design

It’s important that you remember these lines are permanent so make them neat and thin!

Now you can get stitching – woohoo!

jellyfish embroidery design
jellyfish embroidery design

Where to buy?

Carbon paper is widely available both online and in most craft stores. Here’s the one I use available from the Stitchdoodles shop  white carbon paper

You can get white gel pens from most stationary places however make sure you choose a good quality one so the ink runs smoothly on the fabric. The one I used  had a 0.4mm tip which was just about ok but if you can find one finer I would say try that as the lines can still be quite thick if you are not careful.

Hopefully now you are happy to try out some designs on some bold coloured fabric – let me know how you get on.

Want to remember this? Post this to your favourite Pinterest board!

dark fabric embroidery

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