There are loads of different transfer tools available to us as stitchers, including blue water-erasable transfer pens you might use on lighter colors of fabrics, washable transfer paper you might use for more intricate designs, and even simple pencils (which you can see me demonstrate in my post about the window method for transferring hand embroidery designs to fabric). There is no "perfect" tool or method for transferring an embroidery pattern or design to fabric; rather, stitchers develop situational preferences with experience and time.
In today's post, I'll be focusing on one of my very favorite tools for transferring hand embroidery designs to darker fabrics: white water-erasable fabric pens. This short post includes information on where to find them, how to use them, and how to remove their marks once you've finished stitching. I hope it's helpful!
Where to find white water-erasable transfer pens for hand embroidery
You'll find white water-erasable transfer pens, developed specifically for use on fabric, online and in most craft stores. If you're in a physical craft store, you'll typically find them near the embroidery supplies (though you may also find them in the sewing notions and/or quilting sections).
Several of my kits include these white pens, which I typically get from Kearing, but you'll find very similar pens from other companies and brands as well (including Dritz and Clover). I haven't found a huge difference between brands in terms of their pens' quality, ease of use, or ease of removal; that's why I suggest going with whichever brand you have easiest access to given your specific situation.
How to use white water-erasable transfer pens for hand embroidery
Test your fabric
Before committing to this transfer tool, test your pen on a scrap piece of the fabric you'll be using for your project -- you'll want to be sure that it can be easily removed once you've finished stitching. This also gives you a chance to be sure that you can see the marks that you draw. In the photos below, I'm using a white pen to draw a design directly onto a blue linen fabric, but other fabrics may be a bit too light for your marks to show. If your fabric is too light for a white pen, you might consider using a blue water-erasable pen or washable transfer paper instead.
Draw your design directly onto your fabric
In this next photo, I've drawn a curved line onto my fabric. You can see that the mark is barely visible at this point; these marks will become more visible as the ink dries.
As you can see in the photo below, the line became much more visible as the ink dried onto the fabric.
Given this lag time between drawing your marks and seeing your marks, you'll want to be sure you're moving fairly slowly as you draw or transfer your design.
Stitch on top of your marks
Now that your design is drawn or transferred, simply stitch over your marks by following the provided guide (if you're working from a pattern) or your own personal preferences and intuition (if you're working on an original piece).
How to remove the marks from a white water-erasable transfer pen for hand embroidery
These are water-erasable pens, which means you can remove their marks using plain water. When removing marks from my projects, I typically keep my fabric inside of my hoop -- this works just fine so long as you don't leave your hoop submerged in water so long that the hardware rusts or the hoop itself warps. For more stubborn marks, I might let my project soak in a bowl of water for about 15 minutes, but be sure to set yourself a timer if you do this so you don't accidentally let it sit for too long!
In some cases, soaking or running your hoop under water isn't enough to remove the marks from these particular pens. In the photo below, I'm using a cotton swab to gently agitate the fabric, which allowed me to more fully remove the mark. In some cases, I'll also add just a tiny drop of detergent to the cotton swab to further aid in removing any stray marks from a hoop.
Once you've removed your marks with water, use a towel to gently soak up any excess water and place your project in an area where it'll have a chance to be exposed to air. On sunny days, I'll sometimes leave my hoop outside to dry in the sun; on not-so-sunny days, or days where I'm feeling a bit impatient, I'll hang my hoop directly in front of a fan (that sure does speed up the drying process!).
Thank you for being here, and I can't wait to see what you make!
I hope this was useful, and I can't wait to see what you make - whether you create something from one of my kits or patterns, or from a design of your very own! If you'd like to share your work with me, you can always tag me on your social media accounts (@hopebroidery on Instagram and Twitter, @hope.broidery on TikTok). If you don't have public social accounts, but still want to share, consider emailing me a few pictures (firstname.lastname@example.org), I would love the chance to tell you how much I love your work!