Thursday, February 11, 2010

Tutorial: Using Press 'n Seal to transfer embroidery patterns

 There are lots of different ways to transfer embroidery patterns -- carbon paper, tracing directly on the fabric using a light box or window, drawing freehand, use an iron-on transfer, use the "prick and pounce" method, print/draw/trace on stabilizer ... I could go on.

For my anatomical tea towels, I started by tracing with pencil onto the towel, but quickly discovered the Glad Press 'n Seal method. I came across a mention of using Press 'n Seal plastic wrap on Craftster a zillion years ago, and can't remember who mentioned it (let me know if it was you!), and this combo of tracing and stabilizer is my current low-cost DIY favorite. The plastic wrap sticks to your fabric, and works as a stabilizer. It's also thinner than a lot of water soluble stabilizers, so your stitches are nice and tight when you remove the plastic. It's more of a pain to remove than water soluble stabilizers, but it's more durable than plain tissue paper and you can also trace the pattern directly from your book, original drawing or computer screen! No printing or backlighting required!

Materials needed:
Press 'n Seal plastic wrap
Permanent felt-tip markers (important to keep the marker from poking a hole in the plastic and marking up what you're tracing)
Tweezers and embroidery scissors

1. Find or draw a pattern. I did an image search for diagrams of each of the organs I was embroidering and used those.

2. If you're using a computer, enlarge the image until it's the size you want for your work. Now you can either print your design, or if you're feeling brave, just move directly to step 3.

3. Place a square of plastic wrap over your design. If you're working directly from your computer screen, hold the sheet up to a light to check for holes first!

4. Using your marker (I like regular Sharpies), trace the design onto the plastic wrap. You can use different colors to indicate which color embroidery thread you plan to use, or you can just go monochromatic. Be careful, and use a very light touch to avoid poking holes in the plastic.

5. Apply the plastic wrap to your fabric (um, it's probably best to iron your fabric first ... ) and place in your hoop. You're ready to go!

6. When you finish, make sure to remove the plastic carefully. It pulls away from heavy stitches like stem stitch really easily, but for looser stitches like French knots and blanket stitch, be careful. You might want to use embroidery scissors to cut it away from the stitches. For small areas, like the trachea above, you'll need tweezers to help you remove the plastic.

7. Wash your work according to your usual method to remove any adhesive residue.


  1. You are incredibly awesome. Thanks for blogging and posting this! :-)I'm going to read your whole blog now!

  2. gee, thanks! i'm glad you liked the tutorial. thanks for coming by!

  3. Awesome tutorial. I too plan to read through your blog.

    I was confused about the line "5. Apply the plastic wrap to your fabric..."

    How? I wasn't sure if you sit it on it, glue it, iron it ...

    Sorry to be such a noob - I just started embroidering and know nothing :-)

  4. hey, nicole! not a dumb question at all. the cool thing about press and seal is it already has a light adhesive on one side, so it sticks all by itself. regular plastic wrap wouldn't work, i don't think.
    thanks for asking for the clarification! i'm always looking for ways to make these tutorials better.

  5. hi :0) I found your wonderful blog via Pinterest. Your blog is fun and interesting to read. Thanks for posting.

  6. I would be very cautious about using the press and seal on your computer screen. The adhesive on the press and seal can be extremely difficult to remove from surfaces, and I would be especially careful about a fragile surface like a computer screen. I have baking dishes that have been hand washed and been through the dishwasher multiple times, and you can still feel a line around the rim where some of the adhesive just won't come off. I certainly would never ever let press and seal touch my macbook!

  7. Oh, definitely. I barely press down, and don't leave it on for longer than about 5 minutes. It's still probably not the greatest idea anyway, but, well ...

  8. You can just use wash away stabilizer instead. Then when finished with stitching you can wash it away and it does not effect your stitches.

  9. i'm glad i'm not the only one making projects out of organs! lol i did one a few years ago of a cross section of a kidney and gave it to my nurse friend.. i used wax paper at the time, but this is way better thanks!!


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