Transferring a pattern using tacking stitches and tissue paper.

blackwork-pomegraniteMy mother used to have a folder full of blue transfer patterns that she’d collected over the years. Most of them were free gifts that came with the Needlewoman Magazine.  Some transfers even came with boxes of chocolate would you believe.  All you had to do was iron the patterns onto your fabric and away you went.  Transfers are harder to find these days and the pattern you want isn’t necessarily one that’s available in any case.

The first pattern transfer I ever completed using  the tacking method was from a copy of The People’s Friend for the knight and his lady shown in the image beneath this paragraph but there were no instructions about making the transfer and this was in the days before the Internet.  I was also miles away from the nearest needlecraft shop.  Ultimately I used tracing paper and then tacked the design onto the fabric – which was the right idea but not exactly malleable and it took ages to get all the little bits of tracing paper out from under the tacking stitches! To add insult to injury it was only when I’d finished the embroidery that my step-son calmly announced that it was very nice but why had I embroidered swastikas? Up until that moment I hadn’t seen any dodgy far right symbols in my handiwork.  From that moment onwards they were all that I could see.  Needless to say it didn’t end up in a frame because even if I’d unpicked the offending infill pattern the thread would have marked the cloth.


My Tudor pomegranate is  based on pomegranates I have seen on Tudor textiles.  You will need reasonable quality tissue paper with a smooth and shiny side, a soft pencil or felt pen that doesn’t bleed into the tissue,  black tacking thread and a needle.  You may also find masking tape helpful. Obviously you will also require fabric with a visible warp and weft or an Aida.  I used 16 count on this occasion.

  1. Draw the outline of the design you wish to embroider.blackwork-pomegranite-1
  2. Trace over the design using tissue paper and a soft pencil such as a 2b.   I guess white tissue paper would be better but the pink paper shown in the images, but it’s what I had in the drawer.  I used masking tape to anchor the tissue in place having selected the smooth shiny side as the side I would draw on.  Be careful. If you press too hard with the pencil you will tear the paper.
  3. Find the middle of your fabric and carefully tack the tissue paper into place using a running stitch. The fiddlier the design is then the smaller the tacking stitches need to be. I used black tacking thread so that if I can’t get it out at the end it won’t show.blackwork-pomegranite-2
  4. Remove the tissue paper by pulling gently away from the stitches.  Don’t pull the paper up from the fabric as this will pull you stitches out of place.  It’s better to find perforations and work the tissue free gently.  Use a pair of tweezers to remove any tricksy little bits of tissue.blackwork-pomegranite-4

Et voila – a design ready to be embroidered. Keep the original drawing at hand for reference when it comes to the fiddly bits if there are any.



About JuliaH

I teach history courses for the Workers' Educational Association as well as giving talks on various history topics across Yorkshire and the Midlands as well as talks about the history and creation of cross stitch samplers, blackwork embroidery and silhouette cutting.
This entry was posted in Blackwork Embroidery, Magazine patterns, Techniques, transferring patterns and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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