Personally, I haven’t done a lot of embroidery– cross stitch, yes, but not embroidery. In the past if I’ve ever wanted to add an embroidered message to a piece of regular fabric, I’ve used a counted cross stitch chart (either from another source or just an alphabet I’ve made up) and waste cloth. However, that process, while doable, takes a long time. You have to make the chart, baste the waste cloth in place, do the actual embroidery, and then tear the waste cloth strings off. It’s also limiting if you have to do straight stitches as counted cross stitch requires.
For a recent baby quilt, I wanted to do a cuter, more curvy font, and needed a different method. After coming up empty googling embroidery alphabet patterns, I decided to make my own, and it worked beautifully. This may not be a new method, but it was lightbulb moment for me. Here’s what I did:
1. Type your message in Word or a similar program and print.
2. Flip your page over and trace your letters in pencil on the back side of the paper. I could see through easily, but if you can’t, you can always use a light box or a sunny window.
3. Cut your message into its parts using a ruler to keep the bottom edge straight. This helps in aligning the pattern on the quilt or project later.
4. Tape your pattern down to your project to prevent shifting, and then rub gently to transfer the pencil markings. At first I tried an all-over rubbing technique with the edge of a bottle, but this didn’t work, so I used the capped end of a marker to trace more firmly over each letter. This worked much better. You can check if your pattern is transferring by peeking underneath. Be careful not to move it too much, though, because if you need to lay it back down to rub some more, you want it to be in the same spot.
5. Once the pattern is transferred sufficiently, remove the pattern. At this point, if it’s too light, as mine was, you can trace over it again with pencil or with one of those disappearing ink pens. I chose pencil because it was easier, and it will be covered up with thread anyway. As long as you don’t make a mistake, pencil is fine.
6. Embroider over your pattern, and you’re finished!
The whole process took me about two hours, which was quite a bit less time than I had expected. I did make a small mistake around the date– all those twos confused me when I was tracing over it again, but I corrected, and you really can’t even see where I tried to turn a two into a zero.
I will most likely use this solely for lettering purposes (until I at last get an embroidery machine, that is!) because I seldom need to embroider designs on something. However, I do think it would work for most design/image purposes as well, provided they aren’t too terribly detailed. If they are, other methods like printing on iron-on transfer paper would be more accurate. However, this method is fast and easy and uses items most people already have on hand.
One final tip– when you’re tracing over the back of your pattern for the first time, make sure the printed side is over a piece of paper, or you’ll end up with this on your tabletop: