Tracing is part of the techniques artists often use in their work. (Oh, and I know of the never-ending debate over whether “real” artists should trace or not. That there is a discussion for another time.)
This week, I got a question from one of my readers. She was curious about how to trace onto fabric. And she asked if I could share how I trace my sketches/drawings onto fabric. After answering her questions, I decided to write this post to share with others who might have the same questions.
There are quite a few ways to do this. I’m going to share with you techniques for both light and dark fabrics. I’ll also give you options for when your drawing is on paper or saved on your computer. So let’s get right to it.
How To Trace Onto Fabric
- Lightbox – To trace a paper drawing, place it on a light box, place the fabric on top of it and start to trace. Light boxes are available for sale in any regular art supplies store or in the art department of your local store. You could also create your own. Or alternatively, if you have a clear acrylic extension table for your sewing machine you could put a battery operated light under it and use it as a lightbox. I used to use a light box extensively to trace onto fabric. Recently…., not so much.
- Brightly Lit Window – If using a light box is not an option for you, Just place the fabric on top of the drawing then tape it to a brightly lit window. You can now go ahead and start to trace onto fabric.
- Overhead Projectors: These are available in office supplies stores. The way they work is you print your drawing or sketch onto what are called transparencies. (scan drawing into your computer if you don’t already have it on your computer). Then you project the image on your transparency onto a display screen. Pin your fabric on top of the display screen and then trace onto fabric.
- Digital Projectors: These work somewhat like overhead projectors. They are more modern, though. Digital projectors eliminate the need for transparencies. They connect directly to your computer. They can be used to project multimedia (photos, scanned drawings, videos, powerpoints, games etc). I use one of these. I love how easy they are to use and that it works directly off the images on my computer.
- Tear- Away Stabilizer: All the options mentioned above work best when the design you’re going to trace onto fabric is light colored. However, for dark colored fabrics, it will be difficult to see through using a light source as in the options above. In this case, you can draw onto a tear away stabilizer, place the stabilizer on top of your fabric and stitch through. Afterward, tear the stabilizer away. Read more about stitching through stabilizer here. Golden Threads has a good product that you can use to trace onto fabric.
So now here you have it, 5 simple ways to trace onto fabric (both lights and darks). If you don’t have time to take note of all 5 methods now, you can download the pdf copy to review later.
Question: Do you trace onto fabric? What methods do you use to trace onto fabric? Can you add to the list above?
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