Hope this isn't too long. I've been experimenting over the last week or two with various transfer methods for dark fabrics. I've tried lots of different pens, pencils, chalk, crayons etc. I buy most of my art supplies at Texas Art Supply — if you're not in Houston they're online at http://texasart.com/
. Great prices and a good independent business, not a big box store.
For transfer paper I use Saral
brand. You can buy it at hobby or art supply shops. It comes in a variety pack of letter-sized sheets, or in small rolls. I've had various other non-waxed dressmaker's carbons that worked fine, but I like the Saral the best. I have some of the Chacopy and Marks-B-Gone transfer papers. Maybe either the store or I have had them too long, because both became kind of sticky and neither worked. Darn.
The colored Sulky transfer pens
use sublimation ink – because of this they're permanent on poly, but lots of people have commented that they wash out of cotton. They aren't opaque, so they won't work on dark fabrics, though. For dark fabrics you should try the white Sulky transfer pen
which is an opaque ink that sits on the surface rather than sublimating into the fabric. These pens really are great. Tip I got from Sulky
: store them on their side, and be sure to close the cap tightly and you'll get many transfers from each pen.
Believe it or not, china markers
are great! If you trace a design onto tracing paper, you can rub it or iron it onto fabric. I got two rubbings (using a tongue depressor, nothing fancy) onto fabric. You can get really fine lines (even straight ones if you use a straight edge.) I tried a blue and a yellow one. Both worked, and both washed out of cotton, which kind of surprised me. Haven't tried to wash it out when heat transferred yet.
I tried the kids wash away ink pads
with a stamp. Washed out of fabric fine. Comes in lots of colors, and refill ink is available, so you could use it in a pen. I tried it with a stamp, but you could make a stencil and maybe use a dauber to apply the ink.
Just tonight I heat transferred a laser-printed image
(not ink jet) onto dark brown fabric. Worked like a champ! I was surprised how well you could see the lines. Since I used super fine lines they're visible but if I'm not 100% on the line while stitching you won't notice it. Woo hoo!
To help my eyes while stitching, I traced over it with a white Fons & Porter mechanical pencil
. It really is a nice fabric marking pencil (the problem I have with most pencils is how quickly they lose their sharp edge.)
On the subject of pencils… any water soluble art pencil
works great. General's chalk pencils
are great. They even make a set of 4 pencils just for fabric. I also noticed last weekend that General's now have classic red heat transfer pencils
. Bought 'em but haven't tried 'em yet. I assume they're like any other red heat transfer pencils (has anyone ever noticed a difference between brands?)
With graphite pencils, erasability seems to be all about the polymer and the eraser. I have a dollar-store push up pencil whose blue eraser worked like magic getting pencil marks and china marker out. My drafting pencil worked great at putting down precise lines, and was erasable with a good eraser. I'm not an artist, so I don't know all the different types of erasers — I make a trial mark on scrap fabric and try erasing it with different erasers till I find one that works. Clover's transfer pencil
in blue is also good.
I tried the old turn of the century method of pricking holes
in paper and rubbing with chalk. I couldn't believe how well it worked!!! Instead of parchment paper I used regular old tracing paper (man, that stuff is strong!), pricked holes using an old sewing needle. Instead of washing bluing I rubbed some chalk from a chalk wheel that's never worked right over the holes. Didn't pull out a brush or dauber or anything, just used my finger. Talk about low tech! But it worked like a champ, gave me a super crisp image, and I sealed it so I wouldn't rub the image out before it got stitched with a quick shot of an alcohol based hairspray. the image lasted through my ham-fisted stitching, and of course the chalk washed right out. Just for fun I also tried various colored chalks from a regular pack of kids chalk, and it worked great. You could get all fancy by using a pricking tool, different paper, and that "miracle chalk" stuff (which as far as I can tell is powdered tailors chalk, the kind that steams away.) You could get really fancy and use something other than a finger as an application device, I guess.
I'd like to try this with bluing — powdered or with a few drops of water added to form a liquid. I think the only brand of powdered bluing available in the US is called "Reckitt's". I noticed there are a couple of Etsy sellers who sell the little squares. There are a couple of european powdered brands as well that can be ordered from overseas if one were so inclined.Sharpie pens
work great — they're carbon-based, so they'll transfer with heat. Only problem is that they're permanent.Water soluble crayons
worked well, too. You can either rub them on or use heat. They don't soak into the fabric because they're a non-soluble pigment that's in a water-soluble base.
I used Solvy
in the fall and it worked great. It had the added advantage of stabilizing the fabric. Turned out great! I stitched with it onto a dark brown cotton knit skirt.
Over Christmas I tacked down tissue paper
and stitched through that. The paper did pull away nicely when finished, no problems there. The only problem I had was that it seems as if stitches aren't placed quite where you think they are. I think the tissue slips around a bit. Guess you could use one of those temporary spray adhesives to hold it more securely. I'm not a super precise stitcher, so I can't really afford to have stitches going even more astray! Still, results were okay.