One of the most regularly asked questions left for me in comments or sent via email is "What pen do you use to trace your designs onto fabric?"
Since I first began embroidery in 2005 I've progressed from a pencil to a green pigma pen, and on to two different variations of brown pigma pen...
I used a fine graphite pencil. (I used to call them lead pencils, but my husband assures me that we do not use lead anymore, so graphite they are) This choice was soon discarded because graphite leaves a very fine residue on your threads as you stitch, and those lovely soft pinks, lemons and greens were dulled with grey dust.
I read that you could trace with an Artline green pigma pen and as long as you washed the finished stitched block before you ironed it, the traced green pen lines would wash away. I liked that the green ink assured I could see the lines to stitch over, no matter the lighting - but the pen tip did tend to catch on certain fabrics.
Blossom and I used this pen for about a year, but then we had a sorry hitch. She had stitched her original and intricate 'Rapunzel' design over a couple of weeks onto a marbled pink quilting fabric. She washed the stitchery as we normally did, but that green pen refused to budge. She was shattered, and the pretty stitchery ended its short life in the rubbish bin. It was time to look for something else. We tried ceramic pencils with erasers and blue fading pens, but even these refused to budge on certain fabrics.
I read about the brown Micron 01 pigma pen. The traced lines were so very fine and all my stitches, even using single threads, beautifully covered those lines.
The downside was the ‘catching’ of the pen’s tip in fabrics with a larger weave, such as homespun, quilter’s muslin or calico - all of which I liked to use for my stitchery backgrounds. This proved frustrating so I started tracing and stitching my designs onto good quality solid or tonal quilting fabrics instead - but the pen still wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped.
I discover the Zig Millenium pen! It glides across any fabric, no matter the size of the weave. It is fine, brown, and perfect for my needs. My stitches cover it every time as long as I trace exact lines and don’t try to fix a mistake by drawing an extra line or thickening an area. I haven’t moved on, and still use it today to trace every one of my stitchery designs onto fabric because I’m so happy with the consistent results.
Just so you can compare the four tracing mediums, here they are drawn onto calico...
...and onto some RJR solid quilting fabric.
Good fabric really does make a difference, even with a good pen.
Now here is a tracing hint for you...
When you trace a design that has lazy daisy stitches, don’t draw in the whole daisy stitch. It’s hard to cover all the traced lines of a small flower petal or similar shape with a lazy daisy stitch, so leave it blank or just put a little dot where the stitch is meant to go. In my ‘Bloom In Your Own Pot’ design I made dots for the placement of the French Knots, but did not draw the lazy daisy lines. Have a look at the photos below and you'll see the lazy daisy placement dots I've made inside the head of the flower...
Now look at the photo below. You can see how neat the lazy daisy stitches appear when there is no visible tracing mark...
I hope this little bit of Elefantz information has answered some questions for you.
A little bit of stitching got done on another secret project...
...and the rest of the corn fritters and marinated beans were on the menu with salmon for dinner.
It was a nice yesterday.
Hope you have a nice today,
Great information...and I am so hungry now!!!!!
I always use the zig as well, It never fails...I love yoga it is very relaxing. Bob is doing an excellent pose and he looks as if he is concentrating on his breathing too.
Fantastic info. Thank you! I must keep an eye out for a Zig pen next time I'm shopping.
Thank you so much for this really informative tutorial. Such a yummy looking dinner too.
Really informative post, thanks for showing the comparisons too. I will be keeping an eye out for the Zig pens too.
Would love you to link up your New to You to this month's New to Me link party :)
After using a pencil for many years I now use a Zig pen but find it tricky on the uneven weave of linen....any tips please!?, I'm also finding a Frixon pen very handy, it disappears with a hot iron & only reappears if put in the freezer! have you tried it?
Yes, I use it all the time for quilting lines, Annette. :-)
Forgot to say that when using the Zig on very open weaves, like hanky linen, don't press hard...gently glide across the fabric. If you're not getting a dark enough line, you may need a new pen or to use one slightly thicker like a 0.5mm.
Hi Jenny - I have recently been given one of the Zig pens & look forward to trying it out. Thanks for the great tips for stitching the lazy daisies - your posts are always so wonderful & informative & you share you info & designs SO very generously ... we all really appreciate this Jenny :-) And your photos are just gorgeous too with wonderful eye candy.
I must confess I did laugh when I saw Bob the Dog's impression of an egyptian sphinx - how gorgeous is that !!! Have a wonderful day Jenny x0x
SRA. JENNY MIL GRACIAS POR ESTE MAGNIFICO TUTORIAL NO SE IMAGINA COMO ME HA ACLARADO LAS COSAS.
Thank you for sharing your very helpful tips, I have ordered a Zig pen, getting closer. Your pear gift lovely, so many creative people. Also thank you for sharing your yummy food pics ideas and recipes and book it looks very interesting and helpful. A friend has just told me about a book she is reading and finding very interesting and helpful, it is by a neurologist who is also qualified in nutritian, the book called 'Grain Brain' by David Perlmutter, explains the damage grains and carbs can cause us. Hope your online health studies going well. Appreciate all that you share, show and teach us, have a good day. Judithann
Thanks Jen for the info. I always use a Pigma pen and while I like it I experience just what you described on more open weave fabrics....Zig Pen here I come!! Your body and your breathing are going to looove Yoga...hugs xxx
Thanks so much for this info, I need to practice my wobbly tracing I think! I get nervous about making mistakes in permanent pen and not being able to remove it.
I use the brown pigma pen and so far have been happy with it. Like your tip for the lazy daisies as I used to draw a line, but it never was always covered so from now on, a dot it is.
Thanks for sharing such great tips. Your photos and your stitching are exquisite. Lovely!
Thanks for the tips. I will look for the Zig pens. My dog also takes the lazy out when I work out . He does give the occasional nudge, guess he thinks he's helping.
Thanks for all the info. I use a water soluble pen. Usually the one that DMC offers. I make mistakes when marking designs and anything permenent just doesn't work for me and sometimes I need to make those last minute changes that make any project my own. You do need to iron on any backing first as heat can set the ink. That's just me though. The dots for lazy daisy stitch is a great idea. Could you sometime show a work with scattered daisy dots and how you tell what is what, how you know which way each daisy faces? And if it is a leaf or petal without a color picture at hand? Whenever you have time. No rush.
Always love your tips honey!!! I've been using a Micron for a good couple of years now - can't remember what I used before that - and I'm pretty sure I got a Zig about a year ago. I tend to use whichever my hand grasps a hold of first, lol, as they sit together in a pencil case I use for all those quilty-kinda marking tools ;) I've been happy with both, but yes, definitely agree that you need to just use them lightly when marking on hanky linen - actually, I mark pretty lightly whatever fabric I'm using. Don't like a hard, thick line, lol! ... And I had to laugh when I read your tip for marking lazy daisy's, as this is what I've been doing for over a year myself!! When it's a flower made up of lazy daisy's, I'll also mark where the daisy 'top' of the loop is, so usually two dots, and both are covered easily by the thread :) Looks so much better than back when I was marking out the whole loop!! ... Dinner looks yummy!! I'm thinking we'll be having some kinda fish tonight. My sister (who doesn't like fish) is out of town, and both Mum & Dad have been saying they're keen to have some fish, so I'll pull some out of the freezer when we get home :) Helps that we have a fella here who loves his fishing - and regularly brings fillets home of the yummy kinds!!! :D Hugs!
There is, indeed, a sphinx pose in yoga, and Bob-the-Dog is doing it correctly. Nice form! You are lucky he leaves you alone. Two of my cats are all over me as soon as I set my mat out. They rub against my legs during standing poses and hang out at the foot of my mat when I'm lying down. I have a friend whose dog thinks savasana is time for fetch. He drops a ball near his master's hand, and my friend rolls it away only to have it returned to his hand!
Only a matter of time before Princess Sofie and Bob decide to soak up all that peaceful yoga energy.
Peace and Laughter!
Thanks for the insights Jenny! Will definitely be keeping an eye out for the Zig!
Do you find it easy to follow vids? I got a pilates one a while back....okay more than a year ago!....and never took it out of the box once.....maybe I should!
Thanks for the tip, I will search for such a pen! Love the new colors and hope to see the whole project soon!
P.S. My dog is an expert in yoga, she only snores!
GOOD to know! I love the way you explained it. I find yoga to be great for my backhand shoulders too. I take a class 2x a week. having an instructor helped me refine my positions. gave me that A HA moment.
Thank you for suggesting the millennium pen for transferring designs. I have used the micron for the last couple of years. Did not know the millennium came in brown. I have used the black one for other types of projects so I will look for it in brown! You have shared some great tips.
I really enjoy your blog, and every time I am inspired to try some embroidery. I especially am drawn to the embroidery/applique combination that you do. I just need to get organized and pick a project. If only my mind would stop jumping around so much! Oh wait! I just thought of something...gotta run!
Thank you for this Jenny - can you tell me what thickness of zig pen you use please? xx
You must have been reading my mind when you wrote this post, I've been struggling to find a pen for tracing...now I can go buy one...thank you
Likewise Elisa :) Wonderful tips Jenny, thank you for sharing such timely information as well as the wealth of guidance and tips you share with us regularly! Do you use a lightbox for transferring your patterns?
Hi Jenny, Great tips for tracing! Myself, I use an erasable pen by Pilot, brand name Frixion. They come in a multitude of colors. The best part about it is that after you are finished with your embroidery, you put a heated iron to the back, and all the ink disappears. How cool is that? Your blog is great, your patterns are superb. I just wanted to say hello from this side of the world, Northern Michigan, USA
Yes,I do, Sue - but occasionally I just tape the pattern sheet to a good light window and trace from there.
I tend to not use permanent pens for marking my stitcheries. I have a habit of changing the pattern slightly if I think it's not quite right!
Suddenly, yesterday, I started getting your posts in e-mails again! First there was a post with about a month's worth of links, and now they are coming daily again. Too strange. I, too, love Pigma pens for tracing, and used a red one for redwork for a long time. Lately, I've been using Frixion pens, and yes, if you stick the stitchery in the freezer the lines do come back, though dimmer, and can still be ironed out again. I'm never living where it's that cold! =) I like your piece with the lazy daisies. I do most of mine completely freehand, but then I'm crazy quilting more often than embroidering.
This was a very timely post, Jenny! I don't like any of my pens for various reasons and I was looking to buy another one for LGS. I'm off to check out Zig Millenium! :-)
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