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Preserving Vintage Embroidery Transfers


I found this great set of McCall’s embroidery transfers during one of my thrifting hauls last month. Dated 1946, this animal set is heat activated. Realizing I could get only one transfer for each design due to the age, I started to think of ways to preserve the images so I could use them again in the future by tracing them with tracing paper or a light box. Here’s what I did, but I’ll defer to any embroidery diehards out there for there own tips, too!

Take your used transfer and place it transfer side down on a copy machine. Use a scrap piece of plain white paper and place on top. I did this because sometimes copy machines have a hard time recognizing a small piece of paper on the glass – my kitten transfer was fairly small, so this was important. Make sure the transfer is flat on the glass as you close the top. Copy.
You should be set! This ink was blue, so I used a color copy to preserve it in its original form. I can use this again and again and not worry about losing the transfer.

14 thoughts on “Preserving Vintage Embroidery Transfers

  1. MiMi says:

    Have you thought about scanning the image and then printing it on fabric? I’ve considered doing that with old patterns and other delicate vintage paper craft items.

  2. MiMi says:

    Have you thought about scanning the image and then printing it on fabric? I’ve considered doing that with old patterns and other delicate vintage paper craft items.

  3. ReNae says:

    I use sulky Iron on Transfer Pen comes in colors. I can get great detail using the copies and tracing paper.

  4. stacey says:

    my fabric store carries a wonderful item called “trace-a-pattern”. it is cut to length, sturdy like heavyweight interfacing but you can see designs through it clearly. it is for exactly what it’s name says. i use it to trace the different sizes on my multisize patterns and that way i don’t actually have to cut the original if i don’t want to. unlike tracing paper or tissue paper, it is fibrous and withstands repeated pinnings without disintegrating. an additional selling point for me is that it also withstands having a large coffee spilled on it without it being destroyed. i simply hung it up on a rod until it dried and it is as good as new – and the ink i used for tracing didn’t even bleed! great thing when you have 3 young kids!
    i would use this for capturing the patterns myself :)

  5. Ella says:

    I have a 4 drawer file cabinet full of vintage embroidery patterns. Most came from my grandmothers, others I have found at antique stores and yard sales.
    I scan them into my computer and print them on paper to be traced onto my fabric.

  6. Melody says:

    Just this week I purchased an old Simplicity pattern with Embroidery Transfers. It was originally 25 cents, but I paid a lot more for it now. All of the instructions are printed on the back of the envelope, unlike today’s patterns that have a folded instruction sheet inside. I have no idea how old it is, but as a child I had items with these same designs embroideried on my pillowcases and dresser scarves, tea towels, etc. I think my mom went a little crazy with her “hand embroidery” back then. I am going to preserve these like this post outlines, plus scan them into my PC. Who knows, I might even embroidery some myself someday!

  7. Mary G says:

    I like the idea of scanning them – I would think you probably could store them on a CD or whatever – and maybe also able to “resize” it easily for your next project.

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