Inky Experiments

Inky Experiment 2: Prick and Pounce

This post is part of a series of practical experiments regarding marking under drawings for embroidery. An introduction to this project can be found here.

Practical Experiment: Pattern Transfer

In my first experiment I produced a ink I think could have potentially been used by artists preparing fabrics for embroiderers. In that experiment I free hand painted figures onto my fabric. But, what methods are available to the embroiderer who lacks skill in painting or drawing or wants to embroider a repetitious or geometric pattern.


  • Vine Charcoal powder
  • Tracing paper (or parchment)
  • Fabric for embroidery
  • Archival pen or ink and quill

The modern embroiderer may wish to experiment with inks as I have, or they may feel more comfortable with an archival pen. The plus side with modern archival pens is that they are color fast and tested for corrosive pigments which can ruin your work in the future.

I drew out and perfected my design on tracing paper. I placed it over a hard pillow, as Cennini recommended, and took a blunt embroidery needle and stabbed tiny holes along the lines of my design. This process was surprisingly quick and only took a few minutes for my small leaf. I placed the tracing paper over my fabric and made sure the design was in the correct location. Rather than using a messy pouncing bag, I rolled up a piece of felt, and dipped it into the vine charcoal powder. 

I dabbed the charcoal covered felt upon the surface and applied additional powder as needed. The process was quick and produced deep charcoal dots of the fabric. I then used my archival pen to connect the dots and used my drawing as reference in any areas I felt the dots were unclear.

Larger works will require additional time to prick and pounce all the holes. Embroiderers should not take short cuts, but err on the side of more holes than less.


In the grand scheme of embroidery projects, the time it takes to prick and pounce a project is negligible to the amount of time it takes to stitch the embroidery. That being said, there are other quicker methods of pattern transfer such as using a light box or bright window. Ambitious embroiderers may even use a lit candle beneath their embroidery to transfer a pattern, but only with abundant care.

While the prick and pounce method was most likely only used in later period embroideries and often for repetitious designs, it remains an accurate and not too difficult method for pattern transference.

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