How to Make a Homemade Light Box

        I haven't done a whole lot of tracing of patterns onto fabric but when I do I find it much easier to do with a light source underneath. I've tried straight tracing which works pretty well for light colored loosely woven fabric and tracing against a window for slightly darker colors, but that isn't always convenient especially with larger designs. Last year, in preparation for our pacific cruise, I experimented with creating a makeshift light box and it was effective but not all that convenient so when I designed another image that I wanted to transfer, I decided to come up with a better solution. So here goes!


Work light fixture
Light bulb (I used a LED because they can stay pretty cool for longer periods of time)
Cardboard Box
Plexiglas Sheet (Big enough to fit your full design and sit on top of your box)
Tin Foil (Optional)
Masking Tape
Disappearing Marker (for tracing on fabric)
Dark Marker/Sharpie (Highlight the part of the design you want to transfer)

So now you've got all of your materials together let's get started!

Step 1:

Plan out your design! I am currently obsessed with the image of old ships and anything naval. Don't ask why. I just think they look cool. I wanted this design to be the center of a whole cloth quilt. This particular ship is partially inspired by Tula Pink's Parisville line and partially by Eiko Ishioka's ship hats from Mirror Mirror.

Step 2:

This step kind of optional. As I have mentioned in previous posts I like to keep my original images in my sketchbooks and unmarred so I typically trace any images I have designed. In this case I also didn't want to risk getting any pencil graphite on my fabric so I traced the image onto a lighter piece of butcher paper.

I also took this opportunity to reverse and tweak the image since I wanted to trace it on the back of my quilt as the top of my quilt was a darker colored fabric. Once you are happy with your design you will tape it to the bottom of your Plexiglas with the image you want to trace facing up.

You can see that I followed most of my lines but chose to change some on the go :)

Step 3:

Prepare your box! I thought it might be beneficial to add a reflective element to my box to bounce up any stray light beams. I figured a cheap and easy way to do this would be to coat the side flaps in aluminum foil. I would have love to use mirrors but I was in a bind and couldn't afford to go hunting for them. This step isn't necessary but I thought it helped.

Step 4:

Assembly your light box! The work light I purchased is perfect for this because it doesn't have all the extra bulk that a standing desk lamp does. I simply rotated the head of the lamp so that it faced up comfortable and clamped the end onto one of the box flaps. My box is tall enough that the edge of the lamp shade is still below the edge of the box. 

Step 5: Attach your fabric to you Plexiglas. you can use tape but I prefer to use clips (wonder clips, hair clips, magnetized refrigerator clips, etc), especially if the fabric I am working with is larger than my Plexiglas. Using the clips allows me to wrap the fabric around the edge of the Plexiglas and secures it much better than tape would. Once your fabric is securely attached to the Plexiglas set it on top of the cardboard box with the light on.

Step 5:

You might be able to guess that this next step involves...tracing! Using your disappearing marker (or non disappearing marking implement) trace your design onto the fabric. Attaching both the fabric and the design to the Plexiglas makes your design more mobile. You can move your fabric and design around over the light without risking losing your place. It's very convenient. If your design is bigger than your Plexiglas then you might want to break it down into chunks using the same basic technique. 

Ta-da! You have successfully transferred an image onto your fabric! What you do with it now is up to you! I think I might embroider mine :)

Hope this helped!

Bonus pic of Tula Pink's Anchors Away in progress!


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