When you look at your sewing pattern instructions, you will often see you are required to transfer some of the markings from your pattern on the fabric. If you have been scratching your head as to the best fabric marking tools for sewing, then read on!
Best Fabric Marking Tools for Sewing
There are 6 main marking tools for sewing that will mark fabrics. Grab a few pieces of scrap fabric and test to see which ones work the best for your sewing project. All of these are inexpensive options so you can keep a supply in your beginner's sewing kit.
- Tailors Chalk
- Chalk Pencils
- Disappearing Pens
- Washable Markers
- Carbon Paper and Tracing Wheel
- Regular Pens
Your decision as to which marking tools for sewing work best will depend on the type and color of fabric you are using for your project and whether the marking will be visible in the final product.
Where possible, always mark the wrong side of the fabric so that any residue is not visible in the final product.
TIP: Always test a scrap of fabric first to make sure you can remove the markings. You will get different results on different fabric compositions and colors.
1. Tailors Chalk
These distinctive triangle or rectangle chalk pieces are one of the more traditional methods for marking fabrics in sewing.
With their pointed edges, you can make fine lines on nearly all fabrics while feeling like a professional. Choose a color that will show up on your fabric. White and yellow will show up on dark fabrics, while red and blue work well on lighter fabrics.
TIP: If you find the edges getting blunt, run the chalk at an angle on a piece of cardboard to sharpen it again.
2. Chalk pencils
Chalk pencils are cheap and easy to find. They normally come in traditional blue, white, and pink, so will show up on most fabric colors. Just brush off the markings with the end of the pencil when you have finished.
One of the advantages of chalk pencils as marking tools for sewing over the rectangle variety is that you can sharpen them with a regular pencil sharpener resulting in better marking accuracy. They are also less messy and won't get all over your fingers or clothing.
3. Disappearing Pens
These pens look like felt-tipped pens but disappear with either time, heat, or water. They are one of my favorite marking tools as they are easy to see on most fabrics. If you live in a hot climate, or it is the middle of Summer, then steer clear of the heat-activated variety as sometimes they disappear faster than you can work.
4. Children's Washable Markers
While these are not strictly designed as marking tools for sewing, they are inexpensive and readily available at your local supermarket or stationery store. Lots of different colors to choose from means they will mark a variety of fabrics. Just do a test first to make sure it completely comes out in the wash.
5. Carbon Paper and Tracing Wheel
This is not your regular carbon paper from your Stationer but rather specialized dressmaking paper. Sandwich the paper between your pattern and the fabric, and then trace over the pattern with the tracing wheel. Make sure the carbon paper is face down so the color will transfer onto your fabric.
A tracing wheel is great for transferring curved lines and whole pattern pieces. The paper is available in different colors to show up on different colored fabrics. (How to use a tracing wheel)
6. Regular Pens
I always have a few regular biros (ballpoint) pens handy near my sewing machine.
You can use them to quickly mark fabric when all else fails. Just make sure the marks will not show through to the other side of the fabric or run when washed.
I tend to buy fancy pens so they are less likely to disappear into a junk drawer. The flamingo is my favorite!
7. Marking with Soap
This is an old-fashioned way of marking that works well on dark-colored, easily washed fabrics such as denim. Use a sliver of white soap for your markings. The soap marks will disappear in your item's first wash. Just test a scrap first to make sure this works for your fabric.
Brands of Fabric Marking Tools
You don't need to spend a lot on marking tools. Look for brands such as Singer, Birch, and Dritz who all offer a wide assortment of items for marking fabrics. Many beginner sewing kids include a chalk pencil.
Marking Tools for Sewing FAQS
What is the most popular type of marking tool?
Most sewers use chalk or chalk pencils as they are cheap and readily available at all sewing and craft stores. Best of all, they last a really long time. Removable fabric markers are also popular, but they don't last as long and can be more expensive.
Can I use a regular pencil to mark fabric?
Pencil can be used to mark fabric where the marked line will not show on the outside of your fabric. You should also be careful of delicate and lighter fabrics where the pencil line may bleed through when the item is washed.
What can I use instead of tailor's chalk?
If you are stuck without your trusty tailor's chalk, try the soap method. A sliver of white soap can easily mark the dark fabric and will wash out in the first wash.
How do I mark dark fabric?
Dark fabric such as navy blue or black can be marked with white or yellow tailor's chalk or soap. Fabric tracing carbon comes in yellow, which may work for some fabrics. Most other marking tools won't show up.
What can I use to mark difficult fabric with a nap?
Fabrics with a pile or nap, such as velvet or fleece, can be hard to mark with traditional methods. Try instead of marking using pins or safety pins.
Best Marking Tools & Uses
So now you have all the right marking tools for sewing, it is time to learn how to mark the fabric. There are various methods depending on which tools you purchased.
1. Transferring Dots with Pins and Chalk
This is the method that my mother taught me and one of the easiest for beginners, where you need to transfer dot markings. It works best with chalk pencils rather than the rectangles of chalk. You pierce through your pattern piece in the marked position with a pin and then lift the paper and mark underneath with the chalk pencil.
2. Marking Darts with Chalk
Darts can easily be marked by several methods, but I think the easiest is to cut up one side of the dart and fold back the paper. Using chalk or a removable pen, draw the dart legs. Read my full article on 3 more ways how to mark darts.