There are lots of methods for fabric marking, including using tailor's tacks and tracing paper, and a wheel, but this is the method my Mum taught me and the one I normally use. Transferring markings from your sewing pattern to fabric with chalk and pins requires a minimum of tools and is easy enough for sewers of all levels.
Fabric Marking Tutorial for Beginners
This tutorial will show you 4 different ways to mark fabric. In my opinion, method 1 is by far the easiest, but read through and see what method you like the best.
- How to mark fabric using pins
- Fabric marking with carbon paper
- Fabric marking with basting
- Using tailor's tacks
What is Fabric Marking?
Fabric marking is an essential step in sewing, where symbols and lines are transferred from the pattern to the fabric. Common marks include buttons, darts, gathering points, and matching points. It is also common to mark seam allowances for accurate sewing. When marking fabric, it is important to use a method that won't stain or permanently mark the fabric. It needs to be removed after sewing.
Tools for Fabric Marking
For fabric marking, you need pins, a ruler or tape measure, and marking tools.
Marking tools include:
- Chalk pencils and fabric pencils - These have little brushes on the ends.
- Tailors' chalks. These are normally rectangles or triangles and come in different colors.
- Removable fabric pens or soluble markers- These pens disappear either with heat, water, or time.
- Tracing wheel and fabric carbon or chalk wheel.
- Soap slivers - These can be used to mark dark fabrics. You will need to wash the fabric afterward to remove the soap.
Further Reading: Fabric Marking Tools.
You will generally just need one fabric marking tool per project, but you may find that different projects and fabrics suit different kinds.
Always test that the chalk or marking tool you use on your quilts or sewing projects can be removed and won't leave a stain or residue. Dark fabrics can be marked using a white or yellow color.
How to Mark Fabric for Sewing
TESTING: Always test your fabric marker on a scrap piece of fabric before marking your actual project. That way, you'll know beforehand if the marks are easy to remove.
- Press the fabric so it is wrinkle-free. Folds and wrinkles can make your fabric markings inaccurate.
- Right side or wrong side? Next, decide whether you want to mark on the right side or the wrong side of the fabric. It usually depends on your pattern instructions. If you’re unsure, marking on the wrong side of the fabric is usually the safer choice as any marks will not show on the outside of the fabric.
- Mark the fabric: Once you've measured or determined the correct placement, go ahead and mark your fabric with your fabric marker or tailor's chalk. Make sure the marking color you have chosen shows up on your fabric and the marks are accurate.
- Check your marks: Before you remove your pattern or start cutting, check your marks. It’s better to spend an extra minute double-checking now than to realize you’ve made a mistake after you’ve started cutting.
Fabric Marking Techniques
Here are 4 methods for marking fabric:
1. How to Mark Fabric Using Pins Step by Step
This method of marking fabric is great for cotton and sturdy fabrics where a pin will not leave a mark. It is not suitable for leather, vinyl and delicate fabrics such as silk.
Step 1 - Match pattern
Place the paper pattern back on top of your cut fabric piece. Try and match up the edges as closely as possible.
Step 2 - Insert Pin
Stick a pin through the pattern where you need to transfer the mark. In this case, I was marking the point of the dart in a bodice.
Further Reading: How to read sewing pattern symbols
Step 3 - Lift and Mark
Lift up the pattern slightly and mark with your chalk or fabric marking pens where the pin goes through. If the pin goes through 2 layers then just lift up the back and mark that too. You can mark the spot either with another pin or a chalk pencil.
I always prefer to stick a pin in first and then completely remove the paper pattern pieces before marking where the pin's position. I find this easiest, where I have to transfer several marks in the same area.
If you are transferring dart markings, join the dot to where the dart starts at the edges.
2. Fabric Marking with Carbon Paper
Dressmaker's carbon paper is specially designed for fabric and comes in many colors to suit different fabrics. Yellow is great for darker fabrics, while blue and orange can be used on lighter fabrics. Don't use regular paper carbon paper as it will mark the fabric and not come off and may even smudge.
Carbon paper is used in conjunction with a tracing wheel to draw the lines.
Place your fabric on the table wrong side up and put the carbon between the fabric and the paper pattern. Use the tracing wheel to draw over the lines you need to transfer. This is very easy and will result in a line made up of fine dots where the spokes of the wheel have pressed against the carbon.
The carbon will, of course, be smaller than the pattern so shift it along as you trace.
Further Reading: How to Use a Tracing Wheel
3. Fabric Marking with Basting
Simple up-and-down running stitches can be used for fabric marking. Use long stitches in a contrasting color so you can remove them easily when the item is finished. The advantage of using this method is that there is no danger of you rubbing off the markings.
When the stitches are really large, this is a surprisingly quick method. I like to use basting as my fabric marking method for marking pleats and long lines.
4. Fabric Marking with Tailors Tacks
Tailor's tacks are an old-school method of marking delicate and expensive fabrics like wool with thread. Read the linked article for more information on how to use this professional method. It is a common fabric marking technique used in suitmaking and couture.
How to Remove Fabric Marking
If you have accidentally marked your fabric or if the marks still show on the finished project, here is what you can do to fix it.
- Gentle Wash: If you've used a washable fabric marker, this will be easy! Simply pop the marked fabric into your washing machine, following any specific washing instructions for the fabric. More often than not, this removes any marks.
- Dish Soap & Warm Water: You don't always need to wash the whole piece of fabric. A solution of dish soap and warm water rubbed on the spot often works wonders. Gently rub the solution on the stain and let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing it out.
- Commercial Stain Remover: If all else fails, purchase a commercial stain remover. Follow the instructions on the product, and remember to wash your fabric thoroughly after application. Do a spot test first to make sure there is no discoloration or mark left.
Keep in mind that success in removing unwanted fabric markings may vary based on the type of fabric and the type of marker used.
Fabric Marking - In Conclusion
So now you know three easy methods of fabric marking. My most commonly used method is simple pins and chalk.
That’s it! Easy, wasn’t it? If you have any extra tips, please share them below.