Ultimate guide to marking tools
With our handy round up of the best fabric marking supplies on offer, you’ll have no reason to blame your tools
Whether you sew garments, quilts, accessories or home décor, you will find that some projects require you to temporarily mark the placement of closures, darts, pockets, appliqués, stitching lines and other design elements. Sometimes a pin or a small snip in the seam allowance will do, but you often need more precise markings that won’t disappear too quickly but also won’t scar your fabric forever.
Please remember to test your chosen marking tool on a scrap of fabric first to see how well it shows up and how easy it is to remove. Sometimes air erasable or disappearing pens don’t completely disappear on certain fabric or colours. Unfortunately, no marking tool is ever 100% consistent
1. Tailor’s chalk
These triangles have been a staple in the tailoring industry for a long time. Use the long blades of the triangle to mark dart lines and the tip for notches and circles. Then brush the marks out of your fabric when you’re done. It’s really worth investing in a chalk sharpener if you want to use a triangle because they do blunt quickly.
2. Chalk cartridge pen
If you need a more strongly defined line, use this pen tool as the marks still wipe or wash out and you can replace the chalk sticks with different colours. It’s essentially a mechanical pencil mechanism but you can still sharpen the chalk into a point.
3. Chalk pencils
These white and coloured pencils are designed to brush easily from fabric and just like a regular pencil can be easily sharpened to a point. They’re nice for heavier fabric like canvas or denim and, when paired with a good ruler, you can get crisp straight lines. You can also find water-soluble pencils if you’re happy to wash out your marks as you go or all at the end of your project.
4. Tailor’s beeswax aka wax crayon
Think of this an oddly shaped crayon. The idea is that the wax will melt away under an iron, but that isn’t always the case, in which case the marks can be hard to remove. Best on wool and suiting fabric.
5. Air-erasable pens (AKA disappearing ink)
These fabric pens have revolutionised sewing in my opinion. Maybe you already own one but if not, here’s why they’re great. They come in bright colours that show up well on light fabric and the marks typically disappear completely with a light blot of water, touch of the iron, or with time. Unfortunately, these pens tend to dry out rather quickly, so it is good to have a back-up handy.
6. Chaco liner pens
Oh yes, someone’s invented a chalk dust pen. It leaves a very thin, precise line of powder. It rolls easily and won’t drag or distort fabric. Plus they come in a variety of colours, brush out of your material and you never have to sharpen them! You always run the risk of running out of powder mid-project so keep refills to hand. There’s also the chance a ghost chalk line may linger until you wash your garment.
7. Carbon paper and tracing wheel
There’s something to be said for marking both sides of the fabric at once in one motion, which you can achieve if you sandwich your fabric with the carbon paper. Packets contain a variety of colours of paper to use with light or dark fabric and it’s easy to mark long lines, curves or corners while copying a template or pattern exactly. You’ll also need a tracing wheel to create a dashed line of chalk on your fabric. But be cautious – these marks are almost always permanent.
8. Tailor’s tacks or thread basting
If you’re interested in couture precision you can transfer pattern markings with bright coloured thread loosely basted onto your fabric. Silk thread is best and beeswax can help prevent tangling. Be warned – this technique means your prep time is longer and is more tedious plus you might curse out loud if the thread then pulls out of fabric while handling. See this post here
Hancock starter kit (includes chalk triangle and sharpener, pencils, air erasable pen, tailor’s wax)
Clover Chaco chalk marker pen (available in a variety of colours)
Mixed colour chalk marking set, cartridge and refills
Pack of 10 white chalk pencils
Short Point Tracing Wheel (required carbon sheets)