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Marking tools for fabric

This is going to be one of the last posts of this series and we will talk about marking tools, i.e. all the tools you may need to transfer markings on your fabric.

There are literally tons of marking tools available each having its own features, pros and cons. This post won’t certainly cover all of them, but I will try to give you an idea of what are the options and what to choose when.

Marking was a bit of a mystery when I first started sewing, as I found it difficult to understand what was the best way to transfer pattern markings onto fabric. Now I found my own way to do that and I seldom use marking pens or chalks except in a few occasions. I will tell you more about pattern tracing in a future post, but today we will focus on the options you have for marking.

The great classic of marking tools is the tailor’s chalk. Tailor’s chalks come in a number of different shapes: from the most classic one you see in the picture below to its modernist version, the tailor’s chalk wheel (this or this ) by Prym. This wheel slowly releases chalk powder producing a fine chalk line. Compared to the standard tailor’s chalk, the chalk powder is less permanent and the thickness is pretty much constant without having to reshape as with the solid chalk. They also sell chalk powder cartridges , so you can refill it without buying a new wheel. However, when you want your mark to last at least till the end of your project, chalk wheel are not an option: the chalk powder fades away very easily. Chalk pencils are another option. They look just like a pencil and they’re available in different colours.

In some cases, you may not want to use chalks as marking tools, as they are a bit oily (especially the solid one) and can stain some fabrics permanently (e.g. delicate silks). If that’s the case, you have some other options. In the last few years lots of water-erasable brush pens and pens have been introduced in the market. Some are specific for fabrics like this one (and they are also a bit more expensive). Some others are not fabric-specific (typically they sell them for kids) but do the very same thing: they wash out. The ones you see in the picture below are these Berol brush pens, which come in packs of 12 or more with assorted colours. Overall, they’re definitely cheaper than fabric-specific ones.

In any case, whatever they say on the pack of any water-erasable pen, try it on a scrap of your fabric before using it… you never know! Also, I wouldn’t use any of these markers on the outside of my fabric, try to always use them on the inside or in places where you know they won’t show when the garment is finished.

Some of these fabric-specific pens are also air-erasable, which means marks automatically disappear in contact with air after a few hours/days. Another option are ink pens like these from Pilot. They have a fine tip and gel ink that disappears with friction (or when ironing on top).

Again, let me stress that all these marking tools should first be tested on a fabric scrap, as they might not come off (easily or at all!) in some cases.

The last marking tool I want to talk about is carbon paper. This comes in sheets of different sizes and colours and can be used to easily transfer pattern markings onto the fabric with the help of a tracing wheel with blunt edges.

The one I have is this one by Clover and they sell it in two different sizes and in packs of 5 coloured sheets. However, I think all brands are equivalent, so pick the one you can more easily find in the place where you live (here ‘s another one by Hemline). As for the tracing wheel, remember not to buy the one with serrated edges, as it will cut through the paper. Mine comes from Prym and has no teeth, but there’s a valid one also by Clover.


Well, that’s all I know about marking tools. What is your favourite one? Do you know a specific brand that particularly works for you? Do you prefer chalk, ink or carbon paper? Share your comments below!
Stay tuned for next post: it’s gonna be about pressing tools!

Ciao ciao!

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