Why mark your marks on your fabric when sewing?
All sewing patterns have markings that need to be marked on the fabric: clip tops, pocket locations, button and buttonhole locations, etc. Transferring these marks is essential to assemble the garment with precision and ease.
In this article, I share with you the tools I use – or don’t use – to mark my marks on the fabric when I’m sewing. Then I’ll tell you my favorites to always have in your sewing supplies whether you’re a beginner or an expert!
A few precautions before marking your marks on the fabric.
The choice of a tool depends of course on several criteria:
- The color of the fabric: dark? light? white?
- The thickness of the fabric: a thin, delicate, transparent material? a relatively thick fabric?
- The grain of the fabric: is the material rough? grainy? smooth?
- The location of the marker: is the marker located in an inconspicuous place or one that will be hidden by a seam or other garment element?
Depending on these criteria, the tool chosen will mark the fabric more or less visibly. But always make sure to do a quick test in a corner of your fabric.
To do this, make a line on the fabric and observe the reaction of the material to the chosen marking tool in the following situations:
- Ironing with and without steam (test #1)
- Rubbing with the same material (test #2)
- Under water (test #3)
You will immediately see if the tool marks enough/ too much/ not enough and if it is suitable or not!
The main tools for marking sewing marks
There are many marking tools for fabrics. But you will find below my personal selection from my experience.
The magic pen or frixion pen.
First of all, let’s talk about the Indispensable frixion pen! I use it for non-delicate fabrics that don’t mind. It’s supposed to be invisible, but check beforehand that the pen doesn’t leave any yellowish or whitish marks on the fabric after ironing.
Bohin’s Chalk Pencil.
This is one of my favorite tools. I use it on dark colored fabrics. The lead is dry and white. It leaves just a discrete dot that is visible enough to work with precision. It’s handy for marking the arrival of a clip or for pointing out the placement of a pocket. It is also possible to choose the color of the lead, which is useful when using different colored fabrics. This tool costs a little less than 10 euros.
Another model of mechanical pencil from Bohin.
I had bought it when I started sewing. But the line is too thick and lacks precision for my current use. However, I could use it to mark a cross on the back of a large woolen fabric for example.
Another tool I don’t use. Like mechanical pencil #3, this pencil lacks precision and needs to be sharpened frequently. The mechanical pencil option, while more fragile, is more practical in this regard.
Good old chalk.
I don’t use it much. These chalks never last long with me: I drop them and only have fragments left. On woollens and/or dark fabrics, I prefer tool #6.
My editing teacher at the Chambre Syndicale School (now the IFM) swore by this tool. The line is fine, precise. The powder is poured by a small wheel that spins. I love the little noise it makes. You can also choose the color of the chalk. This is the tool I used to trace my Archer dress directly on the fabric.
A chakoner costs about 15 euros, making it the most expensive marking tool in this selection.
Prym’s roulette wheel.
The last material in this series: the Prym wheel. It is a marking tool equivalent to the Chakoner. I find the line slightly thicker, but it remains very correct. Its cost is less than 10 euros. It is also possible to combine it with a guide to draw seam margins, but I have never tested it.
My top 3 sewing supplies to get your markings right.
In the end, and in no particular order, my three favorite tools are:
- The frixion pen (tool #1 in the photo)
- Bohin’s extra fine mechanical pencil (tool #2)
- The chakoner (tool #6)
How do I mark markings on thin fabrics?
For delicate fabrics (very fine fabrics such as some silks or laces), marking on the fabric is to be avoided and the tools presented above are not recommended.
So, how to mark without risking to damage the fabric? The solutions that I have seen and experimented with in the workshop are to either pass a thread directly into the fabric, making sure that it holds well while remaining easy to undo, or to pass a thread into both the fabric and the tissue paper.
In short, there are no secrets or shortcuts for delicate fabrics!
One last useful tip: the color of the thread chosen for the basting is very important: it must be visible without leaving any contrasting color residue. When you unravel a basting, there may be residual thread trapped in the fibers that can be seen.