Fabric marking is used for a whole host of stitching techniques, ranging from dressmaking to embroidery. There are many ways to mark fabric, and a wide choice of marking pens and pencils available. Choose a type that will work with your project and the kind of fabric you’re planning on using.
Fabric markers and chalks are useful for transferring sewing pattern markings, as you can draw the notches, dots and dart placements straight onto your fabric. Although some sewists prefer to tack the markings or snip the notches, using a chalk pencil or water erasable pen or pencil is a much quicker method. You can copy them straight from your pattern before you unpin it from your fabric. You can also add seam allowances to patterns that don’t include them by drawing the seam allowance outside the edges of the pattern.
Drawing quilting lines onto your fabric before you start sewing is a very effective way to ensure your stitching is spot-on.
A water erasable or chalk pencil is the best choice, as the marks will remain until you are ready to remove them. An air erasable pen will disappear too quickly, while iron-on transfer pencil marks are permanent.
Transfer pens and pencils are perfect for embroidery, as you can stitch over the transferred design. Iron-on transfer pencils are ideal for this, but they are permanent so make sure your stitching covers all the marks. Another method is to tape your design and fabric onto a light source such as a window, then trace over all the lines using a chalk pencil, water erasable pen or pencil. Once the embroidery is complete, these lines can be removed.
Don’t forget to test
It’s important to test your marker on a scrap piece of your chosen fabric to make sure the marks can be removed, as they all react differently to different fabrics. Remember to read the directions carefully so you know how to use them and, most importantly, how to erase them. Don’t press the marks before you wash them out or before they vanish, as this can often fix them in place!
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Fabric marker know how
Water erasable pencils
These are designed to be removed from fabric either by wiping with a damp cloth or by washing. They’re available in a choice of colours, so pick one that shows up on your fabric. Some of the pencils also come with a brush on the end, which you can use to remove lighter markings.
Water erasable pens
These work in the same way as the pencil but come in a fine or normal tip size. They slide across the fabric more easily than a pencil and you can buy them in a variety of colours. The marks can be sponged or washed off and some pens come with an eraser at the other end.
Air erasable pens
The ink in these pens is specially formulated to stay visible for a few hours, but the time does depend on the brand of pen and the type of fabric you’ve marked it onto. These pens come in different tip sizes, and some varieties can also be removed with water.
Chalk compressed into pencil form, these are a really convenient and clean way of marking your fabric. They rub off quite easily, which is great for quick removal but can mean that you can accidentally rub away your lines whilst working. Sharpen these pencils often to keep a fine point.
Iron on transfer pencils
These are ideal for intricate embroidery designs. Simply draw the pattern in reverse onto tracing paper, then iron it pencil-side down on top of your fabric and the image will transfer. These are usually permanent, so make sure your stitching covers all of your transferred lines.
Erasers and sharpeners
It’s best to sharpen your pencils using a specialist sharpener, as it won’t damage the soft tip and you will keep a sharp, fine line. Fabric erasers will remove light pencil marks and eraser pens, used for quick removal of marks from water erasable pens, can be really useful, too.