Monday, March 05, 2012

Marking tools; the inventory.

I wrote this post as part of the Gadgetmania, hosted by Marina {Frabjous Couturehere are my favourite marking tools.
Marking your garments correctly is one of most important sewing steps, only second to pressing. There are many types of products available that suits different varieties of fabrics but there aren’t many differences in terms of quality by brands. It’s a matter of personal taste and need. I suggest you hold a selection and use them accordingly to specific projects. 

The following marking tools will help you transfer symbols and pattern guidelines for accurate construction.

Chalks or Tailor’s Chalk:  
There are two main formulations available (Talc-based and wax based) numerous formats and 4 main colours (white, yellow, blue, red).

The composition should be indicated on the box. If not, you can tell it by touch, as the wax-based chalk feels less smooth and break in chunks (don’t worry, they will not leave waxy residue and can be removed by heat) and talc-based is more powdery when using. The classic format is a thin wedge, which also can be found as a chalk wheel, which makes a finer line. The same principle applies to lipstick shape.

There is new fusion between chalk and pen branded as a Chaco pen and a Slim Chaco Pen (pens filled with chalk instead of inks with available refills)

Liquid markers or water-soluble pens:
Liquid markers and water soluble pens look like felt tips pen, where ink is erased in cold water. It is important to highlight that steam (HEAT) can actually make the marking permanent, so always check by testing your fabric first. These markers are also unsuitable for fabrics that show water marks, for obvious reasons. They can be found in blue, red and purple colour. An eraser pen is also available for removing markings made by any water-soluble marker.

Air-erasable pens:
According to the manufacture the marks disappear within 24 to 48 hours.

They can be removed either by brushing, erasing with a fabric eraser or by soaking in water.

Hot-iron transfer pencils: 
This pencil is used to trace a design and transfer it to the fabric using heat.

Dressmaking Carbon:  
Used with a tracing wheel, dressmaking carbon allows to trace quickly and accurately, as both layers can be marked at the same time. There are many types and colors available on the market. 
Two main dressmaking carbons types are wax-based and wax-free. Wax-free is becoming more available as many suppliers realise the demand for this type of product because some customers complained of the issue of residue left by wax-based products.

Most brands have a pack with 5 varieties of colour sheets same size (23x28cm), and the larger sheet size I found was  Burda (83 cm x 57 cm) but only provided 2 sheets.

Tracing wheels: 
The most common are the serrated and the smooth-edge tracing wheels. The serrated tracing wheel makes a distinguished doted line and is suitable for most fabrics except for delicate ones, while the smooth edge tracing wheel transfers a continuous line, more suitable for delicate fabrics or delicate paper patterns. 

There is also double tracing wheel that enables you to trace seam line and cutting edges at the same time and has an adjustable range of 10 to 30mm.

Tailor's Tacker: 
It is a small gadget that substitute the tailors tack process. It contains two pieces of chalk and a little pin through the middle that will marks both sides of fabric at the same time when twisted. This item is not very easily found.

Thread & needle: 
Mostly used to mark darts by using so-called tailor tucks. Sometimes, especially in couture, all stitching lines are thread-traced using fine thread and needle that don't leave marks on delicate fabrics.
They can be used to help mark darts in conjunction with a marker or on their own. There are not advised to be used in leather, fine fabrics or very loose knits

Best way to mark pattern notches that will allow the junction of the pattern pieces. Just nick the fabric slightly. Do the same for double and triple notches, making only once.

Iron (Pressing) 
you can use the iron to press tucks and other design features into shape. I advice you to refrain from marking with an iron as a pressing mistake can be difficult to correct.

My personal favourites are 
  • the wax chalk 
  • a Japanese white pencil for quilting  
  • Wax-free grey (non-coloured) dressmaker carbon. (sorry, I don’t know the brand as I buy then per loose sheet)
  • I also own both types of tracing wheels. 
I dislike any marking tools in colour (except my lipstick chalk yellow marker) because they tend to be very hard to remove. I personally don’t use pens because I press my garments a lot and I don’t like soaking (even if it’s by hand) at every little step and they have a tendency to reappear once dried. I also notice that the colour blue is the worst offender to get off the fabric. If you have a carbon wax emergency, I found out that some people melt the wax using the iron and use paper towers to dry it. You need to fold the item in paper and carefully heat it. It takes a while.

My final advice is take careful consideration when choosing the correct marking tool as they have the potential to ruin your project and always make a test patch.

Where to find most items:

I hope this post helped you make an informed decision on marking tools.

Image sourcing: All the products images were taken from Joann and Hancock sites and free copyright sewing database.

Please add to the list if you will and tell me your favourite marking tools. 


  1. Such a great list to motivate us all - thanks for putting this together. Sadly, I was taught back in my 'early days' to use tailor tacks in a bright or contrasting colour and to this day still use them!!! Many a gift has included the coloured carbon paper and pens, but old habits die hard with me. They look impressive in my little sewing room, but are all still untouched. Go the 'good-old-fashion-way' by hand....

    1. As long you use something you like, its fine.. its all about taste ...


  2. I also primarily use Tailor's tacks, although I often find it a frustrating task as I just want to get going. The Tailor's Tacked sounds great!

    1. I know, Im searching for it like mad... In the older sewing books they are present on the marking tools list but not in the newest ones...

  3. Thanks for the info.. I mostly use the tracing wheel [due to the fact,that I am old, ha, and that is what they taught us to use in Home Ec in School..

  4. Thanks for showing your tools I always like to see what you can use, it's great all the things you can get now...

    1. I know.. so many gadgets.. some are so silly but i still get it LOL


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