Marking Tools I Use (Sewing Tools Series)

It is very rarely that when I talk about my sewing projects I also talk about the tools I use while making them. Usually I only talk about the fabric and patterns used. However, I thought that some of you might be interested in learning about the tools and supplies that I used to make my projects. With so many tools, this post would be very long. So I decided to start a small series of post in which I talk about various tools and supplies that I use in my sewing projects which I’m calling Sewing Tools Series I am I hope you find these posts useful.

I will start my Sewing Tools Series with talking about the marking tools I use in my projects.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, marked with *. Please read my Reader Disclosure Policy for details of what that means.

Over the years I collected a large number of marking tools from the classical chalk block to the more modern heat erasable pens, to help me transfer markings from the paper pattern to the fabric so that they are accurate and help me get better results on my projects. As a beginner you won’t need all of them and you can make do with one or two.

Not all methods work for all fabrics for various reasons makings won’t stay on the fabric so testing them on scraps of fabric is a good practice. They all have pros and cons. Without further ado, these are the tools I use in no particular order.

Scissors (missed them in the main picture)

In the absence of time and no other marking tools available one can use scissors to make small cuts into the seam allowance to mark the location of notches. This is quick and easy to do. However, you are limited to the seam allowance area and I do not recommend using them on fabrics that fray easily. Also, always use sharp scissors. The good thing is that you can mark more than one layer of fabric. Below is a list of scissors you can use for this task. Mostly I use the smaller sized ones, just because they are easier to manoeuvre and you cannot get carried away and slice into the fabric more than the seam allowance.

  1. Fiskars dressmaking scissors*, 2. Milward fine embroidery scissors*, 3. Milward gold stork embroidery scissors*, 4. Hemline rose gold dressmaking shears*, 5. Janome thread cutter*, 6. Plastic snip scissors*

Pens and pencils

There is a large variety of marking pens and pencils. I have a few different ones that I more or less useful depending on the fabric. My favourite among these is the heat erasable pens because the parks are always accurate and they disappear once heat is applied. Technically we are supposed to press every seam right! So by the time my project is finished the markings also disappear. The only drawback to heat erasable pens is that sometimes the mark comes back as a white line. Therefore, on some fabrics, it is not a good idea to use them on the right side of the fabric.

Other useful marking tools are the water erasable pens and pencils, which wash away. As a result, they can be used on the righthand side of the fabric ( for example to mark buttonhole or pocket placements). The drawback is that once the project is completed it needs to be washed if it had any marks on the righthand side. With the pens, you can always make thin lines, whereas with the pencil you need to sharpen the tip as you use it.

Other pencils are dressmaking pencils which come in various colours. The majority of them leave a semi-permanent mark which fades away as you wash your projects. So again, it’s best to avoid using them on the righthand side of the fabric.

Air erasable or vanishing pens – although I have one, I hardly ever use it because I tend to cut mark my projects more than one at the time and then leave them for a few days before I actually sew them. This means that by the time I get to the project the markings disappear. They might be better suited for someone who will cut, mark and sew in one go.

pens and pencils
  1. Hemline Sewing Dressmaker Pencils With Brush*, 2. Water Soluble Marking Pencil*, 3. Hemline Sewing Fabric Marker Wipe Off & Wash Out*, 4. Hemline Sewing Fabric Marker Vanishing*

Tracing wheels and carbon paper

Another useful marking tool is a tracing wheel with carbon paper. I find that I used this not only to mark the fabric mainly for darts and pocket placements, but also to trace patterns from magazines.

I use the double tracing wheel to trace patterns from magazines, especially when seam allowance is not included. I do advise you that if you intend to use a tracing wheel to copy patterns from magazines you use one that does not have points, but blunt edges or a uniform edge all the way around to avoid damaging the master copy.

The markings from the carbon paper do not always come off and it takes a few washed to take them out. For this reason I never use the carbon paper to put marks on the right-hand side of the fabric.

tracing wheel and carbon paper
  1. Clover Tracing Carbon Paper *, 2. Clover Double Tracing Wheel*, 3. Hemline Economy Sewing Tracing Wheel Serrated Edge* 4. Prym Ergonomic Tracing Wheel Smooth*


The market is full of various forms of chalk products suitable for marking sewing projects, from the classic chalk triangle to chalk powder. My favourite type of chalk product is the chalk pen. However the trouble is that if you drop your pen the chalk shatters. Despite this, I prefer the prym chalk pen set as it come with the pen, a sharpener and various colours chalk refills. The mark left by this pen lasts longer than the chalk powder, which disappears fairly quick when the fabric is handled a lot.

The chalk triangles are OK while the edge is thin, but once they wear down the mark left behind gets thicker and it’s not suitable for detailed marking.

Although the chalk powder ensures you always have a thin mark and you do not have to worry about sharpening, I found it a bit messy and the marks don’t stay on the fabric long enough for me to do what I need to. Keep in mind that I like to pretty much use anything I make straightaway, without having to wash them to remove any markings.

  1. Prym Chalk Pen & Cartridge Set* 2. Prym Ergonomic Chalk Wheel Cartridge* 3. Prym Ergonomic Chalk Wheel Mouse* 4. Chaco pen* 5. Sewing Tailors Chalk Triangles*

Here are some of my tips for using marking tools :

  • first test them on scraps of fabric to find the best method for your fabric
  • whenever possible only mark the wrong side of the fabric
  • consider more than one method of tracing markings for one project. For example for notches within the seam allowance I use water erasable pens on the wrong side of the fabric and for the pocket placements or buttonholes I use the chalk pen on the right hand side of the fabric.

Do you have any marking methods or tools you prefer to use to trace notches or darts onto the fabric? Please share them with me in the comments. I’d love to hear what you like to use.

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