Arune Guja

Tools Used to Transfer Pattern Markings on Fabric

So you figured out all your pattern markings and symbols and now wondering how to transfer them on your garment panels? 

First of all you will need to choose the tools that you are going to use for this task. There are many options to choose from so in the beginning it can seem a bit confusing. But don't you worry! Here is the complete list of most common tools and supplies used to transfer your pattern markings to fabric. 

Fabric Marking Tools Used In Sewing

Whether you are making a clothing piece, a bag, a hat, a quilt or home accessories, all sewing projects require to mark the fabric at a certain point. Either you are trying to transfer your pattern markings on a fabric or just measuring and cutting - you will need to find a way to mark your fabric. When it comes to fabric marking tools there are quite a few.

What is a fabric marking tool?

Fabric marking tool is an item that is used to leave a mark that helps you to navigate when sewing or cutting the fabric. Most of these can be removed with a damp cloth or by washing the fabric. Few of these tools leave a semi permanent or a permanent mark. In this case the marking is usually hidden during the sewing process. Good example would be using scissors to make a notch on the seam allowance which is later not visible on the outside of the garment.

Here is the complete list of fabric marking tools that can help you in everyday sewing projects.

Tailor's chalk

Tailors chalk is a chalk piece specially made for tailors and dressmakers. Traditionally it comes in a flat square or triangle shape, but can also be made into a tailor's chalk pencil or a pen. It leaves temporary marks that are easy to remove. Tailors chalk should not be confused with regular chalk (school chalk used for drawing on blackboards), because it is made from different components. You can find different colors like white, blue, red, yellow and others. Tailors chalk is one of the most commonly used tools to mark the fabric because it works beautifully in most of the cases. 

Marking pencil

There are many types of marking pencils used in sewing. The best thing about them is that they are very comfortable to use when marking your pattern. The tricky part is - you have to know which pencil to choose for which fabric. Most common types of marking pencils are:

Soapstone pencil - natural, comes in white, suitable for dark fabrics, can be removed by gently rubbing.

Water soluble pencils - comes in more colours, great on variety of fabrics, can be removed with damp cloth.

Tailors chalk pencil (mentioned before) - comes in a few colours, can be used on a variety of fabrics, can be removed by brushing off or with damp cloth.

Grease pencil - comes in many colours, can’t be used on fabrics, but works great on materials like vinyl, pleather and plastic, removed by rubbing off.

Scissors, snips and cutters

All these tools can be used to make tiny cuts around the edge of the garment panel to indicate a notch, dart, tuck or a pleat. You can even use rotary cutter to make a small cut to indicate a notch.

Pattern notcher

This is a specific tool made to mark notches on pattern. It creates precise square cuts on the edge of the pattern. It works in a similar way like hole puncher. Commonly pattern notcher is used for paper, but in most cases can be used for fabric too. This tool is handy when you need a quick notch or two before sewing.

Tailor’s Awl

Mostly used in combination with other tools (pencils or pins). Helps to pierce the pattern, thus creating a hole through which certain points are marked with a chalk or a pin.


By inserting into the fabric used to mark notches, darts, tucks or pleats. This type of marking is handy because it does not leave any marks on your fabric.

Tailor’s Tacks or Tack / Basting stitch

Tailors tack or baste stitch is a loose temporary stitch used to hold fabric together before sewing and intended to be removed only when the permanent stitching was made. Tailors tacks are used to transfer pattern markings, like darts, pockets, button placement, etc. For example, if you need  to mark two panels at the identical location with tailors tacks you usually sew two panels together. Then place the scissors in between those two layers of the fabric and cut the stitches. You will then be left with pieces of threads sticking out of the fabric on both panels and indicating the placement of the element.

This method is very common in sewing haute couture and helps to assemble the garment in high precision, leaving no marks on the delicate fabric.

Dressmaker's carbon 

Also called carbon paper, transfer paper or tracing paper and is available in non-wax, wax, and vanishing forms.

This is a very handy tool that is used together with a tracing wheel (mentioned below). Essentially, dressmakers carbon is a paper coated with paint on one side that is transferred to another surface by pressure. To trace the pattern you have to place the dressmakers carbon in between the pattern and fabric. The paint coated side of dressmakers carbon has to face the fabric. Then the pattern or the pattern markings needs to be traced with a tracing wheel. When the pattern is removed you will be left with a nicely and accurately transferred markings. 

However, this method has its own quirks. First one, you need some skill and practice using the tracing wheel. Second one, you need to pay attention when purchasing, because not all dressmakers' carbon paper washes away and sometimes leaves a permanent mark on the fabric. 

Tracing wheels (smooth or spiked) 

It is a small spiked wheel attached to a handle. When tracing the pattern piece it leaves small marks on the layer beneath it. It can bi used with or without tracing paper - depending on what you are transferring the markings. You can also find double tracing wheels. These are useful when you need to transfer seam allowance together with the stitching line.

Hera Marker

It is a flat plastic tool with a sharp rounded edge. By running this tool through the fabric you create a delicate crease mark that can be used to indicate all kinds of markings. It does not ruin your fabric and does not leave any pigment marks. The tool fits comfortably in your hand and does not run out like most of the tools used for pattern marking.


This one is a heritage of our grandma’s. When a soap bar gets small that you can't use it anymore in the shower - don’t stick it to another soap bar and don’t throw it away! Use it as if  you were using tailor's chalk. Great thing about this tool is that it washes away completely and can be accessed easily in most households. Downside - it is less visible on light fabrics.

Disappearing ink pens

These are pens that disappear from fabric either from heat, humidity or with time. The way you can make it disappear completely depends on the brand of the pen. You should always look into it before purchasing or using it on your fabric, because sometimes the way you need to remove it can ruin your fabric (for example applying heat or friction egz. frixion pens). 

Kids washable markers

These are markers that kids use and can be removed from fabric by washing it. It is an uncommon thing to use in pattern marking, but a good tool to be aware of if you can’t find any other option close to you.

Don’t forget that some fabrics require different ways of marking and what works on one, not necessarily will be effective with another. Best way to figure out what to use is to take a little piece of fabric you are planning to use for your sewing project and try out your chosen tool on it. Also, every creator has their most favorite tools and, of course - least favorite tools. And you will have to experiment quite a bit until you find the way to mark fabric that suits your needs the most.

Oct 12, 2020