Transferring Pattern Marks to Your Fabric


Accurately transferring markings from your pattern to your fabric is a really important part of making things. There are many different ways to do this and I'm sure I've tried all of them at some time! I have my favourites, but use different methods for different fabrics and how much time I have to commit to the project.


Below are three pattern pieces that show important marks that need to be transferred to the fabric. The notches are also really important.


  • The point of a dart and where the dart legs cross the stitching line near the edge of the fabric.
  • Where the top of a patch pocket needs to be placed.
  • Each end of a pocket flap.
  • The top of a vent which is the place the seam is stitched to.
  • Balance marks on an armhole that will match to ones on a sleeve head. The sleeve will have a dot at the top that needs marking as it will match to the shoulder seam or shoulder point. Using these along with the underam seam and notches ensures the sleeve is eased in correctly.
  • Its always worth marking the centre front and back. This pattern has a mark on the centre front stitching line as the peter pan collar will meet at this point.
  • The collar has the centre front and back marked as well as a dot that will match to the shoulder seam.


Whichever method you use its best to mark the wrong side of the fabric. For white fabric using white thread for marks is safest as even coloured thread can leave fibres in the fabric that are hard to remove.


Tailors Chalk


Tailors chalk is a traditional product that comes in sqaure or triangular blocks. Keep the edge sharp to draw fine lines. You can buy plastic or wooden blocks to sharpen them, however rubbing on fine sand paper also works.


Chalk pencils have tailors chalk in the centre and can be sharpened with a pencil sharpener. Some have brushes on the end to help remove it from fabric. I've never been very succesful with them.

Chalk Pencil



There's a wide variety of pens that can be used on fabric, I must have used most of them with different amounts of success. I never use them on white or light fabrics. The ink soaks into the fibres, especially natural fabrics.

Water soluble pens are usually blue in which is removed by getting it wet. I find they need replacing regularly.

The marks made by air soluble pens disappear in about 24 hours so best used just before sewing that piece of fabric. Marks can be protected by sticking low tack tape over them.

Frixion pens are popular and work like a roller ball pen. The mark disappears with heat either from using the attched rubber or with an iron. However Frixion pens wereb't designed for using on fabric and the ink is not actually removed from the fibres. They work due to a chemical reaction between two inks and the lines have been known to reappear, especially in cold conditions.

Chalk Cartridge Pencils


These are my favourite marking tools and if I only had one it would be the thicker one as it's much more versatile.

They're refillable cartidge pencils with chalk sticks in different colours so you can change them depending on the colour of your fabric.

The thicker one is availble under different brand names. The chalk is soft and works on many types of fabric and can be sharpened with a pencil sharpener.

The fine one is sold by Prym. The chalks are fragile, however they produce a lovely fine line on smooth fabrics, but not as good as the other version for marking dots and balance marks. I use mine for drawing the sewing lines for welt pockets.

Chaco Pen


Chaco pens are available from different brands. They're a tube of powdered chalk with a wheel that draws a fine line.



One of my quick methods! Stick a pin straight through the dot from both sides. Seperate carefully so you have a pin left in both pieces of fabric.

Pin and Chalk


One of my favourite and very accurate method is to stab a pin straiht through the fabric where you need to mark. Seperate the layers of fabric and use pen or pencil to mark exactly where the pin is through the fabric.

Carbon Paper and Tracing Wheel


This is my favoured method for transferring sewing lines when making calico toiles. Use two pieces of carbon paper coloured sies out. Place between two layers of fabric and draw along the line you want to transfer. I prefer wax based carbon paper as the chalk doesn't leave a strong mark.

Tracing wheels come in different types. The ones with very fine sharp points are best for transferring a pattern to manilla card as they leave a line of holes and the fine point doesn't work on fabric. Blunter ones mark fabric much better. Clover make one with two wheels that can be set at 5mm distances apart. This is good for marking sewing lines and adding cutting lines at the same time.


Tailors Tacks

Tailors tacks are a traditional method. For them to be accurate the stitches need to be very small.


Thread a needle and bring the cut ends together so the thread is double.

Make a very small sticth through both layers of fabric and leave thread tails of about 1cm.


Make a second stitch in the same place and leave a loop. Cut the thread about 1cm from the fabric.


Seperate the layers of fabric and cut the threads with sharp scissors.


You now have threads on both layers of fabric. Interestingly shorter threads are more successful than long ones as they don't pull out as easily.

Thread Tracing

Another traditional method used by tailors to mark lines. Thread the needle and bring the ends of the thread together so the thread is double.

Make a series of long tacking stitches, Cut the thread near the first stitch, pull the thread carefully, cut just after the next stitch, repeat.....seperate the layers and cut the threads between the layers.

Stationary Dots and Rings


The stationary counter is another good source of useful things. Reinforcement rings used to srengthen paper in ring binders and sticky dots are both really rget ways to show where a dot is on your fabric. They come in loads of colours so you can even colour code your marks!


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