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Different products to mark fabric.

I have quite a minimal tool box when it comes to sewing equipment. I’m not really one for gadgets and gizmos. Though there are several items that as a sewer you can’t live without….scissors, tape measure, pins and needles, ruler and fabric markers. When it comes to these items I am happy to explore all possibilities to find the best options.

The lovely people at Groves recently sent me a box of Hemline fabric markers to try out. This seemed like the ideal prompt to write a post about some of the different options available for marking fabric.

There are so many times when you need to make a mark on your fabric, though it is important that the marks are not permanent. Whether you are just starting out or an experienced sewer we all need to make marks on fabric. I like to draw round my pattern pieces onto fabric and cut the chalk line for accurate cutting. For beginners I often suggest drawing a chalk line to follow when marking a dart onto fabric. Fabric markers are useful for marking tucks, pleats, pocket placements and so the list goes on. This is just a small list from a dressmakers point of view, of course quilters and crafters will have their own lists too.

Over the last few weeks I have offered all my fabric marking options to my customers to try, I have also been trying them out myself. The outcome has been quite a mixed response. I noticed beginners in particular favored the Hemline pencil markers, perhaps because they are most similar to a regular writing tool. I found I liked different markers for different jobs.

These are the markers we have been using over the past few weeks…

The Hemline selection of fabric markers.

These are all quite similar in the way they mark, they have a texture similar to a fairly soft pencil. The pack on the left of the picture has a brush attached to the end which allows you to brush marks off. The other two rely on washing to remove the marks, which can be done with a damp cloth or in a washing machine. The mixed pack of fabric markers states on the pack that there is a special eraser that can be purchased that works with these pencils to remove marks. I tested them in a 30 degree wash and all marks came out.

I found using these pencils particularly good on woven fabrics, marking is accurate and the line is strong and clear to see. On knit fabrics they drag the stretch a little when drawing. The mixed colour packs offer a colour that works on most different coloured cloth. I would say you need to keep a pencil sharpener handy if you want to keep nice sharp lines. As a pattern cutter I think I am a bit of a stickler for sharp lines!

Chaco chalk liners

These markers are filled with powdered chalk and have a very fine wheel at the end, as you mark the fabric the wheel rotates releasing a line of chalk. The line is always consistently the same size and chalk powder refills can be bought once the pen runs out.

I find these great to use when marking a pattern on to fabric because the line stays consistent. They also work very well when marking knit fabric as you can reduce the pressure so the fabric does not drag and still achieve a clear line. I think there is a bit of a knack to holding these at the right angle so that the wheel rotates easily. Some of my customers don’t get on with these very well because of this.

Classic tailors chalk

Until fairly recently this was all I ever used, good old classic tailors chalk. It does work very effectively, however as you use it and the edges get blunter and thicker the line becomes much less accurate. I use the blade of a pair of paper scissors to shave the edge of the chalk to a narrow edge to keep it going.

I still have this available in my classes but I find generally none of my customers use it and I only rarely use it now.

Frixion pen

This pen is not really a fabric marker, its an erasable ball point pen for writing. However someone discovered that if you draw on fabric and then iron it, the mark disappears! It really is like magic so I’m not surprised it has been adopted by the sewing community as another useful fabric marker. Having a quality like a biro makes it easy to use and clear to see. It also comes in an array of colours.

Overall I feel I’ve learnt there is a place for a variety of different types of markers. I personally favor Chaco pens for drawing my patterns on to fabric. I prefer the Hemline markers and Frixion pen for making placement marks. My customers also liked to use a mixture of the different markers.

Do you have a favorite fabric marker? Maybe you know of other different effective markers? I’m quite interested to see what other markers are available.

For inquiries about Hemline products contact  groves@stockistenquiries.co.uk

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Julia Claridge

I was about 6 or 7 years old when I had my first go on a sewing machine, it was an old hand crank machine that my mum used with her patients, she was an occupational therapist. I still vividly remember watching with amazement as the tiny perfectly formed stitches were created as I turned the handle. I Grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when buying clothes was less affordable and dressmaking was an answer to updating your wardrobe more regularly. My own mother was a talented dressmaker who made most of my clothes and my sisters clothes as well as a many for herself. I soon got involved with making my clothes, I loved the whole experience of picking out fabrics, trims and a pattern to create a new outfit, then going home to make a new garment or outfit. When it came to leaving school I visited a careers advisor who asked what I wanted to do next. My answer was ..Sew! Read more...

3 Comments

  1. Tanya on July 5, 2017 at 8:52 am

    I rather enjoued reading your blog post on fabric markers. As for me, l rarely use Tailor’s chalk as it blunts too quickly, but for some years now now l am a convert for using chaco liners and the fabric pencils. I did try the felt pen markers and frixon pens, but l thought they were awful.

    I do remember when l started sewing in 2009, l used to draw around the patterns in Tailor’s chalk and mark any notches as l went along and used a pair of scissors to cut everything out and it took forever to do. Nowadays, l just cut around my patterns straight away on the fabric with a rotary cutter and mark any notches with the carbon paper, sandwiched between the fabric.

    When marking darts and pleats l don’t bother using tailor’s tacks, as l find they drop out too easily, so l am inclined to use a dressmaker’s wheel and dressmaker’s caron paper. Blunt spike wheel for woven fabrics like denim and cotton and a circular wheel for delicates like silk or chiffon.

    • Julia Claridge on July 5, 2017 at 10:43 am

      Thanks for your comments and this info Tanya, the dressmakers carbon paper sounds interesting I have not come across that before. I find lots of my customers like to cut with a rotary cutter too. I think I may be a creature of habit on this one, I still prefer scissors!

      • Tanya on July 5, 2017 at 9:35 pm

        Hi Julia

        It is called Burdastyle tracing carbon paper (red and blue) or (white and yellow) sheets of dressmaker’s carbon paper. I was shown the technique when l attended workshops at Hackney College and Morley college respectively.

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