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.
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.
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