From Fabric Pens to Soap Bars...
What's the Best Way To Mark Fabric?

From fabric pens to soap bars, there's so many options for marking fabric that it's hard to decide which to use.

Making marks on fabric is an essential part of any sewing project. I've seen people use a regular pencil to mark, but it's not a good idea. Having so many tools available I can't imagine why anyone would do it.

If you can't get your hands on fancy marking tools, you can use basic sewing equipment to carry out this important task. Here are their pros and cons so you always use the best one, please don't use a pencil!

Fabric Pens and Markers

They're like regular pens, except they disappear! Some need water, and others disappear when they're in contact with air. They're very accurate, which makes them great for precise marking and drawing fine lines.

You can use them on most fabrics, but it doesn't hurt to pre test to be sure they don't stain. Be careful not to iron over the ink, this can permanently set it in.

One of the best fabric pens I've tried is the one by Singer. It has a regular and a fine point, which makes it perfect for marking bold lines or very fine details.

Tailor's Chalk

It's practicality makes it the preferred choice for sewers and quilters. It's cheap, easy to use and to remove. It's like a regular piece of chalk, except it's specially manufactured for fabric. The only downside is that it may fall off when you iron or handle it too much. It also tends to be messy.

It comes in different colors and presentations. There are simple triangular pieces and more fancy tailor chalk pencils which keep your projects clean.

Masking Tape


Make annotations on the tape before putting it on fabric so the ink doesn't leak through.

A roll of masking tape can do wonders when you're sewing. Use it to mark right/wrong sides of fabric when you can't tell the difference between them.

It's also great for marking similar pieces and the direction in satin and napped fabrics. Masking tape is safe to use on most fabrics, but it's still a good idea to test.

Dressmaker's Carbon and Tracing Wheel

Use this tool for marking darts, curves and other lines. Place the carbon paper between the fabric and the pattern. The carbon goes towards the wrong side of fabric. Go over the marks with a straight edge (for straight lines) or a tracing wheel (for curves).

Soap Bar

This is one of my favorite marking tools. It's easy to use, very clean and smells good! Collect the thin pieces left over from soap bars and use them as if they were a crayon.

They work well on most fabrics but they don't show on white or very light colors. The only inconvenience is that you have to wait until the soap runs out to get them.

Notches and Slits

These are cuts you make on the seam allowance of your fabric. They are used to mark things on the edge of the patterns. They should be made with care. If they go past the seam they'll show on the outside after sewing. Avoid them for fabrics that fray a lot.

Use them to mark things on the pattern's edge like centers of waistbands and sleeves. They are also useful to indicate where two pieces should be matched.

How To Mark Fabric

Notches are little triangles and slits are narrow cuts.


Some people forget that pins can also be used to mark. They are fast, simple to use and don't damage fabric. Make small stitches with the pins so they don't fall out so easily.

How To Mark Fabric

Tailor's Tacks


Leave the threads long so they don't fall out.

Tailor's tacks are little pieces of thread used to mark pocket placements, zipper ends, dart points, and dots found on the pattern.

They're especially useful to accurately mark two layers of fabric. Making them is really easy and they come in handy when you don't have other marking tools available. You can use them on any type of fabric and it won't get damaged.

They are more time consuming than other methods and may come undone if the patterns aren't handled with care.

How to make them:

  1. Insert the needle at the beginning of the mark
  2. How To Mark Fabric

  3. Bring it out on the opposite side of the mark
  4. How To Mark Fabric

  5. Insert the needle back in at the beginning of the mark and bring it out on the opposite side again. Leave a loop on top.
  6. How To Mark Fabric

  7. Cut the loop
  8. How To Mark Fabric

  9. Gently remove pattern
  10. Lift top layer of fabric and cut the threads left in the middle
  11. How To Mark Fabric

  12. This is how the finished tacks look
  13. How To Mark Fabric

Tips for Marking Fabric

  • Use a contrasting color to your fabric so you can easily see the marks
  • Mark on the wrong side of fabric to keep the front clean.
  • When transferring dots and other symbols found in the middle of the pattern, insert a pin and bring it out on the other side to see where the mark goes.
  • Always mark before removing the pattern, it'll be hard to figure things out without it.
  • In fabrics that you can't tell the difference between the right and wrong sides, chose one of them as the wrong side and mark it. You may not see the difference when the pieces are separated, but a tone variation may appear after they are sewn.
  • Test fabric pens, carbon paper and tailor's chalk to make sure they don't cause permanent marks.

Do you prefer fabric pens, tailors chalk or soap? Let us know how you mark your fabrics in the comments.

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