Selecting and Using Equipment: Marking Tools

The accurate and neat transfer of pattern markings to the fabric counterparts is of paramount importance, both in fitting the fabric pieces together and in obtaining a fault-free finished product. The fit of the garment and its appearance on the figure are directly affected by the care used in this process. Markings should be permanent enough to be used effectively but temporary enough that they can be removed or remain totally inconspicuous on the garment.


Construction lines such as seam, dart, and trim lines are easily transferred from pattern to fabric using a tracing wheel and transfer paper. All types of tracing wheels function best over a solid surface. A square of masonite placed under the fabric helps ensure well-defined marks and prevents damage to the table top. A piece of thin, clear plastic or tissue paper may be placed between the pattern and cloth to prevent transfer of the printer’s ink from the paper pattern.

Three types of wheels are available. The sawtoothed-edge type makes larger, more conspicuous dots, but it also may damage patterns. This tracing wheel is inexpensive and sells at all notion counters. The smooth edge type makes a solid line that's easily seen. It doesn't appreciably damage patterns. This type of wheel is also inexpensive, but it's less often available at notion counters. The needle-point tracing wheel is rarely sold on the retail market, possibly because of its higher cost. It is available through industrial notion catalogues. This tracing wheel is very desirable as it leaves only pin-dot marks on pattern tissue and fabric, and it does little damage to patterns. The points are extremely sharp and can be dangerous if not used and stored with care.


This paper (to be used with a tracing wheel) is the easiest, most convenient method for transferring pattern marks to fabric. It is available in white and in several colors. Always choose a color that's lighter than the fabric. (White may be used on all colors of fabric including white.) Always mark the wrong side (back surface) of the fabric. When marking doubled layers of fabric, the single- coated paper can be used whether the face of the fabric is folded inward or outward. Double-coated paper can be used only when the back surfaces of the fabric are folded inward.

Disappointment and frustration result from inappropriate choice or in correct use of tracing paper. Spongy or thick fabrics mark too heavy on the top layer and too light on the lower. Too much pressure results in conspicuous marks that may be forced through to the face of the fabric. When marking doubled layers of heavyweight fabric, mark each layer separately rather than applying extreme pressure. Rolling the wheel back and forth can make thick marks or two or more separate (and consequently inaccurate) lines: Colored marks show through thin or sheer fabrics; these fabrics should be marked by a different method. Paper in colors darker than the fabric will also make conspicuous marks. Polyester and nylon fibers absorb waxes. The coating on the waxed type of tracing paper may penetrate permanently into such fabrics. Marking dye can remain as a stain. If the marks are pressed, they can't be removed by washing or dry cleaning—yet professional sewing can't be done without pressing. Chalk-type coatings used on tracing paper brands such as Saral seem to remain on the fabric surface. They loosen easily and disappear with slight brushing. The marks are not retained in the fabric when heat is applied. Other brands are available that advertise markings that disappear when moistened. All brands should be tested on the fashion fabric for the degree of clarity, show-through, and removal.


Clay and wax markers are very useful for marking sewing lines during the fining and construction of a garment. When used with a ruler or curved guide, a wry accurate line can be drawn. Clay chalk is available in brick, pencil and powder form. The powder form is white; bricks and pencils can be found in white, pink, and blue. The white and blue are less apt to stain. Clay chalk can t used on all fabrics except wool; the natural oil in wool absorbs the chalk and makes it difficult to remove, Synthetics absorb the oil in the wax markers.

The edge of the clay bricks and the pencil point glaze quickly during use, after which they mark poorly, if at all. Renew the marking surface on both frequently. Scrape both surfaces of the marking edge on the bricks to form a V-shape and maintain a sharp, usable marking tool. Sharpen the pencil with an ordinary pencil sharpener.

Clay bricks are often sold in a holder with an attached sharpening device and a brush for removing residue. The sharpener is of little value. It forms a rounded edge that makes a thick line lacking accuracy. The brush is stiff and may damage some fabrics. The bricks and pencil tips break if these tools are dropped.

Clay pencils are used in the same way as the bricks. If in the form of an ordinary pencil, the chalk can be sharpened to a fine point for making thin lines and small, accurate dots. The refillable marking pencils lack usefullness. They glaze easily, make thick marks, and are not easily sharpened.

Wax bricks are available in white, red, and black. White is usable on all colors of fabric, including white. This product doesn't glaze at all during use. Wax chalk is used only for marking wool. The wax disappears into wool fabric when pressed with a warm iron. When it's used on other fibers, a greasy stain may appear. The dye residue may remain in the fabric. The wax brick will melt if placed near heat.

A chalk marker is also available that dispenses powdered chalk. The product is very useful and efficient when a continuous line or extensive markings are necessary. The powder is held in a refillable, flattened container. The marking is made as a serrated wheel rotates through the chalk supply then along the fabric. The powder is easily removed with a light brushing or shaking of the fabric.

A thin sliver of light-colored or white hand soap is a good substitute for either clay or wax chalk if it has no added oils or cold cream. When the soap bar is worn too thin for cleaning the hands, it's the correct thickness for marking. Oil-free soap doesn't have any of the problems associated with clay or wax chalk. It disappears into all fabrics when pressed with a steam iron. The sliver may be kept sharp by scraping both surfaces of the edge.


“Eraseable” ink is available in two forms of pens. The ink is a liquid in both pens. Very small dots can be made with a deft, quick touch. The lighter the mark is made, the easier it's to remove. The ink in the water-eraseable type is sky blue. It will disappear when a drop of water or a moistened cloth is placed on the markings before the product is touched with heat. The color neutralizes better on fabrics composed of synthetic fibers than it does on cotton or natural fibers. Do not use the product on fabrics that will water spot.

The air-eraseable type leaves a purple mark. Within 24 - 48 hours, the mark will neutralize and disappear if not touched with heat. The mark will disappear immediately if touched with water.

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Friday, 2009-10-16 18:18