There’s much useful information on a pattern, which it’s good to transfer to the fabric.

There’s a huge range of marking tools and methods. Try them out to find the ones you like.
You may need several, for quick/ slow and for different fabrics.

The important things about marks are :
– they’re clear and easy to see,
– they last until they’re needed,
– then they’re easy to remove.

Easy to see : use contrast colour thread or marking tool (check that it won’t leave a mark).

For the other needs – there are many possibilities.

Here’s a written general post on marking tools and methods from Sew it Love it.
and a video from Professor Pincushion :
first half – which pattern marks to transfer,
second half – marking tools and methods.

Those both show many methods, yet they don’t include some I’ll mention later.
Sandra Betzina suggests markers for specific fabrics in her book More Fabric Savvy.

Test that your marker is easy to remove from your fabric.
Check this with thread marking too. Some threads can leave small fibres which are difficult to remove, such as red on white, or white on black.
Beware pressing before you remove the marks, as heat can fix some of them more firmly.

A note on marking pens and pencils, chalk

There’s a huge variety of these, and most people like some and not others, so it’s worth trying several.

Some types to try :
– disappearing markers – many people love these, but I haven’t had luck with them. The ‘wash away’ ones don’t wash away for me, and the air-erasable ones disappear in a few seconds. It’s important to test.

– chalk pencils, chalk dispensers, tailors chalk.
I like chalk dispensers and tailors chalk. Chalk wheel marks disappear quickly. I love tailors chalk but it can be difficult to remove from some fabrics. For some reason the pencil types don’t leave a mark for me.

I admit I use a conventional pencil for marking on the back of fabric where it doesn’t show.

There are 3 types of marks you need to be able to make :
– in seam allowances,
– points,
– lines.

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Marks in seam allowances

These are usually shown by notches on the pattern.

‘Snip marking’

Use sharp tipped scissors to snip into the seam allowance, up to half way across, say 1/4″ or 5mm.
(Check it’s not at a point which needs reinforcing or might tear through.)

A note on notches

Some people may be horrified that I don’t mention cutting outwards for the notches.
Dreadful secret – my opinion is that when you need notches you really need them – but most of the time you don’t.

I do check a pattern to see if I need the notches.
Notches are essential when doing fabric pattern matching.
I also find them helpful for matching two pieces of fabric with different curves, as in princess seams.

If you’d much rather take advice from a true notch enthusiast, here’s a post from Deborah Moebes at Whipstitch.

– – –

Marking Points

Shown on a pattern by solid dots or small open circles, sometimes squares or triangles.

Usually marked by pin marking or tailors tacks.
Here’s a photo tutorial by Tasia of Sewaholic patterns with instructions for both.

And here are some extra comments.

Pin marking

Here’s a video from FashionSewing BlogTV..
She does it very slowly and carefully, you may find you can leave out some of her steps.

Those tutorials don’t show how to make pin marks last longer, which is a helpful thing to do.

If the pin marks a point :
use a marking pen/ pencil/ chalk to mark around where the pin goes through the fabric.
Many people mention doing this, but I haven’t yet found a photo.
It’s shown in this Professor Pincushion video at about 8 min 30.

If a row of pins mark points on a line (as when making a dart) :
use a ruler and pen/ pencil/ chalk to draw the line.
I like to have a stitching line when I’m sewing darts, so I do this.

Tailors tacks

I like the method of making tailors tacks which is given at the end of this Sew it Love it tutorial.

She makes long tailors tacks. This is essential. When you cut tailors tacks, they end up 1/3 the length they started. And with longer ends, the tailors tack is less likely to fall out. Making them 2-3” long may seem extravagant, until you find they’ve fallen out when you need them.

Another trick for making sure they don’t fall out is to make them using embroidery floss or basting thread.

I think pin marking is good when you’re going to use the marks immediately.
I love tailors tacks – worth the trouble if you want something that will last for some time – but I am a ‘slow sewer’.

– – –

Marking Lines

Several methods

Straight lines

Fold back paper pattern along line.
Use a pen/ pencil/ chalk marker and ruler to draw along the folded edge.

I haven’t found a tutorial for marking lines this way, but here are a couple of tutorials which fold the pattern back for making other marks.
See the second photo in this written tutorial from Sewaholic about marking buttonhole positions.
This video from Professor Pincushion shows folding the paper back to make marks.

Any shape line

Use transfer paper and tracing wheel – see this post which has links to videos.

Couture ‘thread tracing’

Couture methods are slow and careful.
Couture sewing uses ’thread tracing’ to mark all the stitching lines on a test garment.
This method takes 3-4 steps.

Couture patterns are made without seam allowances. That makes it easy to draw the stitching lines, as you just draw round the pattern. Also draw around away from this line if you like to cut out to a marked line.

If you’re using a pattern which includes seam allowances, first mark the stitching lines on the pattern before using it to cut out.

After cutting out, to mark the lines on the fabric :
Lay transfer paper face up under the fabric+pattern.
Trace the stitching lines.

Then remove the paper pattern, and pin the two layers of fabric together again.
Turn them over, so the marked fabric is facing up and the transfer paper is under the other fabric piece.
Trace round the traced marks on the first fabric piece. So both pieces are marked.

Then hand or machine baste over the lines, so they show on both sides of the fabric. Some people sew a row of tailors tacks instead of basting, as individual tacks may be easier to pull out.

For an example, see about a third of the way through this photo tutorial from A Challenging Sew.

I love working to marked cutting and stitching lines. Takes some extra trouble to mark them, but I feel so much more secure when I’m using them.

– – –

There are so many marking methods. You’ll come across suggestions for more as you make varied projects.
It’s a good idea to try different tools and techniques, to find which ones meet your needs and suit your sewing style.

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Links available October 2014

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