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How do you mark your fabric

sunnycenter | Posted in General Sewing Info on

Hi all,
How do you like to mark your fabric. I know some like to snip…but if I’m planning on serging along the edge without cutting off the seam allowance…that seems to compromise the strength of the seam at that point where I made a snip mark. Is that being too picky?
If I know its going to get cut off with the serger blade though, who cares, right?

What about stuff in the middle of the fabric, like darts and pockets? Seems like tracing paper is the easiest, but by the time fitting is done, there go my marks and out comes the pattern tissue again to re-mark…uggghhh.
So I usually do some thread tacks for those.

If a mark is in the seam allowance and the fabric is not to shear, I use a gel pen or other permanent marker. Sometimes I use chalk.

I tried thread tracing once and…hated it…very tedious. most of the time seems like you can just mark each corner of a square or point on a dart. For curved stuff sometimes I make a template and affix with temporary spray adhesives.

So what are some of your frustrations/remedies for marking fabric? Oh yeah, and don’t forget difficult slippery delicate and otherwise fussy fabrics…


  1. meg | | #1

    I snip in the seam allowance for most every fabric. I try to keep the snip less than a 1/4". On fussy fabrics and within the field of the piece, I use pins (and pull them through the pattern piece)(and leave them in the fabric until I stitch it all up) or an air-erasable marking pen.

  2. User avater
    ThreadKoe | | #2

    I cut notch marks out(beyond) the SA for all possible markings when I cut out the pattern, then mark with chalk pencils, the kind that Quilters use. This gives me more points to line up or match, and makes it a lot easier to differentiate skirt fronts and backs at a glance as well. Then, If during a fitting, I end up needing the whole SA, I do not worry about a clip in the SA. Cathy

  3. Tatsy | | #3

    I use tailor tacks to mark darts and either snip the seam of stable fabrics or draw a line with soap on the stitching side for slippery fabrics. Those small bars of soap from a hotel are about the slickest marker I've ever found for washable fabrics.

  4. MaryinColorado | | #4

    I like either air or water soluble markers because of thier fine points and ease of removal though I've read on this site that some have problems with them.  I've been lucky.  I also use chalk pencils in different colors that I can sharpen.  Rarely use the old Tailors chalk, it always breaks off, probably because of the dry climate here.

    When serging, it is often recomended to still clip corners on curved areas such as arm and necklines, but I don't think I ever have had to, again probably luck of the draw. 

    Sure hope my luck holds. 

  5. sewingkmulkey | | #5

    Like Threadco I cut all notches out beyond the SA.  My grandmother taught me this method and it's worked well for me for 51 years!



    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #7

      Oh goodie, someone who values good old notches! Easy to see, easy to match, never fray out, fade out or weaken the seam. I was taught never to clip into the seam allowance as you might need to use it as an adjustment area, or it could catch on something and rip across the cut piece. Cathy

  6. sewelegant | | #6

    For fussy, slippery fabric I almost always make tailor tacks with longer tails and will even go to the underneath side to make a quick "tack" that will not pull or fall out so easy.  I always figure that preparation is the biggest part of garment sewing and if you do not enjoy that too it certainly can take away from the enjoyment of a very satisfying hobby.  Maybe that's why I have enjoyed craft sewing more and more as I get older.

    I mainly like to use the water soluble markers with a fine point, but I have a problem with them tending to be dry when I go to use them!  Does anyone have a tip on how to store them to keep them patent?  It's really a bummer to have to buy a new one every time I want to start a new project.

    Edited 8/18/2008 2:29 pm by sewelegant

    Edited 8/26/2008 10:37 am by sewelegant

    1. thehat | | #8

      hi try to keep them up side down or a plastic bag

      1. sewelegant | | #10

        I'll try that!  So far I have just stored them flat in a "pencil box", but maybe storing upside down will work.  Thanks.

    2. sunnycenter | | #9

      I like the idea of a thread tack that will not pull out, because if it slips out at the wrong time you can really be up a creek. So are you saying you knot them? How do you keep them from coming out and accomplish that fast?

      1. sewelegant | | #11

        I knew when I wrote that ... it didn't make a lot of sense!  But, what I mean is: The bottom layer always is in danger of the threads coming out so I just take a new tack, just like the original, in the same spot on the bottom layer where the tack is, but now it will have a more stable tack as well, anchored just like the top one... no knots and will pull out easily when no longer needed.  I do this second "tacking" after I have cut the layers apart and usually use a single strand of thread instead of doubled.  The only trick is taking that second stitch with the thread to anchor the tack.

        Edited 8/19/2008 6:57 pm by sewelegant

        1. sunnycenter | | #12

          Thanks for the reply, that makes sense to make a small stitch to make it stay in.

    3. moira | | #14

      Hi. I'm wondering if the fridge would be a good place to store these, maybe in a plastic bag. Is it warm dry air that's causing them to dry up?

      1. sewelegant | | #15

        That sounds like a good thought!  I'll try it.  I've always kind of thought it was probably the fact I am not a prolific sewer anymore and there is just too long of an idle period between uses.  San Diego is technically a desert and where I live it gets very warm during the day (a dry heat).  The same thing happens with my craft color pens and it is so aggravating when I know they haven't been used enough to warrant them going dry. 

    4. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #16

      The caps are not tight enough to keep them from drying out. Water based markers can be refreshed if you can get the "other" end open. Just add a couple of drops of water to the colour wick inside, and stand them on tip in a plastic bag for a few days. This is often enough. If the tip is really dry, you can touch the end to a drop of water to soften it. I have saved dozens of markers this way. If they are craft markers, and not being used on fabric, you can use a 50/50 vinegar water solution, it reactivates the dyes. They will no longer be considered washable however. Rubbing alcohol will sometimes refresh the other kinds for short times, but may change the colours. If you keep your markers in an airtight bag or box, they keep longer. Cathy

  7. Teaf5 | | #13

    I use classroom chalk on most fabrics and Crayola erasable colored pencils (a tip learned on this forum) for light fabrics. 

    On really slippery fabrics, I'll use small pieces of blue painter's tape or masking tape or a clear cello tape that I can write on.  I often use masking tape to mark the wrong side when there is only a small difference between the right/wrong sides of the fabric.

    Since most seams have to be trimmed significantly anyway, cutting short slits at the notches doesn't usually compromise the strength of a seam.  But if you don't want to slit a seam allowance, a tiny mark with a number 2 pencil in the seam allowance will usually do the trick, too.

  8. User avater
    maer | | #17

    For markings along a seam line, such as notches and dots, I mark with a dot on the fabric. I use a dark color pen for light colored fabrics, and a light color pen for dark colored fabrics. For placement of that dot, I cut into the pattern piece. Because I use a rotary mat and cutters almost always, I cut the fabric straight across. I've attached a picture to show how I mark a notch.

    1. User avater
      ThreadKoe | | #18

      OOH, I like this idea. Cathy

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