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Conversational Threads

Marking Fabrics

goldenthreads | Posted in General Sewing Info on

It seems that the tracing paper I’ve purchased lately has been very faint and fades rapidly with any kind of steam or ironing.  I’m having a real challenge transferring pattern marks to my fabric.  I don’t know how to do “tailor tacks”.  What do you guys use… especially for darts and markings that are used to pivot?  Would appreciate any suggestions.


  1. starzoe | | #1

    It is worth learning how to do tailor tacks, there's nothing to it. This is best done when the pattern is laid out and before you begin cutting.I began a mini instruction here, but no doubt Google has an illustration, type in something like hand sewing tailor tack
    and probably lots will come up.There are a number of different markers in the shops, it is a good idea to get a selection of them. I use a sliver of soap to mark dark fabrics but you really should know some hand-sewing techniques, like tailor tacks.

    1. goldenthreads | | #2

      Thanks Starzoe.  Did you have something online that you developed (the mini-session you referrred to?)

      1. starzoe | | #3

        No, I wrote a whole paragraph on the subject and then decided it was much easier to refer you to Google!

  2. Elizard | | #4

    An interesting idea (that I haven't tried myself yet though) is to put pins where you would like your markings, remove the paper and then iron (carefully) over the pins using a wet/humid cloth, while making sure not to iron over the heads! Wait for it to dry and cool down before you remove the pins.
    I suspect this will only work with iron pins (some that actually rust)and you will certainly need to test this on a scrap of fabric first:)

    1. GailAnn | | #5

      Maybe it's not the rust, but the imprints on the fabric, left by ironing over the pins that are the markings.  Great idea!  I think I will try it.  Gail

    2. starzoe | | #6

      Tailors use the method of imprinting pins. It doesn't work on all fabrics though. It is handy when making alterations.

  3. User avater
    Becky-book | | #7

    One of my tricks to mark makes use of pins and a chalk stick type marker.stick a pin through the pattern dot and both layers of cloth (yes, I cheat and cut double sometimes!!)Mark the wrong side of the cloth with the chalk point right at the point the pin comes through cloth, folding back the layers of cloth and pattern but do not remove pin.

  4. Teaf5 | | #8

    In a previous discussion, someone mentioned erasable colored pencils, available in the school supplies section.  I've used them on several fabrics with good success.

    I also use classroom chalk with the pin method already mentioned; it shows on all fabrics but cleans off perfectly.  Even on pure white fabrics, I can still see the chalk marks until I brush them away.

    1. goldenthreads | | #9

      Thanks everyone.  I' ve decided to bite the bullet and learn how to do tailor tacks.  The "no-wax" tracing paper doesn't last, and I'm having trouble using pencils to get exact for inside markings.... so I'm going to take the hard way out.

      1. scrubble4 | | #10

        Dear Goldenthreads:  Sorry for my late response.  I asked about tracing paper here on Gatherings as I also had the same irritating experience you have had.  Especially for my muslins, I like to trace all sewing lines. 

        I asked about this in October and jjgg gave me the following reply:

        Greenberg & Hammer


        you want the "professional transfer paper" it comes in huge sheets that last for ever.

        I've ordered from them several times for various items, you have to order by phone, it usually comes very promptly - just a satisfied customer

        Goldenthreads, I have ordered this professional paper but haven't got to my UPS box to pick it up yet.  I found the folks very helpful.  This paper may be an interim solution for you while you are learning how to do tailor tacks. 


      2. starzoe | | #11

        Tailor tacks are not "the hard way out". In time you will find yourself using all the different techniques if you continue to sew. Different solutions for different applications.In Google type sewing tailor tacks and hundreds of sites come up.

  5. sewelegant | | #12

    I have never used the marking paper you have referred to because it came along after I learned to sew and when I did try it, thought it a bit hard to deal with.  I was taught the tailor tacking way to go because we didn't have marking pens either, but I always hated the way my pattern tissue tore when I would pull the paper away.  I love these wash away pens that work well.  They always tell you to fold your fabric in half with right sides together... why? because then the pieces are in the proper order for stitching?  I don't know, but I have always folded my fabric with the wrong sides together and then the marking is quite easy to do.  I put a pin through the dot on the tissue through the fabric then lift up the top fabric layer and mark both fabric pieces at once with a marking pen (or with a chalk pencil or soap or whatever seems apprpriate).  I have a pin in each dot and work from the outside in so as not to disturb the placement.  What could be easier than that?  And, it goes fast.  I sometimes snip a little into the seam allowance to mark things, like the CF at the bottom and neckline on a blouse.  Or the hemline point on the side seams.

  6. jjgg | | #13

    I'm going to chime in here about marking fabric,
    someone mentioned my advice on the professional transfer paper form Greenberg and Hammer. The stuff is very good, but beware, it will disappear on some fabrics when hit with an iron, it will get darker and remain permanent on others. I have no idea what the difference is. I use it on many fabrics but not all. You have to test each fabric to see what will work, how opaque the fabric is (will the marks show on the right side?) I will use the white transfer paper on many white fabrics but not all. Sometimes all I use is a serrated tracing wheel with no carbon paper, it will leave enough of an imprint for me to see. I then hand baste all my seam lines and most of my other markings. Yes, HAND baste. I use metler fine machine embroidery thread, it is 100% cotton, very fine thread, comes in many colors. The reason I use this for basting is that when you pull it out later, if you have machine sewn over it the thread will break before it will yank on the machine stitching, so the seam line remains undisturbed. Yup, it can be a royal pain in the butt later to pull it all out, but it's worth the effort.Since I don't work with seam allowances, they are cut off of the pattern (I usually use the muslin to cut out the fashion fabric) I can sometimes use a mechanical pencil to draw very fine lines. (This works well on opaque light colored fabrics). There is also a soapstone marker that I like a lot, it takes more pressure to use it, so its not always the best but when all else fails, it will work.Someone else mentioned disappearing ink pens, I NEVER use them as I have know them to come back and haunt me in the past. If you by chance iron over the ink before its gone it will make it permanent. My last word of advice is to TEST, TEST, TEST, before you do anything. take a scrap of your fabric, mark it up with all the different options, iron it and see what happens to the different markings. There is no one right way to mark all fabrics. When you baste the sewing line, take care in what color thread you use, I try to match the color of the fabric, but it's not always necessary. just beware of red thread, if you leave a little of it behind it will show.

    1. Stillsewing | | #14

      Might I also say that the tailor tacking route is very easy and reliable. As you make the markings - just leave a long piece of tacking thread, doubled, at each spot you wish to mark, either notches or darts, and by snipping the threads as you go, you will not damage the pattern when you remove it. For fabric that appears to be the same on both sides you can also mark the fabric, by tacks at this stage, to remind you which side should be the right side.For those of you that that use the word baste - the alternative word "tacking" may seem a bit professional, as in tailoring, but believe me once you have a project cut out it is a very short job to mark it with long loose threads!

      1. solosmocker | | #15

        For what its worth, I use a different method, not referred to here. Learned it in 7th grade home-ec. With your pattern tissue pinned to the cut out pattern piece stick a pin straight down and thru each dot and point of a dart, or whatever you are marking. Push it all the way thru to the head. Flip over the piece and stick another pin right into where the original pins are poking out. Take off the pattern tissue and pull the pieces of fabric apart. You will be left with the pins on each piece where the need to be. Run a small ruler or straight edge against the pins and mark w/ a marker. I like soapstone or tailors chalk. Pull the pins out and proceed to finish your dart. Sometimes if my wrong sides are facing out I will jut mark the top piece, flip it over and mark the other piece. Hope this helps. I do this blindly at this point and find it is fast and accurate for me. I also use the Nancy Zieman technique of clipping edges, ie, center front, fold lines, pleats, any outside marking on the edge. A tiny clip works just fine. solo

        1. Stillsewing | | #16

          That sounds fine to me but I generally do the markings (tailor tacks) before cutting out. When I use pins liberally they generally fall out or someone threads on them in their bare feet - sometimes even I get stabbed by myself!I always cut the notches outwards to mark them but lately I find that a little while spent tailor tacking notchs helps. I have been known to use the paper pattern against the fabric to recheck these markings as well!!

          1. PowellPat | | #17

            Okay, I have an embarassing question. I am a self-taught sewer who has been sewing "for years" which means that I sew a project once every few years and then promptly forget everything I learned from it. My New Year's resolution is to make time to sew regularly and get good at it.

            Anyway, I have a problem using tailor tacks because they accidently get pulled out as I work with the fabric pieces. Does this happen to anyone else? What am I doing wrong?

          2. Stillsewing | | #18

            That's not an embarrasing question!It happens me sometimes too. Just leave the threads really long and they will stay in. A double thread helps. Further it is easier to pull the threads out when you are finished with them if they they are long

          3. PowellPat | | #19

            Thanks. I don't feel so stupid now. I'll try tailor tacks on my next project. (I am working on a blouse now which is already past the marking stage.)

          4. jane4878 | | #20


            I read somewhere that you can use 3M micropore tape (a paper tape that's not very adhesive)  It's called something else in craft stores.  I use a bit of that to hold the tacks in.  You do have to be careful if it's caught under stitching--I learned the hard way that you need to pick that bit out before you press :^)  I just used 1 or 2 strands of cheap embroidery floss and that stays in quite well.

          5. PowellPat | | #21

            Great idea! I'll try it. Thanks.

        2. User avater
          VKStitcher | | #22

          Hi Solo,

          I use the same "pin" method of marking points and dots as you do.  I've been doing it so long that I don't remember where I learned it!


  7. DONNAKAYE | | #23

    This is a long posting and I  haven't read all of it, so forgive me if I'm redundant.

    I place a pin straight up and down into the fabric at the turning point or dart termination point, through the pattern and all layers.  Then I lift up the pattern piece, place a marking pencil dot at the pin, carefully lift the layers and do likewise on the under layer.  That's it.  At the raw edge, I simply clip through the layers to indicate, say, the "legs" of the dart.

    1. User avater
      VKStitcher | | #24

      Hi Donna Kaye,

      I use the same pin and snip marking methods as you do.  It's easy and quick, and works well unless the fabric is very ravelley.

      It's good to see you here again--I hope you had a nice holiday. 

      1. DONNAKAYE | | #25

        Thanks to everyone who emailed me privately asking me if I was still kickin'.  That's what I love about Gatherings -- you're missed when you go away!

  8. Scruffysmom | | #26

    It is worth learning how to do tailor tacks.  I'vd tried all the other short cuts and have finally just settled on doing it right.  Any good sewing book can show you how to do them.    Good luck,  Nancy

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