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New at sewing…question about markings

momto3 | Posted in Patterns on

I am wanting to start sewing from patterns (dresses, etc) and am confused as to if I need a fabric marker/dressmaker’s wheel for marking fabric. My mom says I have to have a dressmaker’s wheel, and my mother-in-law says I don’t need either. The patterns I’m reading seem to recommend using a marker to copy all the markings to your fabric.

Do I need something to mark with?
If so, when do I use it?

Thanks for your help!


  1. rodezzy | | #1

    Both of your advisors can be right, it depends on you!  In high school (decades ago) I was taught to use the dressmakers wheel and the colored chalk papers to mark everything on the pattern.  As I learned from books, magazines, and classes later on in life, I taught myself to mark with needle and thread.  The link below shows all of tools of the trade for transfering markings from your pattern.


    This next link site discusses tailor tacks for marking.


    I've always been advised to try different ways of doing things and decide on what is best for me and/or the fabric to be used.  The thing in sewing is that you may need more than one method of doing something depending on the characteristics of the fabric to be used.

    The tracing wheel can damage some fabrics that are fragile and the chalk papers can stain others.  You will profit from buying or going to the library and reading a comprehensive sewing book or books that discuss different sewing techniques and the fabrics that benefit from a specific way of handling it. 

    Edited 4/23/2008 11:41 am ET by rodezzy

  2. suesew | | #2

    I have rarely used those tools to mark fabrics. I cut tiny slits at notches and mark most things with pins. If I'm doing tailoring I will mark with thread. I threw away mmy carbon paper years ago,

  3. Teaf5 | | #3

    I, too, learned the wheel/carbon paper method as a child, but it's messy and mostly unnecessary. You might want to mark everything the first or second time, but soon you'll find you need only a few markings.Your sewing machine throat plate probably has a 5/8" guideline on it that will work for most seams, so you don't need to mark the seamlines. You can snip the seam allowance at the notches without weakening the seam, so there's no need to cut a triangle outward. For darts and dots, I use chalkboard chalk, pins, or crayola erasable colored pencils to make the tiniest marks before unpinning the tissue from the fabric, but I can get by with seam allowance slits to mark the legs of the dart and a straight pin to mark the other. Be sure to test whatever you're using to mark the fabric on a scrap first, to make sure that it washes out. Some tailor's chalk is waxy and melts into the fabric if you iron the piece before removing the marks.

  4. vintagecouture | | #4

    If you are cutting your project fabric and marking it from your pattern all you need is a needle and thread.  Mark your centers with a long running basting thread.  Mark the dots with tailor tacks.  It's easy and the thread is simple to remove after stitching.  Good luck!

  5. tmorris1 | | #5

    Momto3;many years ago when I first started sewing, I would carefully transfer all of my pattern markings carefully and accurately using a variety of techniques available. There are many different ways of transferring pattern markings. The important thing is that you actually do it. After a couple of years of sewing, I became "too good for pattern marking" and found that I spent more time trying to understand pattern construction with no reference points than I would have spent just marking the pattern from the start. I spend a lot of time on my patterns, getting the fit right and adjusting the darts etc, but I also use that same pattern many times over. Another note: Those markings are vital for understanding how to make a garment fit in a certain way. The more that you work with them, the more that you will understand how the finished product will fit, and how to obtain the look that you are after.Hope this helps.T.

  6. sewelegant | | #6

    Sewing for children is probably the easiest sewing there is because all you need is their chest, waist and hip measurements to cut out the right size.  The length can easily be adjusted.  I loved sewing for my toddlers with easy patterns.  It always fit and it allowed me to perfect my sewing skills.  The most important thing I found was cutting out the fabric around the pattern as precisely as possible.  I pinned all the corners first then filled in as needed, but not too many, just enough so the pattern wouldn't shift around.  (I now use pattern weights) By cutting precisely you do not need to mark seamlines, just sew the seams, usually 5/8", by  lining the edge along the machine's 5/8" mark.  I like the water erasable marker pens, but alway buy a good one, not something in the bargain bin.  Before removing the pins that hold the pattern to the fabric, mark all the dots, including pocket placement, etc.  I will stick a pin through the dot then lift the top layer of fabric and mark both pieces right where the pin goes through.  (I always lay my fabric out wrong sides together and that makes this step very easy to do.)  This is the very same process with my own garments, but they will be a lot more involved, but as mentioned before, it is extremely frustrating to miss a mark when you are trying to put things together!  Don't forget to make that nip into the seam allowance to mark all the notches.  I have missed marking the sleeve notch numerous times and have to go back and try to find it because there is a right and left sleeve and getting it wrong hurts.  There are a few extra marks in some patterns that will apply to that design and they are so helpful when following the direction sheet.  I have tried to use the wheel and tracing paper but find it more of a hindrance than a help.  Another factor I did not mention earlier when laying the pattern on the paper... be sure your fabric is smooth, wrinkles will change the shape of what you thought you cut out.

  7. sewchris703 | | #7

    I use whatever makes sense, depending on the fabric used, what needs to be marked, etc.  I also tend not to unpin the pattern until I'm ready to sew it so that's when I mark.   Usually, though, I use chalk to mark the points needed.   And cut notches to mark front and back of sleeve patterns and to match princess seams. 


  8. Cherlyn | | #8

    You need certain markings on every piece.  I have learned that there a few I can get by with not using.  I use tracing paper and a wheel for darts and things that are long.  I use a marking pencil for dots.  I cut a small slit for notches, but you have to be careful not to go beyond the 5/8 inch allowance (in the beginning as a new seamstress, I cur all notches outward).  I think the longer you sew, the more you discover what is best for you.  Happy sewing!

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