What marking tools should I use when sewing?

Marking tools are one of the most helpful tools in your sewing box but regretably, there’s not one marking tool that will handle every job

Range of marking tools from Sewline

Range of marking tools from Sewline

Marks made with marking tools indicate to sewers:
where to cut, fold and stitch and also to mark essential garment construction details like dart placement


  • Keep marking tool sharp for accurate and precise lines

  • The darker the fabric colour, the lighter the marker colour

  • Always test chosen marker on a fabric swatch before you use and check to see if it shows through to the fabric’s right side (especially if markings aren’t removable)

  • Pressing can set the marker, so always removed before pressing

Sewline marking pencil

Dressmaker’s Pencils

These are great for the placement of finer lines, and you hold it like a pencil so you have more control over your markings. It’s available in a range of colours and many pencils will also have an eraser or brush on the opposite end to rub away unwanted chalk markings. Chaco-pencils are the latest edition to create the thinnest of chalk lines and these can be refilled like a mechanical pencil.

Dressmaker's Chalk

Tailor’s Chalk

The most basic marking tool which comes in the familiar wedge shape for easily grip and marking and available in blue, yellow and white. Chalk makes a non-permanent line that brushes or washes out (there’s also a vanishing chalk version that disappears on ironing).  Chalk wedges need to be kept sharp, otherwise you’ll end up with un-sharp lines! Chalk marks can wear off so not the best marking tool, if you need to handle your sewing project constantly such as in patchwork and quilting. A disadvantage is that, it doesn’t always make a precise line and can be difficult to manoeuvre. If your preference is chalk, try using a chalk wheel for fine lines, it’s shaped like the wedge but has a plastic casing that is easier to handle. Chalk is superb for marking long fold lines for hems and garment alterations.

Marking Pens

Prym Love marking pen

  • Water-soluble – these look like children’s colouring pencils and come in a range of colours suitable for different fabrics. Any marks made will dissolve in water when you wash the fabric, but always test on a swatch first. Use these on the right side of the fabric.

  • Air-erasable (vanishing/magic pens). This style of pen leaves a bright pink line that will fade after 48 hours and is best used over smaller areas for intricate drawings on embroideries and appliqués.

Tracing Wheel

Tracing Wheel

Use these in conjunction with tracing/dressmaker’s paper. There are 2 types: one with a serrated edge and one with a smooth edge. Tracing paper is placed between the pattern and fabric, the wheel then applies pressure to transfer marking to fabric. The serrated edge wheel produces a dotted line and is suitable for most fabric types whilst the smooth edge wheel creates a solid line which avoids piercing the fabric so is ideal for more delicate materials and transferring marks internal lines such as darts on garments or positioning marks for motifs.

Clover Hera Marker

Hera Marker

This ink-less and chalk-less tool looks like a plastic butter knife. Press the edge along your fabric to create a temporary crease, which will stay visible until you wash or press. Used with a ruler, it will allow you to make long straight lines for quilting. The other end is thinner and can be used for folding appliqué back.