There are a million options for marking fabric when you sew, and all of them have their benefits and drawbacks, so today I thought I would walk you through some of my favorite marking tools and what I use them for.
Chalk - An old standby in some shiny new clothes
Tailor’s chalk is the OG fabric marking tool, and it has stuck around this long because it’s honestly pretty great! I like to keep an old school tailor’s chalk triangle on hand for basic marking needs. It’s cheap, easy to use, and makes a thick, bold line that is easy to see and doesn’t rub off too quickly with handling.
For projects where you want a little more control or a finer line, the Clover Chaco style liner makes a thin, dotted line out of chalk powder. These pens come in a range of colors and are refillable, but the line isn’t as bold or long lasting as with your old school tailor’s chalk.
I also like the Allary Chalk Cartridge Set as a modern update on a sewing classic. It’s basically a mechanical pencil for tailor’s chalk! It gives you a bold line and a lot of control, and is great for embroidery or marking sashiko designs.
The downside to all chalk products is that any of the non-white chalks have some risk of staining. With enough friction the colored pigment can get ground into the fabric and permanently color it. While white chalk will always come off eventually, I reserve colored chalk for use on the wrong side of fabric, or in seam allowances where it’s not going to be a disaster if it doesn’t come all the way out.
Dritz makes a range of disappearing fabric marking pens. They have a clear, bold line and are easy to use, and disappear either with time (pink and purple) or with water (blue) or both.
Unfortunately they won’t show up on dark fabric, and you have to take care not to iron over the markings so as not to set the ink. I like the blue pens better than the purple (I don’t work well under a deadline) although it will often take a couple of rounds of spritzing to get the ink to disappear all the way.
Frixion - The pen of the future!
Frixion pens were developed by Pilot as a regular erasable pen, but some enterprising sewist figured out that the same properties that made the rubber eraser work meant that the pens would disappear with ironing.
The pens come in a range of colors, and have a fine line which is easy to control. They do come with a couple of caveats however: The ink will reappear if they get cold enough. You can still iron it off again if that happens, but you might not want to use it on a quilted coat for example!
They can also leave a slight ghost line on some fabrics. Although the pigment disappears, the gel medium it sits in does not, and that can be visible on sateen or other shiny fabric. I’ve also had mixed results with the highlighters coming off, and generally only recommend the fine line pens for visible markings. That said, I use them to mark my quilt tops for quilting and have always had them disappear as expected.