How to Mark Fabric
Common symbols on pattern pieces
These are little triangular or diamond-shaped symbols found along the edges of pattern
pieces. They indicate where to match one fabric piece to another.
These can indicate where to match one fabric piece to another or where to start or stop
a line of stitching.
These can indicate where to sew a line of stitching, where to fold or cut your fabric,
where the center front or back of a piece is, or where to place pockets, buttons or
General marking tips
- Make your marks before removing your fabric pieces from your cutting table to make the task
- Make your marks before removing the patterns from your fabric pieces.
- Be as accurate as you can when transferring the symbols to your fabric.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using marking tools.
- Always test a marking method on a scrap of your fabric first to make sure the mark can be
- If you’re not sure whether you’ll be able to remove a mark, make the mark on the wrong side of
This is a chalk made for marking fabric that comes in a variety of colors. It’s available in
pencil, cake, and powdered forms.
Making smaller marks, such as dots and squares on both washable and dry-clean only
Easy to use. Easy to remove.
Not appropriate for fabric that will be handled a lot during construction because the chalk
comes off easily.
Use a color that contrasts with your fabric. To mark dots or squares, push a pin into the
center of the symbol on the pattern piece, then into the fabric pieces underneath. Rub
the chalk onto your fabric where the pin is.
Remove the marks with a brush or by rubbing your fabric together.
Tracing paper and a tracing wheel
Tracing paper is a type of coated paper that comes in a variety of colors. When placed
against your fabric and rolled over with a tracing wheel (a tool that resembles a
miniature pizza cutter), a mark is made on your fabric. A tracing wheel with a serrated
edge produces a dotted line and a wheel with a smooth edge produces a solid line.
Marking lines, dots, and squares on fabric. Best for solid and opaque fabrics and
Not appropriate for multicolored or sheer fabrics because the marks would be difficult to
see. Not appropriate for dry-clean only fabrics because the marks must be removed with
Put cardboard underneath your fabric to protect your work surface. Use a paper color
that contrasts with your fabric.
Use a serrated tracing wheel for marking most fabrics and a smooth wheel for marking
highly textured fabrics. Place the colored side of the paper against the side of your fabric
where you want the mark to appear. You can mark both of your fabric pieces at once by
unpinning your pattern piece, folding the tracing paper colored side out, and sliding it
between your fabric pieces.
Run your tracing wheel along the line on the pattern piece to transfer it to your fabric. To
mark dots or squares, make an “X” with the wheel.
Remove the marks with a damp cloth.
This is a pen made for marking fabric that comes in a variety of colors. It’s available in
two types, air soluble and water soluble.
Transferring smaller marks onto fabric, such as dots and squares. Use an air soluble pen
on dry-clean only fabrics. Use a water soluble pen on fabrics that can be washed.
Quick and easy to use. Has a precise tip to allow for accurate marking.
Marks made with air soluble pens will disappear within a few days. Therefore, item must
be constructed promptly or the marks will need to be made again. Marks made with
water soluble pens are not appropriate for dry-clean only fabrics. Some inks from marking
pens can become permanent if exposed to heat or detergent.
Use a color pen that contrasts with your fabric. To mark dots or squares, push a pin into
the center of the symbol on the pattern piece, then into the fabric pieces underneath.
Rub the pen onto your fabric where the pin is.
Marks made with air soluble pens disappear on their own with exposure to air. Remove
marks from water soluble pens by dampening your fabric with water.
A sliver of bar soap is used to mark fabric.
Marking smaller lines, dots, and squares on medium to dark colored washable fabrics.
Cheap and readily available.
Difficult to see on lighter fabrics. Not appropriate for dry-clean only fabrics because the
marks must be removed with water.
To make your marks, rub the edge of the soap sliver onto your fabric. To keep the edges
of the soap sliver sharp, periodically trim them with a knife.
Remove the marks by dampening or laundering the fabric.
Thread is used to mark the fabric.
Making all kinds of marks on fabrics that might stain with other methods and highly
textured fabrics or prints where marks from other methods would be difficult to see.
The only equipment needed are a needle and thread.
The marks can be time consuming to make. Thread pieces may come out as the fabric
pieces are handled.
Use a color thread that contrasts with your fabric. Silk thread is ideal because it’s fine
and smooth. If you have lots of marks to transfer, you may want to use a different color
thread for each symbol.
Pull about a 24” length of thread through a hand needle and double it. Don’t knot
the thread. Push the needle through the pattern symbol and then through the layers of
fabric underneath. Pull the thread through, leaving about a two inch tail on top of the
Push the needle back up through the fabric and pattern, about 1/8” away from the first
piercing and pull it through. Cut the thread so that this second thread tail is the same
length as the first.
Finish making all of the other tailor’s tacks on that particular fabric piece, then
unpin and slowly pull the tissue pattern off the fabric. Slowly pull the fabric pieces
apart at each tailor’s tack (don’t pull the top section all the way off yet) and snip
the threads in between the layers of fabric to about 1/2”.
Small pieces of tape or sticker dots are used to mark the fabric.
Marking the right or wrong side of fabric, marking placement of items like buttons or
Depending on the stickers used, can mar delicate fabrics or leave behind a residue.
Apply the adhesive sticker where you want it. You may want to test the sticker first to
make sure it won’t damage your fabric.
Just peel the tape or sticker off the fabric when finished.
A long basting stitch is used to mark lines such as the center back or front of a garment
Fabrics that might stain with other methods. Highly textured fabrics or prints where other
markings methods would be difficult to see.
More visible than some other marking methods.
Can be time consuming to make.
Use tracing paper to transfer lines to the wrong side of your fabric. Then, with needle
and thread, hand-baste through the line using long basting stitches.
A snip is made with a pair of scissors into the seam allowance of a fabric piece.
Marking notches along the edges of pattern pieces.
Should only be made with seam allowances that are 5/8” or more. Care must be taken
not to accidentally clip past the seam allowance. Snips can be a little difficult to see.
Clipping too far into the seam allowance can weaken the seam.
Clip about 1/4” into the seam allowance into the center of each notch. For a double
notch, clip twice. For a triple notch, clip three times.
There are lines and symbols on pattern pieces
that need to be transferred to your fabric before
you start to sew.
These symbols indicate things such as where to
place pockets and buttonholes, where to stop or
start a line of stitching, or where to match fabric
The type of marking method you choose depends
on the type of fabric you’re working with, the kind
of mark you’re making, and how much time you’re
willing to spend on the task.
Instructions for marking your fabric pieces are
given further down under each marking method.
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