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fabric-marking tools

A guide to fabric marking tools – Making your Mark

Making your mark. A guide to fabric-marking tools.  

A question I’m asked frequently is what is the best way of marking fabric for dressmaking?  Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that as there is a variety of fabric-marking tools available, and each has their pro’s and cons.  My advice is to have a selection of these tools available to cope with every situation. Here’s a list of the most common:

Tailors chalk
The traditional triangle of chalk is cheap and easily available. It’s also available in a range of colours including white, yellow, pink, blue and black. However, the edges need to be kept sharp to get a fine and accurate mark.  It’s also ‘dusty’ and rubs off easily.  It’s ok for areas that you’re going to sew immediately after marking. However, if that section isn’t going to be stitched for a while, and you’re handling your fabric meanwhile, then you may find your marks have faded or even disappeared. 

 Chalk pencils
These are slightly waxier than tailors chalk so they stay on the fabric for longer. They are also more accurate as it’s easy to sharpen them for a fine line. Have a selection of colours so they show up on the fabric.

  ‘Carbon’ paper and tracing wheel
The paper is covered on one side with a waxy substance that is transferred to the fabric by a tracing wheel.  It can also be rubbed with a pen or pencil to mark small dots. Available in different colours for light or dark fabrics. The tracing wheel will leave indentations so don’t use this on your best furniture without having a cutting mat underneath.

  Marking pens
There are a variety of pens available and again, each have their uses. 

Heat-sensitive: These pens disappear when you iron the fabric, but the marks can come back if the item is exposed to cold temperatures. However, they usually disappear permanently if the fabric is washed. Frixion is a well-known brand. 

Water-soluble: This is a turquoise-coloured felt-tip type pen that will disappear when dabbed with water.  It creates a very fine line so is extremely accurate but can only be used when the fabric will not be stained by water. There’s also water-soluble pencils become available recently made by Clover. They’re available in a pack of 3 colours: white, pink and blue.

Air-erasable:  This pen is usually purple in colour and will fade over a period of about 48 hours.  So don’t use this if you’re not going to get that part of the garment sewn in that timescale.  Be careful as ironing over this pen can fix it although it can be removed by washing.  

Whatever you use, you should firstly test that it can be removed from the fabric without leaving a stain. 

Where to mark? As a general guide, darts, and dots to mark collar and sleeve positions should be marked on the wrong side of the fabric as they’ll be sewn from the reverse.  Markings for buttonholes, pockets, tucks, pleats and folds are sewn from the right side so are best marked on the right side of the fabric. 

When to mark?  Immediately after you’ve cut out the garment, BEFORE removing the paper pattern. It’s false economy to skip this step timewise, as you’ll only have to lay on the pattern again later and it won’t be so accurate. 

And finally, where you have various sizes of dot ‘i.e. pattern says ‘match to small dots’, and there are also large dots elsewhere, try to use a different colour for each set of dots to avoid confusion

What pattern size am I?

One question I’m asked almost every day is ‘What pattern size am I?’

Probably the most difficult aspect of dressmaking is how to find the correct pattern size. . Sewing patterns aren’t sized in the same way as ready-to-wear clothes. So you can’t just buy your usual off-the-peg dress size.

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Haberdashery – what a wonderful world

Haberdashery means all the tools, equipment and other bits you need to complete your sewing project besides fabric and a sewing machine. Choosing the right haberdashery is every bit as important as fabric to the successful outcome of your sewing project. So I’m delighted to introduce a guest blogger who’s a specialist in this field.

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Sewing Machine Tension

Sewing machine tension

Probably the most common sewing problem is getting correct sewing machine tension. By thread tension, we mean the amount of thread that can pass through the machine to create the stitch. The more thread in the stitch, then the looser the stitch.  The less thread, then the tighter the stitch. Read more

Overlocker tension

How to get perfect Overlocker tension

How to get the correct overlocker tension is the most common issue when using these machines. An overlocker is a fantastic machine and can be extremely useful.  But they can also be beastly. Read on to find out how to use them and get the most from an overlocker.  Read more

Husqvarna Viking Emerald 118 Sewing Machine – Review

Best Sewing Machine?

Husqvarna Emerald 118 Sewing Machine Review

I had to find the best sewing machine for my teaching studio. I needed something that was easy-to-use,  versatile, robust, and great value.  My local specialist dealer Andrew Pemberton recommended the Husqvarna Viking Emerald 118.  Prior to that, I was aware of Husqvarna as a high-quality brand but I hadn’t used one before.  So I was happy to go along to test it against some of its closest rivals in the same price bracket. Read more

Pattern Ease – Why is my sewing pattern bigger than my measurements?

What is ‘Pattern Ease’ and why do I need it?

Pattern Ease is the allowance made over and above the body measurements when making a pattern. It enables natural body movement. If patterns were exactly the same size as your body measurement, the garment would literally be skin tight. Pattern ease is added to the body circumference measurements, but not to any vertical measurements.  Although your shop-bought clothes may say ‘to fit bust 36″‘, if you measure them, you’ll find that they are considerable bigger. Read more