It took me a long time to realize that there is no one ideal marking tool. I used to struggle with marking fabrics until I realized something: you need a small selection of tools to properly mark the variety of fabrics you’re likely to sew with.
The purpose of the marking tool is to transfer all the little notations that appear on your pattern, the ones that tell you where to cut, fold, sew, or place adjoining pieces. The pattern instructions work together with these notations to tell you exactly how to manipulate each pattern piece.
I’ll run down a few choices, most of which I use in some way or another:
Tracing wheel and dressmaker’s paper:
Dressmaker’s paper is something like carbon paper, in that it transfers markings with applied pressure. Place it between your pattern and your fabric, then use the tracing wheel to draw over the lines on the pattern to transfer them to the fabric.
Water soluble pencils:
These look like colored pencils, and come in a range of colors which are suitable for different fabrics. They should wash out of your fabric easily, but always test on a swatch to be sure.
Markers and pens:
Markers are similar to pencils. Some markers I’ve used seem to produce fat lines, and also tend to dry out quickly, but there are some wonderful fine line pens on the market now, like the one above from Nancy’s Notions.
Tailor’s chalk comes in triangular pieces. You must keep it sharp or you end up with lines that are a bit too fat. It can also be slightly messy, and breaks easily. I love it for dark fabrics, because it marks very easily and opaquely! It’s traditionally white, but also available in many other colors.
I love these things! It’s held line a pen, but leaves a fine layer of chalk, and the bright colors are great for a variety of fabric colors.
Sometimes you can just use a pin to mark specific points on your pattern piece. It may seem a bit lazy, but it’s usually no less accurate. I always mark dart tips with a pin, for example.
By the way, my grandmother once told me that she would use slivers of soap when no chalk was handy. This is a very economical alternative if you happen to find yourself short on chalk or pencils!
Do you have a favorite marking implement? I always like hearing about new ones!