Quilt Marking: Tips and Tools

Many hand and machine quilters like to mark their quilts before they begin quilting. Some like to freeform quilt and make up their designs as they sew, but others like the security of having marked lines to follow. These lines can be from stencils, templates, or from a person’s imagination. Others like to mark in order to make their straight line quilting even and uniform. There are so many different quilt marking tools to choose from, so let’s look at a few popular choices today.

Quilt Marking
Photo via Stitched in Color
Fabric mechanical pencils. These pencils have an eraser on the back to erase the excess lines.

Washout pencils and pens. They are available in different colors and wash out of most fabrics.

Air soluble pens and markers. Depending on the humidity of your location, the quilt marking disappears after 24 hours.

Chalk. It marks clearly and can be easily wiped away. Be careful that you don’t brush it away unintentionally! Chalk comes in a variety of colors.

Quilt Marker

Hera marker. The sharp edge of this small tool allows you to temporary crease the fabric, creating lines to follow. This is a very effective way to prepare a project for straight line quilting.

Quilt pounce. This is the fastest way to transfer template design. It is a chalk filled tool that is pounced and swiped across a stencil. The special powder is unlike regular chalk. It stays on the fabric until it is removed according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Painter’s tape. This is another popular way to mark for straight line quilting, especially with larger quilts. Long strips of tape are placed strategically across the quilt, and those straight edges are followed during quilting.

Mark Quilts
Photo via Something Sewn

Are you worried that the markings won’t disappear from your fabrics? This is a valid concern! Here are a couple tips to help you out:

  1. Read and follow all of the directions on the package when using any marking product. If you misuse the tool or expose it to certain elements (like heat or water) when you shouldn’t, the markings will not disappear!
  2. Always test out your marking tool on scraps of the fabric from quilt top that you are working on first. Do this before you ever mark your project. Make sure that the product disappears completely from these fabrics before you try it on your precious quilt!
  3. Don’t press too hard when writing on your fabric. If you use too much force, the fabrics will be distorted.
  4. Never use a really sharp pencil. A slightly blunt or dull tip works best and will not harm your fabric.

And be sure to check out Craftsy classes that include tips for marking your quilts: Hand Quilting with Andi Perejda and Beyond Basic Machine Quilting with Ann Peterson. What is your favorite way to mark a quilt? What tools work best for you? Please share your quilt marking tips in the comments!

Come back to the Craftsy blog tomorrow for our Free Pattern Friday roundup of fantastic free quilting patterns!

15 Comments

Ladymax

I have tried just about every product on the market, and have settled with Frixion pens. I find that these easily mark the fabric and are easily removed with an iron. Like any other product the pens should be tried on a scrap of fabric before using. I did have one colour leave a white line on a particular fabric (I don’t remember which colour or which fabric), so I continue to try every time.

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Mary-Anne Buist

Frxion pens are great but they reappear in cold temperatures – and especially on white. Because we live in Alberta where it does get extremely cold – I avoid them unless it is just to practice on scraps.

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Libbi Toscano

I am in Switzerland where some of these products are difficult to find. But I did find a BIC product made in France: BIC Kids Couleur Ultra Washable that washes out completely. Actually, I just soak the quilt in water with a bit of gentle laundry soap, no rubbing scrubbing needed. I have used them on 3 quilts so far and with a variety of the 12 colors in the pack.
As with any marking pen or pencil, do a test with your fabric first.
This product is NOT available in the USA.

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Kristine

I like the Crayola washable markers, particularly as I can get so many for so cheap :)

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Linda Sink

So many helpful tips, even tho I’m 73 I’m still learning! Through the years was working to support my family, now its my time to enjoy sewing. Thanks for all the great tips!

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Marge Gray

Thanks for helps in many situations we run into on quilting. Marge

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Jenni

I so love this site but unfortunately I am no longer allowed to take part in the free lessons they give because I have not bought anything. Being in Edenglen in Gauteng SAfrica and a pensioner to boot there is no way I can afford your lessons. Surely you can allow me to take part in the free lessons which I so enjoyed.

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Support

Hi Jenni,

I am sorry for the confusion. You are welcome to participate in all of our free classes (without purchasing any classes). To access your classes, you will first need to make sure you are logged in to your account on Craftsy here: http://www.craftsy.com/login iF you continue to have troubles accessing your free online classes, please feel free to send us an email at help@craftsy.com

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Kay Stephenson

I’ve used many different products, but at heart I’m still old school. I like marking with the edge of an almost used up bar of soap. We use Dove for sensitive skin, so it is dye and fragrance free, and washes out completely.

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Michele R

I am still not settled on a favorite marking tool. I have used painters tape, hera markers, pouncers and even made templates from freezer paper to be ironed on and reused (not the easiest method). FYI: A friend made an heirloom quilt marking it with one of the blue pens. When done it left yellow marks all over the white fabric. The gorgeous, 2 yr. project was totally ruined; she tried everything to get the marks out, but no success. Be careful not to leave your project in the sun or a hot car (if hand quilting and traveling with it) because both have caused products to “heat set” into the quilt. As always: pre-test!

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Eva Larkin Hawkins

I love the Pilot Frixion gel pens!!! So easy to work with and then just irons off. I also love the miracle pounce powder that irons off when your done. Great products. Happy Quilting :)

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Pam

I too love the Frixion gel pens, except I have twice had the white line problem mentioned above-both on blue and blue/green fabrics, only my thought was it took the color out versus leaving a white line. Anyone else have this trouble? My next favorite method is using Miracle Chalk, but can’t figure out how to keep a sharp edge on it-any suggestions?

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frances ensing

I have also used all kinds of markers, some sucessfully and some not. I tend to end up with chalk, the pounce or blue wash-out. Still looking for the perfect marker.

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Hattie Kate

I still have trouble with marking on patterned mid-value fabrics.

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Farhush

At present I also am using Pilot Frixion. I’m trying to look for paper that sticks on one side for easy removal. Since I use it on leather the work is increased in removing the lines with water. Ideally, I’d like peel off paper but niggly worry is it will leave sticky residue.

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