I have heard from people that they find marking and transferring patterns to fabric quite distressing, but it doesn’t have to be if you know the right techniques and tools. That’s why I’ve decided to write this guide to transfer a sewing pattern to fabric.
There are plenty of ways using which you can transfer patterns to the fabric.
How do you transfer a sewing pattern to fabric? In most cases, a pencil or a pin in the seam allowance will do the trick. For projects that are fragile, you need something more precise to make sure that you won’t scar your fabric.
If the fabric you have is slightly thin, you can simply trace the markings under a lightbox or a window using a water-soluble pen. You can also use tracing paper and a tracing wheel to transfer the patterns. You simply have to put the tracing paper inside the fabric and draw the roller over the paper. And there are more ways!
In this post, you will learn about the best ways to mark the patterns to transfer them to your fabric. Let’s get started!
What Are Sewing Patterns?
The first thing you need to understand is the different sewing patterns.
It will help you achieve accurate results when transferring. They do vary significantly between professional designers and tailors, but they are universally used pattern markings that need to be transferred to the fabric.
It is impossible to list all the markings. So, I am sharing the most common ones:
- Cut Lines: these are lines on the pattern used to differentiate sizes
- Grainline: this pattern aligns with the grain of the fabric as you place your fabric pieces
- On the Fold: this pattern indicates that the pattern should be positioned along the Fold of fabric
- Bust and Hip Indicators: these marks are positioned at the hip and bust points on the pattern
- Lengthen/Shorten Line: placement to customize your pattern
- Notches: these marks help match two fabrics together
- Darts: these are lines that indicate areas of the stitch line and fullness
- Dots: these are markings that mark the positions for matching parts of the fabric
- Button/Buttonholes: position for placement on the garment
- Tucks and Gathers: match lines together for stitching
- Pattern Key: indicates pattern facing down or up
- Fabric Key: indicates fabric, lining, and interlining placement
Understanding pattern markings is vital because these markings will line up other pieces of garment or fabric, will show you the placement for add-ons like buttons, and will show things that create pleats, tucks, or folds.
The 7 Best Fabric Marking Tools
The type of marking tool you use will depend on the type of sewing project you are working on. In my opinion, you can use any marking tool for marking the patterns as long as you are confident with that.
However, factors like the type and color of fabric you are using and whether the marking will be visible on the fabric will also come into the play.
I have listed 7 primary marking tools that you can use to mark the fabric. I have also listed the pros and cons to help you better understand how they work.
Pro Tip: I would recommend that you test the marking tool on a piece of scrap fabric before using it on the actual garment to determine whether it spoils the fabric or not, how it reacts, and how easy it is to remove.
1. Water-Soluble Pens
- Easy to mark circles and small dots
- Best for precise lines
- Bright colors emerge perfectly on fabrics
- Marks disappear over time or with a light blot of water
- Weak formula makes it disappear too fast
- Marker tips dry quickly
- The marks have the tendency to spread or bleed on certain types of fabrics
- The marks can reappear after initial removal
2. Tailor’s Chalk
- Good for marking textured or thick fabrics
- Leaves smooth lines
- Fades away easily
- Needs regular sharpening for effective markings
- Too brittle; beaks easily
- Disappears quickly
If you DO have trouble with chalk, you can read this article: How To Remove Tailor’s Chalk
3. Ceramic Lead Pens
- Makes accurate, thin marks
- Available in different colors and is refillable
- Easy to erase
- Less effective on thick and textured fabrics
- Comes with a fine tip that breaks easily
- It is expensive
4. Tracing Paper and Tracing Wheel
- Can mark both sides of the fabric at once
- Available in a variety of colors
- Best for marking long lines, corners, and curves
- It uses carbon paper; thus it can smudge the fabric
- Needs to apply heavy pressure for marking
- Sometimes it is difficult to see where you’re marking
5. Chaco Liner Pens
- Leaves a thin line of powder
- Easy to roll
- Doesn’t drag
- Never needs sharpening
- Colors can be hard to remove
- Expensive to purchase and refill
- Powder may smudge
6. Bar Soap Slivers
- Available in your own home (if you have bar soap)
- Easily glides over fabric
- Can leave smudges
- Leaves residue
7. Hera Marker
- Creases both sides of the fabric at once
- Won’t stain
- Less effective on tricky fabrics like synthetic
- May leave a shine
These are your best fabric marking tools that are easily available. I recommend that you should always mark on the wrong side of the fabric to ensure that even if there are markings or residue after cleaning, they remain invisible in the final product.
Professor Pincushion on YouTube has a great video showing you exactly how to mark your material for sewing. After watching, be sure to move on to the next section to learn how to actually transfer your pattern!
Transferring Sewing Patterns To Fabric Techniques
As said earlier, there are plenty of different ways to transfer sewing patterns to fabric. The type you choose will depend on the fabric you have and the marking tool you are using.
So, before you start the transfer procedure, you must check to see whether the fabric is compatible with the marking tool. This will allow you to determine whether the marking color you are using is right, do you need to apply more pressure and other factors.
Here are the different transferring techniques using different marking tools.
1. Tracing Paper and Tracing Wheel
Many people consider transferring patterns to fabric using tracing paper and a tracing wheel the hardest, but it is not.
- Pin down the pattern to the fabric
- Fold the tracing paper in a way, so that is long mark the required area of the fabric
- Next, put the marking side of the tracing paper on the wrong side of the fabric. That is, if the wrong side of the fabric is outside, slide the fabric inside the tracing paper and if the wrong side of the fabric is inside, place the tracing paper inside the fabric
- For marking lines, use a straight edge. Run the tracing wheel along the straight edge. Ensure that the patterns are on all layers of fabric
- Similarly, for dots, locate the center of the markings and made an X through the center
- That’s it! this is how you can transfer patterns using a tracing wheel
2. Pen, Pencil, Chalk, or Soap
If you find the idea of using tracing paper and tracing wheel intimidating, you can use the traditional method of transferring patterns to fabric.
In this method, you will make dart points using a pen, pencil, chalk, or soap.
- Poke a hole the dart point using a pin
- Cut the fabric, mark the dart point using the patter, including the end of the dart legs with a pen, chalk, pencil, or soap
- Your pattern is transferred
3. Marking with Pins
If you want to go old-school or if you find clipping the fabric from inside the seam allowance for marking notches a bit scary, you can simply use a pin.
- Insert the pin from the dart point
- From the other side of the fabric, insert the pin through the same hole
- This results in both the sides having pins through the dart point
- This makes it easy to transfer the pattern
4. Tracing the Pattern Directly onto the Fabric
If you are embroidery designing or doing a project with an extremely thin fabric, you can avoid the pins, hera markers, and rollers and simply focus on tracing the pattern directly onto the fabric.
- First, transfer the design or pattern using a light source like a window or lightbox
- Tape the pattern to the lightbox or window and cover it with fabric
- Start tracing the lines or patterns using a fabric pen with a fine tip
This is it! I hope that this post gives you the answer you are looking for.
I have covered all the aspects of transferring a sewing pattern to the fabric, including the different types of markings, different marking tools, and ways to use the tools to transfer the patterns.
If you haven’t tried any of these techniques before, you should start with the easiest one you find.
Up Next: The Best Sewing Thread Holders