In the latest post of our 5 minute guide series, you'll learn everything you need to know about quilt marking tools! With so many options, where should you start? What works and what doesn't? How do you use all these notions lining the walls of your local craft store? In this comprehensive guide, we'll share over a dozen types of marking tools, tell you exactly how to use them, and let you know our favorites.
Quilt marking tools are generally used for two things. First, you can use them to mark cuts when you're piecing (for example, when making lines to sew around on half square triangles). And second, you can use them to mark a design for quilting.
When we started our 5 minute guide series, we asked Suzy Quilts readers what topics they wanted us to cover. Marking tools was the top request! Make sure to let us know what you want to see in the next 5 minute guide in the comments at the end of this post.
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Hera Marker — Suzy's Favorite!
A hera marker is a tool that you drag along your quilt, applying slight pressure, to make a small crease. Follow that crease with your machine or while hand quilting — it's that simple!
A hera marker is a great option for marking quilts because there is no risk of marker lines reappearing. These slight creases will disappear over time, use, and washing. If you want a risk-free marking option, you can't ask for a better tool than a hera marker!
One downside of a hera marker is that it can be more challenging to see the slight creases if your vision is impaired or you have trouble seeing subtle things. If you need marks that will pop and be more obvious, keep reading!
Modern American Vintage is one of our favorite companies. Specializing in making handcrafted wooden tools for quilters, a hera marker from Modern American Vintage is not only beautiful, it's an heirloom quality tool that can be passed down to future quilters!
Because each tool is made by hand, inventory and colors changes often. Be sure to follow @modern_american_vintage on Instagram for updates about their shop!
If you'd like to try out a hera marker before investing in one from Modern American Vintage, you can get sturdy plastic hera marker by Clover.
Chalk Roller — Laura's Favorite!
I love using a quilt marking tool that I can hold like a pen. My hands can get tense when I'm sewing, and having a tool that feels comfortable in my hand is a must. At the end of a chalk roller marking tool is a little metal circle that rolls as you draw and drops just the right amount of chalk on your fabric.
The flat tip is perfect for running along the length of an acrylic ruler. And the chalk comes off easy by brushing it away with your hand, so you don't have to get your quilt wet to remove it!
One downside of a chalk roller that because of the shape, it can be more challenging to mark curves. But up against a ruler, it's excellent!
The Clover Chaco Liner Pen works great, is long-lasting, and it comes in a variety of colors so you can be sure you'll see your marking lines no matter what color fabric you're working with. The clover chalk pen is available in white, yellow, pink, blue, and silver.
This marker is a mechanical pencil, but with chalk instead of lead! A mechanical chalk pencil is great for adding details to your quilting designs that you'd like to draw by hand. It can be a little difficult to draw with a mechanical chalk pencil on textured fabrics, like linen for example, because the chalk is small and sharp. But it works great on regular quilting cotton!
Bohin is a French sewing notions company known for quality and good design. Their mechanical chalk pencil not only works great — it looks great too! This Bohin mechanical chalk pencil comes with both white and green chalk.
For a mechanical pencil feel but even more chalk color options, an interchangeable chalk marker might be the perfect tool for you. The great thing about this is you can switch between colors with the same tool instead of having to buy multiples of a marker to get different colors. The downside is that the large opening of this marker is harder to accurately bump up against a ruler. But it's great for hand-drawing curves!
This Dritz Chalk Cartridge Set comes with 9 different colors of chalk, a pen-style holder, and a sharpener.
Tailor's chalk is an affordable classic! Used primarily by garment makers, this chalk can be used for marking quilts as well. It comes in a variety of colors and creates a sharp line. Tailor's chalk is usually a triangular piece which can be a little more difficult to hold if you have hand pain. But as an affordable option, this can't be beat!
This tailor's chalk bundle comes with four colors and a little case so you can keep them tidy!
Quilt pounce is kind of like a reverse chalkboard eraser. Wipe this tool over a quilt stencil (like this stencil which was used in our popular Quillow tutorial) and it deposits chalk in the stencil lines! You can also use a disappearing ink marker (options below) to mark stencil lines, but quilt pounce can save you a lot of time since you're dragging the marker over the stencil a few times instead of tracing each stencil line.
There are several quilt pounce options, but we like this container design best!
These pencils make marks that are similar to chalk markers, but they are traditional pencils that come in different colors. The pencil marks will come right off with water! Like most pencils, these marking tools become dull quickly, especially on fabric, so you'll find yourself reaching for a sharpener often. A slightly dull water-soluble pencil is a great option for marking on a textured fabric because when dull, it's less likely to catch on the bumps of fabric like linen.
The Clover Water-Soluble Pencil 3-Pack comes with white, blue, and pink pencils so you can choose which color will appear best on your fabric.
More like a fine point marker, water-soluble pens are a generally reliable way to mark your quilts. Pressing the marked lines with a damp washcloth like you would when trying to remove a stain, or gently dabbing the lines with drops of water on your finger will easily get the ink off of your quilt. There are not many color options for water-soluble pens, so it may be difficult to see the lines if you are using a blue fabric.
Dritz makes water-soluble pens that come in both blue and white, or in a pack of both colors. One of those colors should work well on nearly any fabric you need to mark!
The ink in this pen disappears with both air and water, meaning it will start disappearing pretty quickly after you draw your lines just by being exposed to air. You can use water to remove any marks that didn't disappear from the air. This pen does a great job of disappearing, but because air helps it, you have to work quickly.
Dritz makes an air and water-soluble pen with purple ink that will show up well against most fabrics.
BUYER BEWARE! Erasable pens are a popular quilt marking option, but we wanted you to know that we do not recommend them for anything other than marking inside of seams, like in the 8-at-a-time half square triangles above. While pens like Frixion pens advertise as being erasable with heat, these pen marks are known to come back in cool temperatures. That means if you mark all your quilting lines with a Frixion pen, it's possible that color could come back!
We don't recommend using these pens for marking quilting lines so we don't have a favorite, but if you'd like to try one to mark something like half square triangles, try a Frixion pen out.
Painter's Tape or Masking Tape
Perfect for marking straight lines on a quilt, painter's tape or masking tape are both excellent options for easy, no hastle marking. One of the benefits of using tape to mark straight lines is you can adjust the tape easily if you don't like the placement without having to wash off chalk or pen lines.
After you've laid down your first piece of tape, you can quilt lines around it using your walking foot as a guide. You don't need to fill your entire quilt with tape. But be sure to lay tape down at least every few inches to make sure you are still quilting in a straight line. You can also reuse your tape until it isn't sticky anymore!
Get more straight line quilting tips here!
Any 1" width tape is great! I find that painter's tape has less adhesive residue, so I like a pack like this. Plus it has six differnet colors to make the tape even easier to see!
Most commonly used by quilters to create appliqué designs, freezer paper can also create templates for quilting. This paper is not designed to be quilted through, so it's best used for shapes that you want to quilt around.
Freezer paper has a paper side and a wax side that, when heated with an iron, temporarily adheres to fabric. Draw or print a design you'd like to quilt onto the freezer paper, cut that shape out, and press it to your fabric. Then quilt around the shape and peel the paper off! No residue will be left behind, and you can reuse freezer paper and iron it to another part of your quilt to repeat the motif.
Quilter's Freezer Paper Sheets by C&T Publishing work great if you'd like to print your design on the paper side. But you can use any freezer paper from the grocery store if you'd like to draw or trace your template!
This thin tissue-like paper is specifically designed to be quilted through. Unlike freezer paper which can make a nice template to quilt around, you can draw directly onto quilting paper, quilt through it, and easily rip it off when you're finished!
Quilting paper does not have any adhesive, so you'll have to either hold it in place or very gently pin it in place. And it works for both free-motion quilting and walking foot quilting! Just make sure this roll of tissue doesn't get mixed up with any wrapping tissue — they are two very different products!
Golden Threads Quilting Paper is a gold standard for quilting paper! It's easy to use, doesnt' tear during quilting, and comes off of your quilting very easily.
What's Your Favorite Quilt Marking Tool?
Is your go-to marking tool on our list? Or do you have a marking tool you love that you want to tell us about? Let us know in the comments!
Our first 5 Minute Guide was so popular that we've decided to do one every month! Which topics do you want to see us cover in future guides?
6 thoughts on “5 Minute Guide to Quilt Marking Tools”
Informative as always! Love the 5 minute guide format, it’s just enough to introduce you to a wide range of options.
THanks, Ashley! That’s our goal with this series — giving a quick introduction to a wide range of tools to help people make informed decisions about what will work best in their hands 🙂
Thank you so much for this tutorial
You’re welcome! I’m so glad you found it interesting!
Love the idea of a chalk pen that can be refilled. All the plastic marking pens bother me because the tubes wind up in the landfill
I have used Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers to mark quilting lines on several quilts in the last year or so, as recommended by someone somewhere on the internet. I have not tested all the colours but so far all the blues pinks and oranges have washed out perfectly. They have a fine point and are very cheap as well.