Cutting and marking tools
There are a variety of tools available for marking and cutting fabric.
Air soluble pens
- Air soluble pens make marks that disappear slowly after application. The
marks may last up to 24 hours, but in the author's experience they tend to
disappear moments before you need them. They may also be removed with cold
water. Heat can set the marks permanently, so care should be exercised to
remove the marks before pressing.
- A chalk wheel makes a line of powdered chalk on the fabric. This is usually
washed or brushed away easily.
Marking wheel and carbon paper
- In this method, you place the pattern piece on the fabric with a sheet of
carbon paper in between and then trace over the lines of the pattern piece
with a small wheel. This transfers the lines to the fabric. The lines are
usually washed away easily with water, but problems do occur so make sure
to test it on a scrap. This method is useful for transfering marks of internal
lines (such as darts in the middle of a piece or positioning marks for embroidery
or applique) to the fabric.
- Rotary cutters are really useful if you know how to use them. They're really
dangerous if you don't. The circular blade is extremely sharp and you could
injure yourself by merely dropping it on yourself. Always exercise great care
when using a rotary cutter, and always close the blade guard every
time you finish cutting a line. Never allow a child to play with a rotary
To use rotary cutters, you need a rotary mat to protect the surface on
which you are cutting from being cut by the blade. It also protects the
blade from being nicked by the surface. Larger mats are easier to work with,
but note that large rotary mats can be relatively expensive - a 36x24 mat
costs about $50 for example.
On the positive side, a rotary cutter can quickly and easily cut multiple
layers of fabric, allowing you to (if desired) cut the same piece out of
several fabrics at once to make several of the same garment. By placing
a pattern piece on the fabric, securing it in place with weights, and cutting
around it with the rotary cutters, you can cut pieces much more quickly
than by marking the piece onto the fabric (or pinning it in place) and cutting
Rotary cutters greatly facilitate the cutting of pieces for quilting.
Smaller rotary mats may be acceptable for quilting purposes, which can save
you some money.
- Tailor's chalk comes in a chalk-like or a crayon-like (waxy) form. Both
will wash easily out of most fabrics, but problems do occur and you should
test it on a scrap if you're not sure. The chalk-like form seems to wash out
For best results, sharpen the edge of the tailor's chalk cake often. This
lets you place a sharp, clear line on the fabric. Avoid brushing against
the line while you work with the fabric, as this blurs it or may cause it
You can buy an inexpensive plastic holder for tailor's chalk with a built-in
sharpener - your authors find this useful.
Water soluble pencils
- Water soluble pencils leave a line similar to tailor's chalk.
Water soluble pens
- Water soluble pens make a clearer line than air soluble pens, and it lasts
until you remove it with cold water. Again, heat can set the marks permanently,
so make sure to remove them before pressing.