How to Pick the Best Marking Tool

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Every sewing project requires at least some amount of patterning before sewing your fabric pieces together. You can always draw your measurements out on your fabric with a regular pen, pencil or marker, but if you want the freedom to only temporarily mark on your fabric, using a marking tool made for fabric is your best bet. We’re going to help you pick the best marking tool for your fabric.

When used on the proper materials, all of the marking tools available at Sailrite® will wash or rub off when you are done with your lines and notes. The trick is knowing which pencil, chalk or marker will show up, stay on for your needed duration and be removed from the particular materials you're working with. We're going to give you an overview of our different types of tools and on which fabrics they work best. After you read this overview, you can take a closer look at the ease of marking and removal ratings of each tool on all of the most popular fabric types in our Marking Tools Comparison Chart (PDF).

This natural, lightweight marking pencil is great for writing on dark, woven fabrics. The marking can be removed by gently rubbing the fabric or by washing with plain water. Since it writes in white, soapstone pencil will only show up on dark materials. The soapstone comes in a plastic holder that makes it more like a typical pencil. The stone can be sharpened and replacement stones are available.

Our two Scribe-All Pencils are not the same when it comes to marking capabilities. These pencils are available in two colors, black and white, and can be sharpened just like regular pencils. Marks can easily be removed using a damp cloth. We recommend using the Scribe-All Black Marking Pencil for Vinyl on hard surfaces, seating vinyl, cover vinyl (coated fabrics), Phifertex® and clear window material. The Scribe-All Water Soluble White Marking Pencil is truly an all-surface pencil: use it with Phifertex, vinyl, home décor fabrics, coated fabrics, Sunbrella®, marine fabrics, wood, plastic, glass, clear window material and more! For more information, check out the Marking Tool Comparison Chart PDF included above.

These pencils by Dritz® come in a two-pack with a white pencil for marking on dark fabrics and blue pencil for marking on lighter fabrics. They're great for marking on non-coated woven fabrics, sailcloth and even plastic and the marks can be removed with a damp cloth. These marking pencils can easily be sharpened using a pencil sharpener.

Marking chalk, also known as tailor’s chalk, is a clay-based chalk that’s easy to rub away and works well on woven fabrics and vinyl. In general, chalk is so easy to remove that often it will fall off on its own, so it might not be the best choice for patterns that need to be made away from your sewing table and transported back. Being that it does wash or rub off easily, you can feel confident knowing this option will not leave a lasting mark on your material. We gladly offer triangular marking chalk and a chalk pencil set here at Sailrite.

The Marking Chalk for Fabrics by C.S. Osborne (#102464) comes in a box of 12 that contains white, red, yellow and blue chalk for any color of fabric you’re working on. Each piece of chalk is shaped like a triangle for consistently sharp marking edges. This chalk is soft and does break rather easily, but even small pieces can be used to great effect. Our Triangle Tailor’s Chalk by Clover® is similar to the Marking Chalk for Fabrics, but each color is sold separately. Choose between red, yellow, white and blue depending on the color of the material you’re working with. Unlike the C.S. Osborne chalk, this product is coated with a waxy substance to keep the chalk from coming off on your fingers. The Tailor's Chalk is also a great option to mark on glass and vinyl.

Another option for marking chalk is our Chalk Pencil Cartridge Set (#121669), which includes a collection of nine chalk colors great for marking both light and dark fabrics. Ideal for all your sewing, quilting and crafting applications, this option comes with a sharpener and a hand chalk pen to hold the product for easier use. No more chalk-covered fingers!

Grease pencils are marking pencils that are best suited for nonporous surfaces like clear vinyl and patterning material. These pencils will write on various surfaces like pottery, glass, plastic, metal, rubber, wood and paper. However, they are difficult to remove from porous surfaces like Sunbrella or other woven fabrics. Our grease pencils are available in three colors (white, black and yellow) to easily be seen on any color material. Pull the integrated string to expose more of the marking material and sharpen it in any pencil sharpener as needed.

A good choice for lighter colored fabrics, the blue Washable Wonder Marker creates bright blue lines that can be removed with plain water. This marker really works best on traditional woven fabrics. However, certain fabrics can be finicky with the marker, so it is best to always test the marker on a spare piece of the fabric before using it on your project to be sure it washes away to your satisfaction. Also, be sure to rinse off the marker before laundering and to not iron over the marks, as these things could discolor the marks and/or set them in permanently.

As you can see, there are a variety of options for marking on your fabric where you won’t have to worry about permanent marks peeking out from your stitching. All of these marking tools are available in the Patterning category, right here at Sailrite.


This blog was updated in July 2019 with new information regarding the recommended uses of the Scribe-All Marking Pencil. Previously, the Scribe-All was marketed as being sufficient to mark on shade sail fabrics such as Polytex® and Parasol®, which is not accurate. We've also updated our Marking Tool Comparison Chart PDF to be more accurate and comprehensive.