• How To Mark Your Quilt

    Today, I would like to continue the topic started in the previous issue.
    I was covering the following question:

    How do I get the design pattern on to the quilt that I want to be quilted. I have tried transfers and its just not working. What am i doing wrong. I am wanting to quilt butterflies as my quilting pattern. Any tips?
    Marking Your Quilt

    I prefer to mark my quilt top before layering - when possible. To help in the marking process I have made a sandpaper board by covering an 18 x 24" piece of quarter inch width of hardboard or ply-wood with sandpaper. You could also use the back of an old cutting mat. Purchase four sheets (approximately 9 x 12" each) of fine grit sandpaper. Use double sticky carpet tape or spray adhesive to adhere the sandpaper to the mat or board, butting the edges of the sandpaper sheets together as you glue.

    To mark, lay the quilt top right side up on the sandpaper. The sandpaper grit keeps the fabric from "creeping" as you move the pencil back and forth in the stencil, around the template, or even when using a ruler to mark straight lines.

    When marking the entire top before layering you need to be sure to use a marking tool that will stay on during the entire quilting process.

    Marking Pens

    One of the easiest products to use is the washout marking pen - the "Blue Pen". This pen has been tested by the manufacturer and will wash out completely if properly used. Read and follow directions on your particular brand. It is most important to not apply any heat to the fabric after marking such as ironing and don't leave your marked quilt in a hot car in the summer. Heat will set the markings. Also because there are chemicals in the ink, it needs to be WASHED out in cold water with no soap or detergent. This does not mean just giving it a spray with a plant mister. This means wetting the item thoroughly. If you don't want to wash your quilt when it is finished you should not used this marker.

    Another marking pen is the disappearing pen - the "Purple Pen". This pen is similar to the blue pen but disappears in approximately twenty-four hours. If you live in a very humid climate it would disappear even faster. You would only want to mark the part of the quilt you could stitch in a short time. This pen also has chemicals in it and is recommended to completely wash it out after quilting.

    The Washout Marker and Disappearing Marker pens are available in different brand names. They are available at quilt stores, chain stores, and online. Be sure to read and follow the directions for your specific brand of marker.

    Clover has a White Marking Pen available to mark very dark fabrics. When marking your fabric, trust that the marking has been done as the white mark doesn't show on the dark fabric until the ink is dry. The mark is removed with ironing or washes out.


    There are chalk pencils, waxy pencils, soapstone pencils, and graphite pencils. Many variations of these are available at your quilt store, chain stores, and online.

    Waxy Pencils - I have used with success the Roxanne Quilters Choice Pencil. It comes in white and silver. Pat Campbell has a line of white and silver pencils that work equally well. Most of these pencils sharpen nicely, mark smoothly and wash out easily.

    Chalk Pencils - Clover makes a Chacopel pencil. It is available in yellow, white and a pink/blue combination. This is a chalk type pencil yet it stays on the quilt well and brushes off fairly easily with the attached plastic brush.

    Chalk & Chalk Liners

    There are pencils available that have chalk inside the wood rather than pencil lead. These are very good for marking but they do rub off fairly fast. Again you would only want to mark a small portion of the quilt. Some quilters actually buy regular chalk board chalk for quilting as it is readily available and inexpensive. Use a large pencil sharpener such as for school children or an eyebrow pencil sharpener to sharpen ordinary chalkboard chalk to a point.

    A chalk liner is a small plastic tool with a small toothed metal wheel that rolls a small amount of powdered chalk onto the fabric. Run the wheel in the stencil slots or along the edge of a template. This would be great for marking crosshatching with a ruler or yardstick. These chalk tools are wonderful as the chalk almost brushes off before you are finished quilting. When using any chalk marking tool, be sure to only mark a small portion so you won't have to remark because it rubs off so fast. Chalk liners are available in different brands and refill cartridges are available.

    Subscriber comments:
    Beware of some yellow chalk markers in a tube. They sometimes do not wash out because of the sulfur used in the yellow.
    Chalk Pounce Pads

    Pounce pads are a rectangle plastic reservoir about the size of a chalkboard eraser. One side of the reservoir has a terry cloth type fabric. The chalk powder is placed in the reservoir and the pad is rubbed across the stencil leaving the chalk markings visible on your fabric. This is a very fast way to mark a large quilt but remember the chalk rubs of easily in handling of the quilt so you might only want to mark a small portion at a time. Powdered chalk refills are available in blue and white. There is a Miracle Chalk Pounce Powder that is supposed to stay on the quilt and be removed with a pouf of steam.

    Pounce bags - are small loosely woven fabric bags filled with chalk powder. You can easily make your own. Just take a small square of fabric, place some talcum powder or cornstarch in the center of the square - tie with a string and you have a simple pouncer. For light fabrics simply add a small amount of cinnamon to the cornstarch.

    Miscellaneous Markers

    Soapstone - A soapstone marker is available in a metal or plastic case as individually they are quite brittle. Refills are available. These mark white and rub off or wash off easily.

    Graphite - Graphite markers come in a wooden pencil form and also as large leads in a metal or plastic case. Refills are available. This pencil makes a black mark but washes out readily in soap and water. I find this pencil useful for those tricky colors of fabric that the white, silver and blue pens just don't show up well.

    There are many marking tools to choose from. Be sure to purchase marking pencils and pens designed specifically for marking fabric. It is best to make a sample test before marking your quilt with anything you are unfamiliar with. The most important is to find something that brushes out or washes out easy AND you can actually see on the quilt! If you have a visual problem you definitely want to choose a marking tool that you will be able to see from the distance between your eyes and your sewing machine bed.
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