Fabric markings: I’ll show you mine if you show me yours

I’ve just been putting together my second Colette Violet. The pattern calls (as most of them do unless it’s a pattern for a sack) for a number of markings to be transferred to the fabric, including darts, notches, dots and buttonholes. It led me to ponder (as I made my own markings) whether I was really using the best and most efficient methods. Is there a better way I thought, as I threaded up yet another needle after 10 minutes of groping for it blindly on my busy floral tablecloth. Note to self: NEED wrist pincushion.

Here’s how I do  it.

Darts: Marking the points (also used for transferring dots)

I use tailor’s tacks to mark dart points first. I do this by running a threaded (doubled thread) needle through the pattern and both fabric pieces once, leaving a two inch tail, then a second time, leaving a large loop about four inches. I then snip my thread (leaving another two inch tail) then snip the loop leaving what I like to call the cat’s whiskers. I then pull (gently!) the pattern off the fabric and separate the two pieces of fabric (again – gently!) and snip the joining threads in between the two pieces of fabric. This leaves me with a set of cat’s whiskers on each fabric piece.

Making tailors tacks

Darts: Marking the ‘legs’

Again I use tailor’s tacks for this, using a simple running stitch but leaving large loops on the top (this one I call the Loch Ness Monster) which I then snip. Then, as before I pull the pattern of the fabric and gently separate the two pieces until I have enough room to snip the threads in between the fabric pieces. Once I’ve done that I’m always afraid the thread will fall out so I go back with a ruler and chalk and trace along the markings, then remove the tacks.

Marking dart legs

I do all of this on the wrong side of the fabric and I use a brightly coloured thread so it shows up – usually fluorescent yellow. Unless I make a Big Bird costume at any point in the future I am highly unlikely to use this shade.

It probably takes about four to five minutes for each dart. Now, is there a quicker way? Could I omit one of these steps?


This is a little trickier so I’d love to know how you guys do it yourselves. I use tailor’s tacks to mark the centre of the button (where I’ll sew it to the fabric) according to the pattern. I go through both layers of fabric again so I have the markings on both pieces. Then on the piece that will feature the button holes I mark out a couple of centimetres (or however wide the button is) in chalk from this marking towards the sleeve side.

Marking buttonholes

I do this on the right side of the fabric. Now this obviously works, otherwise I wouldn’t be telling you about it, but is it strictly the best or the most accurate way to do it? Or do you have a clever tip?


Lauren asked her readers how they notch their fabric recently and there was a lot of interesting feedback – quite a few people actually do cut little triangles outside their seam allowance rather than snip notches into it. I have always snipped into my seam allowance, but a few recent projects where the fabric frayed easily or where I wanted to finish the seams nicely (sans overlocker/serger) highlighted that occasionally it’s not the best solution (those little notches really do interfere with Tasia’s lovely instructions on turning and stitching, especially on a short seam like a shoulder seam!). A good tip I found in Lauren’s comments was to mark the notches in with a pen instead so I might try that.

I have even more questions for you!

  • Do you interface your pieces before or after you transfer your markings? I always end up doing it after because I already have my pattern piece pinned to the fashion fabric and it makes sense. But I live in fear that somehow I will lose my markings by adding the interfacing and I HATE living in fear.
  • Do you bother transferring markings such as waist lines? Anything else you always make a point of marking that I haven’t mentioned?
  • What do you use to mark your fabric? I’ve been through chalk (easily broken and not exact enough), pencils (terrible to sharpen and often don’t show up enough on fabric) and carbon paper with a tracing wheel which in theory should transfer pin pricks of colour to your fabric but which in reality never does. At the moment I’m using a chalk wheel which seems to be working ok.

Right – no more questions from me – I have a Violet to finish. You can choose to answer all, some or none of these questions accordingly or you can roundly abuse me for asking silly questions  – no offence will be taken. Onwards!