Transferring pattern markings – three options but no clear winner

Did you watch the first series of the Great British Sewing Bee? I lapped it up – it’s one of the things that inspired me to get on and start writing this blog. One of my clearest memories of the show is watching Ann, the eventual winner, calmly doing tailor’s tacks during a typically tight-for-time challenge.

Why use tailor’s tacks?

A tailor’s tack is just one way to transfer markings from a pattern to your fabric. In its favour it’s accurate (since you mark the fabric before you remove the pattern piece), and done thoroughly it’s quite hard to dislodge. On the down side, if you then stitch that marking into a seam you might struggle to remove your brightly coloured marking thread.

Alternatives to tailor’s tacks

You can use a tracing wheel and special coloured carbon paper. Again, it’s accurate, because you don’t have to remove the pattern piece to get the carbon paper in the right spot, and it’s quick. If you use a serrated wheel, you will damage the paper pattern slightly. But the biggest disadvantage for me is that I just can’t get it to work on most of the medium and heavier weight clothing fabrics I use. Tartan cotton flannel, shocking pink boiled wool, brown linen – none of these fabrics have accepted a carbon paper marking. I love the idea of this method, but I’m starting to suspect I’m doing something wrong…

Or you can grapple with pins and chalk/pens, poking a pin through the marking on the pattern and then lifting up the pattern to mark the fabric at the right spot. Not that easy unless you have three hands, especially not if the marking is in the middle of a large pattern piece. I’ll admit I’ve done it sometimes, but I think it’s prone to distortion because you can’t get all the way around the pin this way.

What’s your favourite method? Do you even transfer all the markings, or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your only partially-marked pants?

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