How to Mark a Quilt for Free Motion Quilting

How to Mark a Quilt for Free Motion Quilting

I LOVE custom quilting quilt tops. Coming up with a quilting plan and seeing it come to life is one of my favorite parts of the process. With that, I often have the need to mark my quilt tops before quilting, so this week I am sharing some of my favorite marking tools with you.

While I have never had issues with any of the tools I shared, ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS do a spot check on the back of the quilt or in a corner before marking your quilt top. I cannot guarantee all of these tools will play nicely with every cut of fabric out there. It’s much less painful to test your marking pens and markers than having to figure out how to remove a mark that doesn’t want to come out.

Crayola School Chalk

This is just basic chalk you can find anywhere. Crayola school chalk is a cheap and easy way to add general guidelines to a quilt. Due to it not being a super fine point, I don’t use chalk for precision marking, but it works great if you are laying out areas to fill or creating an allover design or grid. It also shows up well on almost all colors of fabric and is a go to tool when I’m working with darker fabrics that may hide some of my other marking pens. It won’t work on white or super light fabrics though. You can get different colors of chalk, but I have not tried the colored Crayola chalks yet so make sure you test first if you want to use one of them. You can also get chalk specifically for sewing. Again, I haven’t used them but lots of people like them. The nice thing about those chalks is they usually have a finer point than school chalk. When you are done, you can just rub off the chalk with a scrap piece of fabric or spray it with a little bit of water.

Air Soluble Marker

The brand I use is Dritz Fine Point Disappearing Ink Marker. This is probably my favorite marking tool for quilting as it disappears on it’s own. I don’t have to worry about going back and erasing it later. Keeping that in mind, however, don’t try and mark your whole quilt and go back a couple days later expecting it to still be there. The longest I have ever had marks last is a few hours, and I live in a dry climate. Humidty will make them disappear faster. These markers are perfect for when you are marking a section than immediately quilting it. I like to use them after the quilt is already on the longarm. I’ll mark a section, quilt, then mark another section, etc. I also really like the fine point version (they have a broader point one as well) for the precision I can get. I know with this marker that where I put the marker is exactly where I’m going to want the stitch line.

Water Soluble Marker

The water soluble marker I have tested is Dritz Water Soluble Marker with Blue Ink. I use these markers when I will not be quilting it immediately after I mark. This works great for quilting on a domestic machine where you may want to mark the entire top before you start quilting it. It easily disappears with water but won’t go anywhere until you are ready for it! The package does say to make sure you don’t leave it on the quilt for long periods though. Try not to mark it and put it away for months, wait until you are actually ready to quilt it. Every once in a while, I’ll have a stubborn mark that I have to spray with water a few times to get out, but normally after I’ve washed it, there isn’t anything left. These markers don’t work well on dark colors though.

Heat Erase Pens

These pens are the most expensive of the options and they run out of ink faster than other options, but there also work in circumstances other tools don’t, so I keep them around for that. I like the 5 pack of Dritz Heat Erase Pens. The white pen is one of the best tools I’ve found for marking dark fabrics when precision is important. Unlike the chalk, I can mark the dark fabric and still maintain a fine line. With 5 different colors, there isn’t a fabric I’ve found that at least one of them won’t work on. For these reasons, I always keep a set of these pens on hand. I have heard of others using the frixion pens, but I cannot recommend them as they are not made for fabric and I have heard too many instances where the ink doesn’t come out or leaves ghost marks. I just stick to the Dritz ones that are designed for fabric and have been very pleased with them. We also use the heat erase pens when we need to mark fabric for piecing. We know we are going to be ironing those pieces and the marks will automatically be removed when we do!

If you have any questions on any of these tools, shoot us an email. We’d love to help!

2 Replies to “How to Mark a Quilt for Free Motion Quilting”

  1. Thank you! This is one of the best, most inclusive marking tool reviews I’ve seen. I just discovered your YouTube Channel. Thank you!

    1. You are welcome! I’ve tried lots of different things and am happy to share what I’ve found works best for me.

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