How to Transfer Pattern Markings

creating pattern markings
Carina Knig / EyeEm / Getty Images
Project Overview
  • Total Time: 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner

Sewing patterns come with many markings that each give a specific direction for the project. The markings can tell you how to place your fabric, where to stitch, where to cut, and more. And often you'll want to transfer these markings to your fabric for accurate results when you sew. Transferring pattern markings is a fairly quick and easy process, depending on how large your project is. But don't rush it, as this sets the necessary groundwork for a successful sewing project.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Pattern
  • Pins
  • Marking tools
  • Ruler


  • Fabric


  1. Identify the Pattern Markings

    First, you need to know what the different markings can mean. Most sewing patterns will have a symbol key that you should check every time you start a project to ensure the symbols are what you're used to. Not all pattern makers use the same symbols.

    Here are some common markings that you might have to identify and transfer:

    • Dots: Some dots can indicate starting and stopping points for stitching. They also often show where you should match up certain parts of a garment or other item, such as darts, seam intersections, pockets, and collars.
    • Lines: The lines on a pattern can mean myriad things, including ways to adjust the measurements of the item, guides to keep the fabric on the proper grain line, and spots to fold and cut the fabric. Broken lines often indicate where stitching should be. 
    • Button markings: If your project involves buttons, there will be some sort of pattern markings for the buttonholes and button placements. Marking them will ensure that they are placed evenly on the item.

    When considering which markings to transfer to your fabric, focus on the ones that line up other pieces of the fabric; ones that create folds, tucks, or pleats; and ones that show the placement for add-ons, such as buttons.

    Pattern markings for a transfer
    Debbie Colgrove
  2. Gather Your Fabric Marking Tools

    There are many types of fabric marking tools available. The tool you use will be a matter of preference in most cases.

    The most common tools are:

    • Tailor's chalk
    • Marking pencil
    • Dressmaker's carbon (available in non-wax, wax, and vanishing forms)
    • Tracing wheels (smooth or spiked)

    Keep in mind the markings from some of these tools vanish readily. So if you tend to pause your sewing projects and come back to them weeks later, you might have to remake your markings.

    Pattern marking tools
    Larry Washburn / Getty Images
  3. Transfer the Markings

    Always test your marking tool on a fabric scrap before using it on your project fabric. Make sure it doesn't show through to the right side of the fabric and that the markings are removable. Also, aim to choose a marking tool color that's close to your fabric color (but still visible enough for you to see).

    To transfer the pattern markings, leave the pattern pinned to the fabric. Fold the carbon paper in half, so it's long enough to mark the intended area. Place the marking side of the paper on the wrong side of the fabric. (If the wrong sides of the fabric are inside, slide the transfer paper inside the fabric. If the wrong sides of the fabric are outside, place the fabric inside the transfer paper.)

    For transferring lines, it's helpful to run a tracing wheel along the edge of a ruler. For dots, you can make an X through the center of each dot.

    Transferring markings with a tracing wheel
    Debbie Colgrove