Quilt Marking Tools ~ An Introduction

Beginning Machine Quilting 101 continues...

by Julie Baird

This post contains affiliate links for which I receive compensation.

Quilt marking tools come in a wide variety. Thank goodness!

Every quilting project has it's own unique steps.

Some quilts need no marking. Some are marked after the quilt is layered in a sandwich. While others call out for extra special quilting that is planned and marked before basting the quilt.

No one single tool for quilt marking works for every situation. We'll discuss the following ones:

Blue Washout Marker

Love it...hate it...there seems to be no in-between with this quilt marking tool.

This water soluble marking pen comes with either a fine or regular tip.

It is easy to see on many fabrics and washes out with cool water.

You use a light box to transfer the design to the quilt top, so mark the design BEFORE you baste your quilt.

Since the marks need to be washed out, test for bleeding fabric before using this marker.

How to Use

You will need a light box or light source (i.e. sliding glass door) to mark the design onto your quilt top.

  • Lay the paper quilt design on top of your light box and tape it down so that it doesn't shift.
  • Turn on the light box.
  • Lay your quilt top over the design, pinning or taping in place, again so that nothing shifts.
  • Trace the quilting lines with the blue washout marker.
  • Turn off the light box light to check that all lines are traced and connected.
  • Remove the tape and sandwich your quilt.

Light Box Hint - If you are having trouble seeing the design through your fabric, turn off your overhead light, leaving the shades/curtains open in the room.

What to Watch Out For

There are horror stories about the blue washout marker that just won't go away. We have used it for almost all the quilts in the Generations Quilt Patterns line and have had no marks re-appear in the past eleven years.

Heat and not completely removing the ink are the culprits when the marks re-appear.

Keep your marked quilt away from any heat source. That means no ironing once it's marked. Don't leave it in a hot car. Don't use hot/warm water to remove the marks. Heat sets the ink.

Storing Your Markers

This type of marker seems to go dry quickly. We suggest using several during the marking process, rotating markers as needed. When not in use, store them in a Ziplock bag laying horizontal to 'recharge'.

Washing Instructions

Please read the specific instructions on the blue washout marker you've purchased.

In general, the marks are washed out with cool water. Just spritzing them with water will make the blue in the marks disappear, but all you've really done is moved the chemicals to the batting. They are still in your quilt, waiting to reappear with time and heat.

Wash your quilt in cool water, no soap or detergent to completely remove the markers.

Again, read and follow the instructions that come with your specific pen.

Golden Threads Quilting Paper

This is a golden-colored tracing paper that comes on 12, 18 or 24 inches wide rolls. Handy as-is for long border designs, or cut to size for blocks.

To transfer the quilting design to the paper:

  • Trace the design onto a sheet with either a permanent or water soluble marking pen. Use the lightest color pen you can so no ink transfers to your needle thread as you stitch.
  • To quickly make multiple copies of the same design, layered your traced copy with several additional sheets; pin together.
  • Stitch through all layers with a large, un-threaded sewing machine needle.
  • The paper tracing is either pinned or adhered (with a temporary spray adhesive) in place. (I like Clover's Flower Head pins for this because they lay flat.)
  • Thread your sewing machine and stitch the design.
  • Tear away the paper.

Click here to learn more about quilting paper and its pros and cons.

Click here to purchase this paper from Amazon.

Chalk Markers

There is a whole other group of quilt marking tools that are made with chalk.

The problem with chalk has been it wears off, making it necessary to mark AFTER the quilt is basted. This is a problem for more intricate quilting designs.

But manufacturers listen. New formulations are available with more staying power.

The benefit to chalk markings is that they tend to be easier to remove. Usually the manipulations during quilting are enough to brush off most of the chalk.

To learn more about chalk-based marking tools go to Chalk Pencils. Then return here to continue on in this "Beginning Quilting 101" tutorial.

There are many more quilt marking tools on the market. Try them out, share with a friend. See what works best for you!

To see what my personal favorites are, click here.

Table of Contents
for Beginning Machine Quilting 101


Beginning Quilting 101: Quilting Instructions for the Beginner

Preparing to Quilt

The Quilt Sandwich

And finally, the Quilting!

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  5. Quilt Marking Tools

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