Ten Ways to Mark a Quilt Top for Quilting

10 Ways to Mark a Quilt from fabricbias.com

I’ll admit it. I’m old school. I like marking quilting designs as opposed to just winging it and making it up as I go along, and my quilting quality is much higher when I have a line to follow. And to be honest, I mark designs for machine quilting and not hand quilting, so I guess I’m only sorta old school! 😉

Over the years, I’ve tried sooooo many different methods for marking quilts; some are easy and work well, some are only so-so but still good to have in mind just in case the easier methods don’t work for some reason. Here are ten different methods and tools to transfer quilting designs to your quilt top:

    1. Stitching through paper or labels: How about not marking the quilt at all but still having a visible line as a guide? You can draw or print designs on paper, tissue paper or even self-adhesive labels and quilt right through it.
    2. Quilt stencils: There are hundreds of quilt stencils on the market, and of course you can also make your own. Use a double-bladed craft knife with translucent stencil plastic and cut out a traced design. Use freezer paper and an unthreaded sewing machine for an even quicker custom stencil solution.

Quilt Stencil

    1. Light box: You can print designs any size from your computer, copy (and enlarge or reduce) from quilting books and magazines, or draw your own designs directly on paper, and then use a light box to trace the designs onto the quilt top. Even if your quilt top is very dark colored or even black, you can use a light box to trace designs.

Quilting Design to trace

    1. Marking aids: Use specialty rulers for dressmaking, drafting or paper crafting, or old CDs or special templates to mark designs directly on your quilt.

Marking with a circle template

    1. Painter’s tape: Use painter’s tape to outline patchwork pieces, or mark straight lines or grids.
    2. Hera marker: A hera marker is one of my favorite ways to mark a quilt, with no worries about whether the marks will be easily removed.
    3. Chalk pouncer: Use a pouncer filled with fine chalk (affiliate link) with stencils to quickly mark a design that you intend to quilt right away. Just swipe the pouncer over the stencil, or lightly “pounce” it on top of the stencil and the chalk will fall through the openings in the stencil to mark the design. Just brush the chalk away after quilting!
    4. Chalk markers: There are many types of chalk markers on the market. Chalk markers come in many colors, and some are water soluble while others will brush away. For easiest removal, keep the pencil sharp and make the marks just dark enough to able to see the stencil to quilt.
    5. That blue washout marker: My very first “go-to” marker is the blue washout marker. Seriously. I know it sometimes gets a bad rap, but when used correctly, it rocks!

Blue Washout Marker

  1. White marking pen: Nothing but love, love, LOVE for the Clover White Marking Pen for dark–or even not so dark–fabrics. I try this next if the blue washout marker won’t work out.

With any marking method or tool, follow the manufacturer’s instructions and test, test, test! Always test on scrap fabric from your project to be sure that the marks can be removed easily after quilting.

How do you mark your quilts for quilting?

4 thoughts on “Ten Ways to Mark a Quilt Top for Quilting

  1. This is a great list! The Clover white pen is new to me, and I had forgotten about using a light box. Good reminder. For light to medium fabrics I usually use fine point Crayola Washable Markers. For darks, I use Clover’s mechanical ceramic lead pencil. It gives a nice, fine, erasable line, and leads come in different colors.


    1. Thanks Valerie!

      I’ve heard about using those Crayola markers, but I’ve always been a bit afraid of them. For the mechanical pencil, do you actually have to erase it, or will it wash out?


  2. Dear Nadine, Thank you, than you thank you. Now I have that out of the way I just learnt I can use my light box on dark fabrics. I didn’t think I could do that but then again I didn’t try either. I have a large complicated appliques piece to do & it is dark fabric on dark fabric & honestly didn’t think I could see through each layer for correct placement. Thank you again.


    1. Hi Peta! You’re welcome, you’re welcome, you’re welcome! 😀

      I don’t think I’ve had to resort to the light box technique with a dark stencil for applique yet, though that’s undoubtedly because applique isn’t my favorite thing. 😉 The one time I can remember doing some applique on dark fabric was for the Accessorize Me–with Inchies quilt. I was lucky because I could lay out the applique motifs on a Teflon sheet with the pattern underneath and then pre-fuse them together before placing on the dark brown background fabrics for the final fuse.

      This lightbox tracing technique would definitely work equally well for applique as it does for quilting though! What project are you making?


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