A Beginner’s Guide to Tailors Chalk: What Quilters and Home Sewers Need to Know


Tailors chalk is a tool used by patternmakers, dressmakers, and home sewers to measure and mark patterns onto fabric. Quilters also use chalk to make guidelines to create perfectly straight – or perfectly curved – lines.

Tailors chalk is typically made of fine clay mixed with water, and its properties allow it to be used to mark straight and curved lines on fabric. You can also find chalks made with other materials, like wax. Some are easily removable, while others are not.

Marking tools, like chalk, are an invaluable tool for quilters and home sewers in general. They make it easier to plan and execute projects, and they help make your results look more professional.

If you’re new to the world of tailors chalk, it’s important to understand when to use it, the types of chalk available, how to use it and how to remove it.

When Should You Use Tailors Chalk?

Tailors chalk is used to mark the seam allowances of patterns onto fabric or guidelines when quilting.

It’s also used to mark darts and pleats on the fabric. You can use chalk to mark buttonholes, borders and virtually anything else that’s part of your design.

Types of Tailors Chalk

The best tailors chalk for you will depend on your project. There are a few types to choose from, and some are better suited for certain projects than others.

Clay-Based Chalk

One of the most common types of tailors chalk is clay-based. These come in square and triangular shapes.

Wax-Based Chalk

As its name suggests, wax-based tailors chalk is made with wax. Most wax-based chalks come in a square shape, but you can also find them in pencil form.

Quilters Chalk Line Marker

A quilters chalk line marker makes it easy to mark your quilting projects. This special tool has a line of string rolled up inside a dispenser unit. The dispenser is filled with white powder tailors chalk, which coats the string.

To use it, just pull the string from the tip (like how you would with a tape measure) for your desired length. Pinch the string and pull upward to disperse the chalk and create a straight line.

Water Soluble

Water soluble tailors chalk is a type of tailors chalk that can be removed by simply wiping it off with a damp cloth. It’s often used by tailors to mark fine lines onto silk.

Erasable Chalk

Erasable tailors chalk can easily be erased. It’s ideal for marking darts and pleats on fabric because it can be erased and marked again.

How to Use Tailors Chalk for Sewing

Before using tailors chalk, it’s important to have a smooth surface on the fabric. This can be done by steaming the fabric or ironing it.

To use the chalk, place the tip of the chalk at the end of the line that you want to draw. Hold the chalk at a 90-degree angle to the fabric, and pull the chalk toward you in a smooth, even motion.

Be sure to hold the chalk perpendicular to the fabric when marking curved lines. If the chalk is held at an angle, it will make marks on the fabric with a slanted edge.

Other Tips for Using Tailors Chalk

  • Always follow directions. It’s tempting to just toss out the packaging before you start using the chalk, but check the directions first. Some types of chalk have specific instructions that need to be followed.
  • Test first. Always do a quick test on every single piece of fabric you’re going to use the chalk on.
  • Tailors chalk should be stored in a cool, dry place. It will become hard and unusable if it’s left in the sun.
  • Apply gentle pressure. There’s no need to press hard. Doing so could make it difficult or virtually impossible to remove the chalk.

How to Remove Tailors Chalk

Removing tailors chalk can be simple and quick or tedious and frustrating. It all depends on the type of chalk you’re using.

  • For a quilters chalk line marker, just brush the chalk off or use an iron to steam it off.
  • For water soluble chalk, just use a clean, damp cloth to remove your lines.
  • For erasable chalk, just dip the fabric in water.

Wet Wipes

One simple and quick way to remove tailors chalk is to use wet wipes. Use gentle pressure to wipe the marks away. Wet wipes won’t leave stains or smudge the chalk, so you can use it on virtually any type of fabric, including satin.

For cotton or quilting fabric, wet wipes remove chalk with just one quick wipe.


For wax-based chalks, an iron can help remove visible marks.

  • Set your iron to low heat. Allow it to heat up first.
  • Place your fabric on an ironing board with the chalk marks facing upward.
  • Place a layer of unprinted brown paper on top of the chalk stain.
  • Press with the iron for 8-10 seconds. Do not move the iron – just allow it to sit.
  • Check the paper to see if the stain has lifted.

Once the chalk has been removed, use a fabric brush to smooth things out and remove any remaining residue.


In the book Mastering Quilt Marking, author Pepper Cory recommends using white vinegar to remove chalk marks.

Simply apply plain white distilled vinegar to a clean cloth, and gently rub the chalk marks. Use the vinegar sparingly. You don’t want to saturate your quilt with vinegar.

Once you’ve removed the chalk lines, allow the quilt to dry and wash it in cold water.

Magic Eraser

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers truly are magic erasers. If you already have them on hand, try using them to remove your tailors chalk. Be gentle – don’t apply too much pressure.

Test the eraser on an inconspicuous area of the fabric first just to make sure that it’s safe to use. The last thing you want is to ruin a beautiful piece of fabric.

Final Word

Tailors chalk can be found in most fabric stores and sewing supply shops. It’s very inexpensive, and will last for years if stored properly. Depending on the type you choose, it may be very easy – or a little more difficult – to remove. Choose a type that suits your project and material.

Leave a Comment