Marking Tools For Quilts

Needles and thread of some sort have been around from practically  the beginning of time and women have been making clothing and bedding for nearly as long. Over time the process for making warm bed coverings has improved greatly but the basic process has been the same. Two fabric layers and something in the middle to make it warm and you have a quilt. To keep those layers from falling apart stitches had to be applied to “sandwich” the layers and keep them together.

Tying quilts was a quick and often used method of keeping quilts together. “Quilting” became popular as women had more time and the designs they used were creative and functional. The history of the quilting designs is a subject worth researching. The names told a lot about the women and their world … the Baptist Fan, Feathers, Meandering, Tendril, Cables, Leaf Designs, Flower Designs … things common in their everyday life were used as patterns to mark and quilt their work.

It is stated in writings that in the 180’s rural women began quilting at age 2-3. Their first quilts were 9-patch designs using the scraps of household fabrics. It is reported that 12 tops, average, would be made prior to their marriage.

When the young woman became engaged the family and friends would get together for “quilting bees” to quilt the tops for the new bride-to-be.

Example of pieced and applique quilt

Prior to 1920 few appliqué quilts were made due to the cost of thread and fabric. Pioneer women made utilitarian quilts while women in cities who could afford to purchase the fabric and thread began to make appliqué tops.

At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s quilts started showing up at state fairs. The SunBonnet Sue and Crazy quilts came into their own during this time.

Tied scrap quilt, 1920s

The 1920’s reflected the economic times with embroidery work (which we are seeing more and more of in the market) were popular.

The Double Wedding Ring design showed up in the 1800s and was the perfect top for using up the quilter’s scraps.

The following quotes are from various quilt history books.

“The love of quilts and quilting swept the country. One fair advertised 161 entries of the Wedding Ring design alone.”  The Missouri Ruralist, Feb 1931

Wedding quilt

“It’s an ill depression that blows no good… without money for costly diversions, the women have turned to a renewal of quilt making. Many of the household magazines and not a few of the daily papers have quilts and pattern departments and are offering every inducement for the continuation of this most interesting of home-crafts arts.”
— Carrie Hall, quilter

Feed and flour sacks were popular for quilting and the manufacturers quickly realized the

Feed sack quilt

women were reusing the sacks and started printing them. Women would trade sacks to have enough for a garment. This quilt is made with that material. The sacks were originally made of coarse material soaked in lye to soften it.

In the 1940s rationing came about with World War II and bedding was mass produced for the soldiers and consequently purchased for the home as women had little time to make their bedding because they were working in the factories while the men were at war.

Today quilters have an abundance of quilt marking devices., including Clover’s wide range of marking pens and pencils. The question is, “Which works best for your particular project?”

Pen Style Chaco Liners


This little gadget is just plain fun to use and is very effective. It comes in four colors: white, pink, blue, and yellow. Refills are available for each color.

* Mark your quilt top AFTER it is basted. This chalk formulation still rubs off as you pin and baste.

* Use with a ruler or stencil to mark along the line you want.

* The chalk wears off during quilting.

Mechanical Pencils


These come in three colors: silver, yellow and pink. Refills available

* Before using, write and erase on edge of fabric.

* Ironing and dry cleaning before removing marks make them permanent.

* Markings are erasable with an eraser.

Water Soluble Pencils


The water soluble pencil comes in three colors: white, pnk and blue.

* Needs to be sharpened.

* Best suited for precise marking on fabric.

* The water soluble pencil is easily wiped off with water.


Water Soluble Marker, Thick Point

Comes in fine tip and thick tip.

* Use water only to remove.

* Do not allow to sit for long periods of times (2 weeks or more) as it may be difficult to totally remove.

* Do not use on fabrics you are unable to wash.

Chaco Pen Pink with Eraser


The Chacopen air eraser comes in one color: pink.

* It is air erasable. Mark small areas at a time

* Marks will fade within 2 to 10 days.

* It comes with a convenient ERASER PEN for immediate erasure of unwanted marks.


Chaco Pen Blue with Eraser

This pen is water erasable, and comes in one color: blue

Eraser Pen


This handy pen is for use with any of Clover’s water-soluble markers.


This amazing little ballpoint style pen is great for marking dark fabrics.

* Ink disappears with use of iron or when washed.

* It takes a few seconds for the white marking to appear.


Quilting Pencils

These pencils come in two colors: silver and yellow.

* Mark lightly so it will erase. No need to be heavy handed with these pencils.

* Marks will not be eraseable once ironed.

* Fine marking line without smudges.


* The abraded particles are large and will not get caught in the fabric weave.

* Do not pull eraser too far out as it will break easier.

Chacopel Pencils, fine-point


I love the value of this assortment. You basically have 4 colors in 3 pencils PLUS a sharpener.

* These pencils make a fine line and when used lightly, the line removes easily.


There are those that do not like to put marks on their quilts and will use a Hera marker to make their quilting lines. While it is not officially a marking pen or pencil I feel it should be included in this tool group. I use mine for so many different projects there is one in my tool kit all the time.


Hera Marker

For appliqué and sewing projects.


Another pencil that falls into our “marking” category:


Iron On Transfer Pencils

Comes in two colors: red and blue

* Copy pattern, place on fabric and iron.

* May be transferred up to 3 times.

* Remember, the design will be in reverse.

* Markings are permanent – embroider over the lines.

Embroidery patterns are very popular right now but unfortunately they aren’t the old iron-on type. You have to trace them onto your fabric, and using the transfer pencils allows you to make this process quick and easy.

If you have any questions regarding any of our marking products please contact me at – .

5 thoughts on “Marking Tools For Quilts

  1. Hi, I bought the water soluble pencils (blue, pink and white) and used the blue one on a couple embroidery projects. The lead kept falling out whenever I sharpened it (I used a tiny handheld pencil sharpener). I wasted almost half the pencil because of having to keep sharpening because of the loose lead. Is this typical of this brand of pencils? Also, it was hard to keep a sharp point. Do you have any suggestions for a product I could use for future projects that would avoid these problems? Thanks!

    • Hi Kim, I have checked with a few people and honestly, I think you just got one that was cranky. Clover does have a pencil sharpener for our marking pencils, that might make a difference. I do apologize for your frustration. I have used the pencils and haven’t had this problem. I will request our readers to send their experiences with the pencils and see if they have some tips . thank you for writing.

  2. Help,
    I used a pencil with a blue lead, yeah I know it’s not real lead, it has the single word China near the end. I’ve used it on a precious quilt, to mark the beginning (center) quilting line. It doesn’t want to come out. Please help.
    Thank you,

    • Are you using the Iron on Transfer Pencil? If so unfortunately these markings are permanent. If you are using our water soluble pencils or Chaco Liners and it is still not coming off, I would suggest using a solution of 5 parts water 2 parts vinegar and air drying.

  3. Dear Fran,
    I used the white water soluble marking pen on a hand dyed wool appliqué quilt. Due to a car accident they ended up sitting on it for a few weeks. Water is not removing them. Any additional ideas? I could really use the help…

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