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What is Tailor's Chalk?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Tailor's chalk is a type of chalk that is designed to make temporary markings on cloth. Using this chalk, a tailor can make markings where fabric needs to be cut or garments need to be altered, and the chalk can also be used to mark out cutting, hemming, and darting lines on garments as they are constructed. Once the markings are no longer useful, they can be easily brushed off or washed out, leaving no residue behind.

The advantage to this type of chalk is that it is fast and easy to use, and it leaves no trace behind. This can be very useful when doing something like fitting a suit, as it can be used to make markings as an alternative to forcing someone to stand still while the fabric is pinned. Tailor's chalk can also be used to make notations on fabric to ensure that it is handled and sewn properly as a garment is assembled.

This chalk is available in several different formats: some companies make it in the form of a powder with an applicator, while others make it in pencil form. Classically, it is simply sold in the form of a thin wedge, with people using the edge to apply the chalk to fabric. Many brands feel slightly waxy to the touch, although a waxy residue will not be left after the chalk is brushed off.

Shoppers may also see tailor's chalk referred to as “sewing chalk.” In addition to coming in classic white, multicolored chalk can be useful for making coded markings. It also sometimes shows up better than white chalk against certain fabrics. Although called "chalk," this product is usually made from talc.

The same properties which make tailor's chalk useful can also be problematic. Because the markings are so easily removed, it is possible to accidentally brush them off when fabric and garments are handled, obscuring or obliterating the markings and requiring a new session to correct the error. As a result, tailors try to be careful when handling marked fabrics, and once fabric has been marked, it is usually sewn, altered, or cut as soon as possible.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon305032 — On Nov 24, 2012

@popcorn: Using an iron is how you get tailor's chalk off of a garment.

By popcorn — On May 31, 2011

If you decide to use tailor's chalk on fabric, whatever you do, make sure you don't iron it.

I never thought about this and ironed a seam down flat, not realizing I also had some tailor's chalk still on the shirt I was working on.

Ironing onto tailor's chalk will set the color and it will become nearly impossible to get off. I tried bleach, stain remover, and just about everything else.

The tailor's chalk does have certain dyes in it to get the color it has. I recommend being careful with it and not forgetting to remove it all before doing any other steps on your project.

By manykitties2 — On May 29, 2011

If you are into crafting and enjoy making fabric pieces having some tailor's chalk can be a great addition to your supplies.

This chalk is available at any fabric store and is available for about five dollars for one. Tailor's chalk also comes in different colors, so if you want to mark off certain areas for different styles of stitching you can easily color-code your work.

I like the tailor's chalk that comes in the shape of a guitar pick because I find it easier when I have multiple sides to work with. It is also best if you need to trace a pattern or work on something already in progress.

There are lots of different brands to choose one, so try a couple and see which one you like best.

By anon132946 — On Dec 08, 2010

how to make tailor chalk at home?

By anon64404 — On Feb 07, 2010

thanks for the information. it was very useful.

By anon37987 — On Jul 23, 2009

thanks for the information :)

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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