Like or loathe it: tailors chalk

I would say that most home sew-ers don’t use much tailors chalk, because generally we use paper patterns that are pinned to the fabric, not cardboard patterns that need tracing around.

I would also say that most home sew-ers don’t like using tailors chalk, mainly because it’s hard to get a fine line.  There are occasions where you need to draw straight onto the fabric, but given a choice the preference is for a chalk wheel with powder, or pencil.

Almost every small factory or studio I’ve worked in uses tailors chalk.  As a factory junior at one of my very first jobs, I remember my heart sinking when I discovered I had to use tailors chalk.  However, someone showed me how to best use it and I got used to it.


sharpening tailors chalk

The key to using tailors chalk it to keep it sharp, so you get a fine, accurate line.  Stand over the bin with your paper scissors and use one of the blades to scrape a fine edge on both sides of the chalk.  It sort of feels like you’re wasting it by shaving it off into the bin, but it’s a necessary part of using it.  You’ll probably need to do this each time you mark out a garment.


Even with regular sharpening, a square piece of chalk can last a long time, provided you don’t drop it  and break it.  One piece will mark out up to 100 garments.

The favoured colours are yellow and white, because they show up on almost any fabric.  Use red or blue with caution; they can be impossible to remove from some fabrics so use them only when nothing else will work…..or else use biro or texta and live dangerously.  It’s only fabric!





  1. Kate on March 21, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    I am really enjoying reading your blog, Liz, you write in a way that is informative but also fun and a pleasure to read 🙂 Love, Kate

    • lizhaywood on March 22, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Hi Kate,
      Thanks for your kind comment; I’m glad you enjoy reading it.
      Love Liz

  2. Erika on April 24, 2022 at 4:45 am

    I adore tailor’s chalk! I’ve been sewing for close to 45 years, but only discovered real tailor’s chalk when I worked in an alterations shop 15 years ago. When I left, the owner gave me one, precious piece to take with me. Later I found a supplier with no crazy minimum order and bought a box of 48 in white.

    I hate working with home-sewing chalk – it brushes off before I’m done using the lines! But I do use pencil on light-colored fabrics.

    Thanks for posting all your wonderful knowledge and stories! I’m slowly digging through your archives and enjoying every page!

    • lizhaywood on April 24, 2022 at 8:43 am

      I agree – real tailor’s chalk is the thing to use.
      I bought a “lifetime supply” from a supplier. A dressmaker friend and I split the order – we didn’t think we’d individually live long enough to use up a minimum order!
      Thanks for reading my blog. I’ve done 296 posts now so there’s a lot of reading material to get through 🙂

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