Caught in the Wild: Marking Guides

cute_collarSheesh, can you believe I forgot to hit publish? I wrote this a week ago… I was wondering why it didn’t get any comments.

And today for your viewing pleasure, a selection of marking guides caught in the wild. So what are marking guides you ask? Well, since you may not have seen the previous entries discussing it, nor perhaps read pages 150-153 in my book which explains how to make them, marking guides are pretty much what they sound like. These are templates made of oak tag pattern paper or even plastic, that are used to mark the placement of artwork or details like pockets and such, on your products. Typically one marks the cut pieces after fusing but before sewing. Marking guides are reserved for marking when you can’t use a drill during the cutting process (most placement marks are drilled).

I found these guides I’ll show you on one of my congested pattern racks. Between you and me I really don’t like looking through the the racks because everything is wedged in so tightly but I really needed a long lost pattern I’d used to make a blanket coat (because I want to make another) and going through the pattern racks, found these marking guides that I’d saved to show you someday. And that day is today. Aren’t you giddy with glee? Yeah. Me too. Anyway, these (and some kindred) are now safely stored in my recycling bin in readiness for garbage day pick up tomorrow but they’re saved for posterity in photos.

I should mention that I didn’t make any of these. Perish the thought. I bought this lot of patterns at auction not because I wanted these really crappy ones but some of my patterns from a previous employer were mixed in with them and I had to take them all. The marking guides and the patterns that went with them aren’t particularly good but they are a fine example of heavily used templates.

You can click on any of the images and pull up a larger file version.  If you have any questions about them, I’ll number them to facilitate discussion.

1. This first one is a guide for placing nail heads or studs on a mandarin (aka “scout”) collar.  I didn’t see a photo of the style or an actual garment so I don’t really know what the drills represent.



center_front_marking_guide 2. The second one shows placement of detail along a jacket center front. It is likely that leather star shapes were sewn down with some beads trailing in between. I’m not sure I should tell you that that these guides are for leather patterns because you make think it won’t apply to you when it could.



much_used_marking_guide3. The third one is a placement guide for hairpipe placement along the center front of a jacket (that link takes you to a similar jacket I made). Native Americans made breast plates made of bone and it became fashionable for a time, to sew these on to coat fronts and backs. Still is around here.

4. The fourth sample (below) is a guide for marking nail head placement along the edges of a shawl collar. Judging from how this one was made, the nail heads were applied before the garment was sewn. That can be a trick unto itself depending on the height of the studs. Definitely not my favorite thing to do -sewing after nail heads are applied.

5. The fifth sample (right) is a guide for patch pocket placement. In the normal course of affairs, fabric is drilled in four corners to indicate pocket placement but that isn’t always possible. It wasn’t in this one because it is leather. Leather is easily drilled but it is an extra step if the drill wasn’t incorporated into the die and this company didn’t use dies at all. Their “patterns” were cut out of melamine hardboard with a band saw. The patterns were laid on the leather and a knife drawn all around the edges. It’s a similar concept of cutting with a rotary cutter.

6. The sixth sample below is a guide to mark stitching for an inset on a top sleeve. An inset is a separate layer of leather underneath that is cut away to be exposed, and mostly likely, in another color. This is the same concept known as “reverse applique” in home sewing except the edges aren’t finished with an applique stitch.

stamping_powder 7. This item is a tub of stamping powder which is what we use with the guides. It is rather pricey and sold in larger quantities than a small operation would like but it is what it is. Larger plants actually have stamping machines so they need more.

The way the stamping machine works (it looks like an oversized scanner with a flip up lid) is after the machine is loaded with powder, you put the guide into the top of the machine. Then you lay the fabric piece on top of that. Then you close the lid and hit the button. stamping_powder_marking_guideThe machine blows the powder up from the bottom of the machine to hit the guide, powder seeping through the little holes to mark the piece. It only takes a second; it takes longer to remove the fabric and lay another piece in there. But that was probably more than you wanted to know. Oh one last thing -make sure you do any fusing before you mark because most of these powders are designed to disappear with steam.

8. At right is a photo of two marking guides that were used with the stamping powder I described in #7. The one on the far right was used to mark hairpipe placement. I’m guessing the one near right was for beading.

welt_pocket_marking_guide9. And our last guide is another pocket guide, this one for welt pockets. However, this isn’t how you make a welt pocket guide. The lady who “made” this particular “pattern” was someone savvy enough to figure out early on, to buy some oaktag pattern paper and set up shop locally as a “patternmaker”. I know for a fact that she bought store patterns and put them on oaktag. She briefly had a job at a plant I worked at (before I started there) and the workers there still talked about how she got an assignment, left at lunch to go to the fabric store, brought back a store pattern and cut it out for the day’s assignment.  It was years later and they still talked about it, everyone was aghast while the “patternmaker” thought nothing of it.

I just asked Martha about it (she works here now but used to be my supervisor at the plant) and she says they were going to let her go at the end of the first day but kept her on for 3 because they couldn’t believe it and just had to see what she’d do next.

But I digress. A welt pocket guide only has two holes, on at each end of the pocket. If the area is fused, you put a little red box around it. If it is a contrast welt,  you draw a line between the holes in green or purple ink but you definitely don’t cut a line from end to end like the guide above shows.

Get New Posts by Email


  1. Dia in MA says:

    Slightly different from the markers I used years ago, but I was marking woven fabrics and the needs are different. No sewn on decorations at that time, only top stitching. Safari jackets were the style that year. They required 4 parallel pockets. The pocket markers I used had the corner squares (or curves shaped to the pocket) cut out for me to mark placement. I used white or yellow china markers, pencils, or tailors chalk, depending on the texture and/or color of the fabric. I was taught to mark just enough to be visible for production but it had to come off or be difficult to spot. Light china marker or tailors chalk vanished during pressing. Pencils were normally white or yellow. Graphite pencils were rarely used and only on colored woolens.

    Your stamping powder sounds similar to what the antique needlework books called “pounce powder”. Although I believe they used any powder available.

Leave a Reply

You have to agree to the comment policy.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.