Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sewing Basics # 1 - Tailor Tacks Tutorial

I was sorting through some old photos I did for my Garment Construction course last year and thought I'd share. There'll be a few of these sorts of posts appearing over the next few weeks covering different hemming techniques (Sarah!), dart construction, hand stitches etc. Basically all the stuff I was taught as a beginner last year. I hope they'll be of use to someone...

Tailor Tacking is a technique used by dressmakers to transfer pattern markings from the tissue pattern, onto the fabric. The idea is to leave a temporary thread marker in place to mark construction details like darts, bust points, zip placements etc. Once the dressmaker has no further need for them, (ie they have constructed that part of the garment) they are simply pulled out and discarded.

To sew a tailor tack, pass the needle and thread (double thread) twice through the point you want to mark. Leave about a half inch long tail. Instead of pulling the stitch tight, leave it as a long loop (again,about a half inch), then cut the main length of thread to about a half inch. You'll end up with a loop in the middle, and a tail either side as in the picture below. That is a tailor tack. Pretty simple huh?
Next cut the long loop right through the centre like this.....
They should end up looking like this...
Remove any pins and gently lift the tissue pattern off the fabric leaving the tailor tacks behind. Like so...
You should be left with your layers of fabric and tailor tacks like this...
Or this one, marking a skirt pleat...
Start to carefully seperate your layers of fabric, making sure you don't pull the top layer completely off the tailor tack. You're only revealing the thread between the two layers of fabric. Like this...
Then snip the thread inbetween the layers of fabric, leaving about half the thread in each layer. Et voila! Pattern markings transferred to both layers of fabric using a temporary thread marker. A tailors tack!

A note of caution: I had some of these fall out because I left them too short. Completely lost where my dart was meant to finish. But these are brilliant if you don't want to mark your fabric with chalk or other markers, as this doesn't always come out (as I also learnt from bitter experience on my very first project!)


  1. Interesting technique! I'll have to try it out.

  2. For a complete sewing novice like me, this is INCREDIBLE advice to receive! Thank-you so much for sharing your knowledge! (Bookmarking!)

  3. This is great! Thanks for sharing.

  4. I just found your blog, and this excellent post. I've always been a bit perplexed about tailor tacks, so this post has been so helpful to me! Thanks :)

  5. I'm glad it's been useful to someone!! I know I still hear sewing related jargon and can find it a bit off putting, assuming it must be complicated! when in reality, it's very straightforward

  6. Hehehe, a name check, I'm chuffed! Thank you so much for posts like these, I consider you my new tutor... Still not confident enough to attack that shirt though! Well... its super fine fabric and kinda flouncy, not nice soft denim...

  7. Oh thank you! I was trying to figure out a direction on a sewing pattern to mark with needle & thread and had no idea this was a possibility! I think this is going to be my new favourite sewing "trick".

    1. I was taught to do these tailor's tacks in sewing classes at school, in the early 1960's!

  8. Wow starting from the basic,..,.
    Really a great informative content and quite a good post..

  9. Hi, love your blog and these instruction are really well illustrated. Just wanted to tell about the method I have learned from vintage patterns. The way to do tacks so they don't fall out is to NOT snip the loop - you should snip the pattern instead so you can lift it off easily. Then when you separate the pieces, the threads can't fall out so easily as they are 'stitched' at both sides. You still snip between the layers of fabric. Tacks are made this way because older patterns have holes instead of printed dots, so you just made the tacks in the hole.
    Hope that's helpful!

  10. Thank you so much for that.
    You have explained that better than the Readers Digest Manual of Sewing.
    I am a very mature male novice with sewing and this technique is just so so useful.
    I am making a victorian shirt and I like to do things the OLD way!!
    I also use an old Singer 201K with HAND CRANK as it gives me precise control and this sewing lark started as a result of my passion for recycling old Singer machines for a hobby and pasttime and what I earn doing it affords me fabric to make stuff. Happy days.
    Sorry for the life history.
    Keep them coming please as your tips are valuable information.


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