Is There An Alternative To The Hera Marker?

What Is A Hera Marker?

A Hera Marker is a small hand tool for marking quilting lines on a quilt top. The tool leaves a crease on the fabric rather than a line made with the usual pencil, pen or chalk. The crease is invisible when you stitch over it and doesn’t need any washing or fading to remove it. Most quilters are familiar with them, but not all of us have used them.

I was a Hera Marker virgin until quite recently and I owe my conversion to Kaja. This unassuming little tool didn’t look up to much, and quite frankly costs a fortune for a bit of resin (£6+/$7.3+). It’s looks pretty similar to the clay modelling tools I have and you can get a set of 10 of those for about the same price, in plastic or hardwood (you can buy them individually too). It seemed like the Hera Marker was just an overblown piece of marketing intended to rip off the unknowing quilter. Or the quilter that likes a gadget or two.

Jug of red plastic clay modelling tools. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 http://www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Can you see the similarity between one of these clay modelling tools and a Hera Marker?

Keeping It Simple

I like to keep things simple and I’m not overly bothered with all the gadgets available, but marking quilt designs with a pencil was getting a bit annoying. I kept forgetting to do it before I sandwiched up the quilt, which made it less accurate because it drags the fabric. Kaja mentioned she uses a Hera Marker after she’s made the sandwich so I thought it was worth a try. I grit my teeth and went to part with my pennies at a lovely new quilt shop in Truro, where the owner happily let me try the tool before I bought it (now that hasn’t happened before!).

I was pleased with the way the Hera Marker felt in the hand: you hold it like you’d hold a small knife, with your index finger resting along the top to apply pressure.  It has a nice weight, sits very comfortably and runs smoothly along a ruler too. I handed over my pennies and took it home for playtime.

The Hera Marker V The Clay Modelling Tool

I decided to run a test. I wondered if the especially cheap plastic modelling tools I bought for childrens’ workshops would do a similar job. The short answer is yes. Can you spot the difference between the lines I drew? No, of course you can’t: there isn’t one!

Comparing the marks made with a quilter's Hera Marker and a clay modelling tool. Lines drawn with either create the same marks. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 http://www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Spot the difference between the Hera Marker lines on the left and the clay modelling tool lines on the right…

The modelling tool performs just as well, and in this instance cost about 1/6th of the price. The main difference between them is the way the tool feels in the hand. The Hera Marker undoubtedly felt more comfortable, but a better quality modelling tool would feel just as good.

My initial suspicion of ‘overpricing for the quilting market’ seemed justified. I know £6 or £7 isn’t a lot for many people, but it does annoy me when I feel like we’re being hoodwinked and there’s a perfectly good alternative for well under a 1/6 of the price.

How It Performs

All that aside, I now have a Hera Marker so how does it work? I’ve been using it for marking squares on my On The Edge wall quilt:

Marking squares with a Hera Marker on a sandwiched quilt top. Image shows details of the crease lines created by the tool. © Stephanie Boon, 2016 www.dawnchorusstudio.com

Marking squares with a Hera Marker on a sandwiched quilt top. You can see an ‘over run’ in the bottom left corner of the square.

The tool makes clear fine lines that stay crisp in the hoop for a good while. If you draw a line in the wrong place it’s easy enough to ‘rub out’ with your fingernail or a spritz of water. One of the most annoying things for me is the curve of the ‘blade’. When you’re trying to make lines of a specific length you have to draw over that length to take account of the curve. Initially I got around this by marking the beginning and ends of the line with a pencil dot.

Eventually I learnt to rotate the blade forward a bit as I got towards the end of the line I was marking. Then I used the pointed end of the blade to make a ‘full stop’ so that I didn’t need a pencil at all. Even so, I still over run.

The Hera marks are visible enough to see under a plastic quilting rule so you can get a good 90° angle if you’re trying to draw a square or rectangle, for example. It’s very easy to run the Hera Marker along a ruler, whether it’s straight or curved. I don’t think it’s suitable for drawing small free-hand shapes, because it’s not really designed to be held like a pencil (especially with the large curved blade). There is, however, another Hera Marker available (not easy to find locally) marketed as a Hera Appliqué and Sewing Marker. It has a smaller blade and a pointed end for more detailed drawing. Needless to say it’ll cost you another 6 or 7 pounds!

Just as Kaja said, it really is very easy and accurate to mark your quilt after you’ve made your initial quilt sandwich. You need to mark your lines on a hard, level surface for the best results. Make sure you use a piece of card or a cutting mat underneath, especially if you’re as gung-ho as I am. Even when you’re marking through 3 layers you’ll easily make indentations in your table, as I found out!

My Conclusion?

It’s a handy tool to have, especially if you like to mark your quilts after you’ve made the sandwich, but no more handy than a cheap clay modelling tool!

Pros

  • Comfortable
  • Light weight
  • Good, crisp lines
  • Easy to get rid of unwanted lines
  • Nothing to wash out once you’ve finished
  • The marks are visible for a good while

Cons

  • Price
  • Not good for free-hand drawing
  • Curve of blade is too big for some applications
  • Did I mention the price? I’ll say it again: price!

Do you use a Hera Marker too? Share your tips and experiences in the comments – would you recommend one to a newbie? Thanks for joining in!

I’m linking up with Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts for Let’s Bee Social today, I hope you’ll pop over and take a look. As an aside, Ive just updated my link party page (Let’s Bee Social is listed of course!), hop on over and let me know what you think – are there any link parties I should add?

Link Party page: Favourite Link Parties graphic © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnChorusStudio.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy your stitching.

Signature: Stephie © Stephanie Boon, 2015 www.DawnchorusStudio.com

 

 

 

23 replies
  1. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Thanks for the review! I’ve bought a Hera marker recently but not had a chance to use it yet. Soon I will be quilting my Quilty 365 and now that I’ve read your post I’ll make a point to test my Hera marker. I’ve been quilting since I was 19, and to me the quest of quilters has always been to find the perfect marking tool! One that stays as long as you need it to, but then disappears nicely afterwards!!!

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Sandra you put me to shame! I’m so sad I didn’t manage to get a whole year’s worth of circles done. I can recommend the Hera Marker if you’re going to quilt yours in a hoop, but I probably wouldn’t mark out much more than a hoop’s worth in one go. The marks would probably disappear between the wooden rings, but I found that I could quilt a hoop’s worth without any trouble at all. Like you say, finding something that disappears afterwards is like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

      Reply
  2. Lynne Nicholson
    Lynne Nicholson says:

    Hi Stephanie. I guess I won’t be buying one or a pokey tool for turning corners of bags etc out as I got a set of paper tools for free on a papercraft magazine that does the job and a set of clay tools that can double up either for papercraft or sewing.
    I’m hoping to start sewing tumblers together this weekend that I cut with my accuquilt go hoping I can be accurate enough with my ¼ inch foot that despite my vision problems I will be able to make projects in the future I haven’t tried sewing since the beginning of February when I decided maybe a magnifying lamp may help me see what I’m doing and it took me a while to find the right one that I can use for my colouring at the table or at my armchair. I think I can angle it right to help me sew at the sewing machine and plan to give it a go. I still need to decide if I’ll cut some plain fabric tumblers as the fabric I have chosen is all busy designs. It is a collection called Cocoon by Valerie Wells. Beautiful strong colours and lovely butterflies and swirls but busy.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      I love Valerie Wells designs Lynne and I bet yours looks lovely in the tumbler pattern. Sometimes a plain fabric can give the eye a place to rest, but then again look at some of Kaffe Fassett’s quilts – busy, busy, busy and extraordinarily beautiful! Your lamp and magnifier sounds like it will be up to the job of lighting your sewing machine well and I think you should just jump in and have some fun. You’re very resourceful Lynne and I’m sure you’ll make it work for you.

      Reply
  3. Karen Goad
    Karen Goad says:

    I have never used it but I have heard of it and heard of many that use it. I have never really looked at it so I do not know what the price is here but know quilters can find all sorts of stuff that work the same without spending the money sometimes on the tools specifically for quilting – which we know might have a prettier color or whatever and cost double or triple!

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Haha – Karen I think you’ve hit the nail on the head! If it’s ‘pretty’ (a matter of option!!!) “let’s charge twice as much as it’s really worth”! Being creative is all about experimenting and I reckon we could experiment with hundreds of things to make a line on a piece of fabric…hmm, what shall we try next?

      Reply
  4. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    I have never used a hira marker. But I found an old bamboo corner turner left over from someone, rounded on one end and pointy on the other, and I’ve been using that. I can also see trying, for instance, the wrong side of a table knife, or a mechanical pencil without lead.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      The wrong side of a table knife – that’s ingenious Sarah! I mean, who hasn’t got one of those in a drawer somewhere? Your corner turner sounds really good too, bamboo is an amazing material – I used to use it to make a dipping pen for drawing and it worked perfectly. Thanks for the great ideas.

      Reply
  5. Sue
    Sue says:

    I have two items that I picked up very inexpensively, which in my opinion do the job just as well. One is a “bone folder” used for papercraft, but of course it isn’t actual bone, it’s some kind of plastic. It also has a nice, blunt point on one end that works great for turning inside trimmed corners and not poking through them. The other I discovered by accident, is a dressmaker’s tracing wheel, made of metal with a wooden handle. The wheel has a smooth edge (without the little teeth). I picked it up in a thrift store for about a dollar. They both fill the bill.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Oh my word, I think I’ve even got one of those tracing wheels somewhere Sue – I bet it’s brilliant for free-hand marking isn’t it? It sounds like you and Lynne had the same idea with the ‘bone folder’, creative minds and thrifty pockets! I think I may be getting a little bit over excited at all the ideas we’re getting here – and I’m about to sneak off and see if I can find that tracing wheel, thank you so much for the idea!

      Reply
      • Sue
        Sue says:

        You are welcome. It is good for freehand, but you can also run it right along the edge of a ruler, same as a rotary cutter, for a straight line, if needed.

        Reply
  6. Bossymamma
    Bossymamma says:

    A friend gave me a bone folder that looks remarkably similar to the hera marker, so I must remember to use that if I need to mark lines. I much prefer my tools to be multi-purpose as they save money and valuable space!

    Reply
  7. Lisa in Port Hope
    Lisa in Port Hope says:

    I got a Hera marker as part of a kit, it does work well — although it’s small enough that I lose it regularly. I also have the metal tracing wheel, and various chalk pencils, it all depends on the project I will use whatever works best.

    Reply
  8. Ann
    Ann says:

    Well, doggone it. I finally purchased the Hera marker last month. As you said, it’s expensive. And I could have used one of my sister’s clay markers if I’d known. It’s like machine sewing gloves. Someone mentioned using new gardening gloves instead.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Do the gloves make a big difference for you Ann? Obviously I don’t machine quilt (certainly not on a scale that would warrant gloves), so I have no idea. You can get ‘sticky gloves’ in DIY departments, although they do seem to only come big enough to fit men’s hands…they’re bright yellow and are great for moving furniture!

      Reply
  9. Kaja
    Kaja says:

    The Hera marker isn’t cheap, but in this household something that is clearly mine and for quilting is less likely to go walkabout than anything more generic! I think I remember Gwen Marston saying she just used the blunt end of a needle.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Oh yes, those were the days Kaja. I don’t envy you sorting through mountains of Lego for your own stuff… that’s been used as as part of a space station! A knitting needle would probably work too then. Love all these inventive ideas people have.

      Reply
  10. robynie
    robynie says:

    The clay tool is very clever! I had been using a Kevlar paper folder which worked pretty well for the task, but as you saw on IG, I purchased an off brand Hera marker recently at a quilt show. It was just over half the price of the actual one I saw at a different stand and that it is what sold me! The business end looked the same on both and it is definitely sharper than the paper folder so the creases last longer.

    It’s a shame that these sorts of things are marked up dramatically for sewists! There are heaps of items found in the craft shop that can be found cheaply at a hardware store if you know what to look for.

    Reply
    • Stephie
      Stephie says:

      Hi Robyn! A lot of people have found a paper folder really good for the job. You’re lucky to have an ‘off brand’ alternative – I’ve never seen anything but the Clover one here. Maybe it’s time they had some competition! I wonder why they have to be sold in plastic packages too, it must add to the cost (to the environment if not to the pocket) and there’s really no need. Wouldn’t they look good sold in groups in jars on the quilt shop counter? And it would be much easier to ‘try before you buy’ too.

      It’s probably normal in any industry to find a niche and exploit it for profit before another company gets in on the act and drives prices down. In the mean time, we sewers should unite and check out the hardware and craft shops for an alternative first. It might give the companies food for thought. Glad to hear you found your marker sharper and the creases last longer too because it really is a great way to mark up a quilt isn’t it?!

      Reply

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