When I posted on Sunday about marking the Orizuru quilt with gel pens, there were several comments related to their use. I didn’t go into detail on the pens at the time, and I should have. I was going to just talk about the gel pen on the next Orizuru post, but instead, let’s talk about all kinds of markers today. In choosing a marking method, the quilter has to consider both the marking medium and how the medium will be removed. For mediums that require washing out, how will this affect the quilt as a whole? Did you prewash your fabrics? Will washing or wetting create shrinkage or bleeding? Lots to consider! Some affiliate links are provided for your convenience in this post.
Here’s what you need to know for the heat erasable gel pens. The ink from those pens doesn’t go away, it is simply rendered clear by heat. If the quilt gets cold (really cold like below 32º F, 0ºC) the marks will reappear. It may require re-ironing to make them disappear again. As reader Sandy noted, you can also use a hair dryer. Frixon says you can rub out the mark, but be aware that the way this works is by heat from the friction of the eraser on the fabric, and does not remove the ink. Research by other bloggers show that washing the quilt will remove most of the ink, but is not foolproof and may leave some traces that will show if it gets cold. To see if it works for you, wash your quilt, then put it in the freezer to see if the marks return. You can simply repress any marks that return, or rewash the quilt and try again. To remove the ink permanently, you’ll need to use an ink remover product, Amodex Ink Remover is recommended by Frixon. For now, the Orizuru quilt won’t be in a cold situation, so I’m OK with using them for my little wall hanging. I wouldn’t use them for a national competition quilt. Although it may be warm where you are and where the quilt will be shown, it is very cold in the cargo hold of an airplane and that may be enough to bring the marks back. The ones I use are from Madam Sew, Heat Erasable Gel Pens.
I got this recommendation from Jamie’s own lips at a national quilt show. It is what he does with his own competition quilts, and has never had a mark return using this method.
Use a fine tipped reservoir for a solution of Sew Clean to trace over the marks. I got mine from Jamie at a show, but these Refillable Water Pens would work just as well.
There are also air erasable pens, but I have never had good luck with these. They tend to be gone before I am ready to quilt, or while I am quilting.
Sometimes, the better answer is chalk. I have chalk in three forms – Triangle Tailor’s Chalk in four colors, a powder mechanical Chaco liner and a powder pouncer. The bar chalk and powder liner remove with rubbing, brushing or vacuuming. Sometimes a damp cloth is needed to get out stubborn marks, but more often I find the chalk has disappeared into dust before I have fully quilted the marked area. The liner does a nice job, and removes easily with brushing.
The white Chalk Pounce Pad chalk will erase with heat, and I cannot find any reference that the marks come back. But it stands to reason that the heat erase marks may reappear if the project gets cold enough. However, since the chalk doesn’t soak into the fabric like a gel does, this may not be an issue. A toothbrush works well, then I go over the area with a soft clean paintbrush to get the last of the dust. Vacuuming may be a good choice here as well. Be aware that the pink powder does not go away with ironing, and that will actually set the color so it is next to impossible to get out. Use the pink only if you can wash the quilt (in cold water) as that is the only way it all comes out.
Quilter’s Choice pencils come in white and silver. The marks are supposed to come out with water, but I haven’t actually tried that. I only use these to mark cutting lines, or sewing lines on the wrong sides of fabrics. Be aware that the marking part of the pencil is very soft, and will easily break. Don’t try to sharpen them to a fine point, you’ll end up wasting a lot of it. Use only an old style small sharpener, the electric ones will eat up this pencil in a hurry.
Graphite pencils are much like mechanical pencils. It does come out with the eraser, but I find this distorts the fabric too much when rubbing it. So, I only use this for marking fine lines for sewing or cutting on the wrong side of fabric. I use it a lot making half square triangles. My pencil isn’t available anymore, but this one is. Sew Line Graphite pencil and refills.
Lastly, sometimes you do want the marks to be permanent. In that case, for labels and identifying marks, I use pigma pens. I have multiple colors so I can choose one to complement the label and the quilt.
These have a fine line, perfect for lettering labels, or writing on the backside of a quilt in lieu of an attached label.
So, those are the tools I use. What do you like to use to mark fabric?
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Water Erasable Fine Line pen at FQS
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