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Fabric Marking Pens: Which ones are right for you?

January 30, 2021

 There are so many different fabric marking tools available to quilters and sewers, they can be a little bit overwhelming.  So which one is right for your sewing or quilting project? We’ve tried hard to test all of the options to bring you this overview, and we cannot say this enough: TEST TEST TEST your fabric on a scrap before committing.  To be really safe, test them over time and heat. We have heard many horror stories about phantom guide marks reappearing well after the marking was done.  Many manufacturers don’t provide clear instructions for how best to remove the markings permanently. 

Also, we here at Sewing by Sarah believe better beautiful than perfect.  We are not perfectionists.   Ease of use has a lot to do with our recommendations.

We sell a set of heat erasable pens and a variety pack of water and air erasable pens so you can find the marking tool that's right for you. 

Chalk Marking Tools

Chalk has been around as a sewing and quilting marking tool for a long time.  It comes in a variety of colors and comes in pencils and roller forms. 

Chalk marking pen

We think chalk works very well for sewing and interior markings.  Our biggest beef with chalk is the smudginess and that it doesn’t always come out.

We don’t use chalk on a finished quilt top or exterior of garments because we're scared not being able to remove it completely, but on the interior it's a great option.  Always think about the right tool for the right project. 

Water erasable pens

These pens allow you to mark something and erase the marking with a simple dab of water.  They come in a variety of colors to allow you to mark both light and dark fabrics and a variety of pen points as well.  

  • Marking quilting designs
  • Applique placement
  • Template cutting
  • Sewing construction transfer marking
  • Tailoring

Fabric Marking Pens: Which ones are right for you?

The  mark disappears with the application of water, so use it with items that can get wet. For best results, don’t leave marks for long periods of time.

These are the secrets no one tells you:

  1. The key is to thoroughly wash out the marks with cool water...JUST WATER...FIRST.

    Spritzing the marks away with a water bottle IS NOTwashing away the markings, it's merely making it disappear from sight.  Washing removes the ink.   After this cool wash, then wash your quilt as needed with detergent.
  2.    Do not heat the marksin your project.  Don't iron.  Don't leave in your project in the car.

    Heat can make the ink left in your quilt reappear. Heat impacts the ability to erase. 
  3. Our water erasable pens will still erase after heat is applied. However, if ironed again AFTER water has been applied, the marking can reappear. So wash markings out permanently with a mild soap and water or by using your washing machine or a marking removal product.

Air erasable pens

These pens allow you to mark something and the markings fade over time.    They come in a variety of colors to allow you to mark both light and dark fabrics and a variety of pen points as well.   Time can vary, so test and wait to see if this will work for your project.  Some pens are a few hours, some a few days, but this is temperature and humidity dependent and can vary. 

Fabric Marking Pens: Which ones are right for you?

These are the secrets no one tells you:

  1. Heat impacts the ink.  In some cases, the marking can get darker if heat is applied and heat may impact how long the markings stay before fading.
  2. These are best for markings you will use right away- like when you are ready to machine quilt, do the section you will be working on and then quilt.
  3. In rare cases, if you just allow the markings to fade only they could “reappear”- humidity and temperature changes can sometimes be to blame here.  Wash markings out permanently with a mild soap and water or by using your washing machine.

Heat erasable pens

These pens allow you to mark something and then “erase” the markings with heat.     They come in a variety of colors to allow you to mark both light and dark fabrics and a variety of pen points as well.  

HEAT ERASABLE FABRIC MARKING PENS

These pens are great for:

  • appliques
  • half square triangles/quarter square triangles
  • seam lines
  • embroidery designs
  • placement markings
  • basically anything you are comfortable adding a little heat to

Heat Erasable Pens

These are the secrets no one tells you:

  1. In rare cases, if you just allow the markings to be erased by your iron only,  they could “reappear”.  Cold temperatures would will make markings reappear. To insure they are permanently gone, wash markings out permanently with a mild detergent and water or by using your washing machine.

Tips When Using Any Marking Tool:

  • TEST! Again, we cannot say this enough. Do a quick test on every piece of fabric you want to use it on to see if the marks actually disappear completely. It’ll take you 10 seconds, and save you from a world of suffering and regret.
  • Read instructions.We wish more people provided information about their pens, so if instructions aren’t included, do your research and take a look at documentation.  And again, if all else fails- TEST!
  • Don’t Press Too Hard. Remember that pens can damage fabric if too much pressure is applied, so make sure you use a gentle motion. If the marking isn’t dark enough, switch colors or replace the pen as it may have dried out. 

So, we invite you to try out our pens to see which one will give you the results you need!!  

 Stay in touch and Show us what you've made:

Instagram: @sewingbysarahstore

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