Monday, October 4, 2021

Making your mark: A few thoughts on marking tools

This post spawned out of something I wrote while writing an Instagram post about some grid quilting that I was doing for a bag. In the post, I stated that my favorite marking pen ran out of ink, so I had to go with Plan B.

1" grid marked using a water-soluble pen - fabric is Meow Wow Wow by Alexander Henry. Thread is 40wt Aurifil in color 2510 (Light Lilac).

To kick things off, I’d like to offer my best tip for marking pens/tools: ALWAYS TEST BEFORE USE!!! Test on the specific fabrics you will be using. You’ll want to check to make sure the marks will be visible, check that the marks can be fully removed (as desired), and check to ensure that the ink will not be permanently set by the application of heat or even some detergents. 

For the record, I do most of my marking on quilting cotton while I am making bags. Some of the fabric is pre-washed due to my allergies or because some colors tend to bleed, but I do not wash everything.

My favorite method for marking lines:

Air erasable!!

Some people ask why I like air-erasable pens so much. I love them because the lines are temporary. Depending on the climate where they are used (heat and humidity), they may disappear within hours to a day or two. If you don’t want to wait for them to disappear on their own, the marks can be removed immediately using plain water (tap water works fine for me). The ink is often purple, so it’s easily distinguishable from the blue ink color used in many water-soluble pens. The downside to this method of marking is that the marks don’t last. I usually mark things that I will be working on almost immediately (within an hour or two), but the marks do fade before completely disappearing so you will likely have a little bit of warning before they vanish. My favorite of all is the Clover 5032 Fine Air Erasable Marker with Eraser. You can use the eraser end to remove lines immediately (or use plain water). The eraser is great for smaller marks or when you don’t want to get up to grab a spray bottle of water.

Before I go any further, I’d like to add a bit of a disclaimer, especially as it pertains to air and water-erasable pens, I will only buy them from brands that I know such as Clover, Dritz, or Sewline. I had a friend experience problems with a no-name brand blue, water-erasable marker not coming out of her fabric, so I’m more than a bit wary. As I said before, ALWAYS test if you want to be safe. 

From top: Hera Marker Slim by Clover, Frixion Pen by Pilot, Mark-B-Gone Water Soluble Pen by Dritz, Disappearing Ink Pen by Dritz, Chakoner (left), Fine Air Erasable Marker with Eraser by Clover, Mechanical Pencil by Sewline, and Chaco Liner Pen by Clover.

Here are some other marking methods:

I’ve tried multiple brands and styles of chalk, and my favorite is Chakoner. It creates a finer line and makes less of a mess than the Clover chalk markers (my 2nd favorite). I will often use chalk if I need to mark a line on something that is very dark in color. I’ve personally had issues with pink, blue, yellow, and silver/grey not being totally removable (in my earlier sewing days before I fully embraced the always test mantra). 

Another option is a fabric pencil. The one I like the most is by Sewline. I use their mechanical fabric pencil with white ceramic lead (they offer refills in other colors, but I haven’t tried them). It’s been awesome for marking on dark fabric. I haven’t had any issues with removing the marks, *BUT* you should take care to mark lightly. 

I like water-soluble pens because they’re pretty easy to find. They come in a variety of tip width options. I tend to prefer a fine or medium point, but sometimes you just gotta use what you have on hand. The one I use the most often is by Dritz. 

Frixion pens (made by Pilot) are another popular option but something that removes with heat is not always ideal. Plus, the ink marks (or white lines where the ink had been) can return when the item is cold. I mostly use Frixion pens for marking the center lines (the cut line) when I’m making half square triangles or when there isn’t another good option and the mark will definitely NOT be visible even if it does return. These pens were not really designed to be used on fabric, but they’ve been popular with sewists for years.

I *HATE* using the guide attachment that screws into the machine foot because my lines always seem to wind up being slightly crooked. You know what I'm talking about? That weirdly shaped metal thing that you might have gotten with your machine. Yeah, THAT thing. I’ve tried this method on multiple machines, so it wasn’t a problem with a specific machine. 

I’ve tried marking with painters tape & washi tape, and I’m not a fan. If you’re only using it for marking lines when quilting, it works better than when it’s used to mark other types of lines. I don’t like how the tape reduces visibility on the project. I want to see all of the lines that I’ve marked and/or stitched. That bit of extra visibility can alert you to a mis-marked line. In addition to the visibility, the tape doesn’t always like to stay stuck to the project if you move the project around. Another downside of tape is that if you want to mark lines at different widths, you either need to measure the distance with a ruler then place the tape or you have to keep multiple widths of tape on hand. Once you get the tape positioned, you have to decide if you are stitching along the tape’s edge or at a specified distance away (like 1/8" or 1/4”) and you have to remember that!

I’ve had less-than-ideal experiences with Hera markers causing damage or not marking well (and they seem to work better on batting likely because the ByAnnie's Soft and Stable has better recovery), so that’s a no-go for me. 


These are my thoughts and experiences based on products and tools that I've used over the last 9 years. Your mileage may vary.

The most important thing to take from all of this should be to TEST BEFORE YOU USE A MARKING TOOL! You won't regret testing, but you WILL regret if you use something and it ruins your project. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A quick update and a promise of more to come!

It's been ages since I last posted an update, but I assure you that I'm still around! I apologize for being so bad about actually updating the website. As always, you'll find the most up-to-date info by checking out my Instagram account.

Things have been busy with editing and working on my lingering issues that I've had with my hands/wrists/elbows/shoulder for the last year, but it's gotten so much better. I've been sewing more over the last 2 months than I had been able to for over a year.

To be honest, I've been trying to keep the typing down to a bare minimum to preserve my limbs so that I could edit which has caused other things, such as this site, to fall by the wayside a bit. I'm going to try to do better. For real. :)

In the meantime, have you seen the 4 new patterns and 12 updated 2.0 to II patterns from ByAnnie / @patternsbyannie (her IG account) and the announcement of the new book by Jaybird Quilts / @jaybirdquilts (her IG account)? If you haven't, you should check them out!