Markers-Don’t believe what you read!
Really, just because you read it here, don’t necessarily believe it!
I recently read an important revelation about marking on quilts, on one of the most respected quilting blogs out there. Well, important if quilting is a big part of your world and something comes along that makes quilting easier.
Marking a design on a quilt is always fraught with peril: will the mark still be crisp and visible after I’ve stuffed it through my machine a bunch of times? Will I have to immerse my quilt and then block to get rid of it? Or will it leave some sort of undesirable permanent mark after I’m done? These thoughts plague me.
Let’s back up. All I want out of a marker is a crisp mark that disappears forever after I’m done. Seems simple enough but that is not a guarantee with the current markers out there…until the Frixion pen came along. Frixion pens seemed perfect: crisp, clear marks available in a variety of colors visible on virtually any fabric. And they go on easily yet disappear with just a puff of steam! How cool is that? Seemed like the perfect system.
There were just two problems: on some fabrics they leave a “ghost” of the marking (and there’s no predicting which fabrics are susceptible) and, they can reappear in temps below 14 degrees. I wrote about all of this here.
It seems silly to be concerned about what happens to your quilt if it gets cold, but to competition quilters (like me!) who will ship their quilts to venues, this is a big deal. I can’t ship my quilt off to a venue and have it arrive with marks on it.
According to a well respected quilter, the trick is to steam the mark away, not just iron it! Wow, really?? That was earth shattering to me-I’d love to be able to use the Frixion pens on my quilts!
So I literally ran to my sewing room, grabbed a scrap and marked away, then steamed one side and just ironed the other. And I mean I steamed and steamed it just to be sure. And ran to the freezer and popped in my test sample and waited for it to get cold. Tap, tap, tap-this is Big Stuff to me.
This is what I got-what the heck?? It certainly DID reappear in the cold! Is it just that particular fabric perhaps?
So what’s going on here? I really don’t know. I just know what I see before my eyes. It must work for her, but it sure is not working for me.
On these two fabrics the mark disappeared, but get this: it disappeared whether I ironed or steamed! The steaming made no difference.
The end game is this: even when someone you respect says you can do this or that to your batting or thread or quilt, test it on YOUR scrap first! There may be some odd combination of factors that make it wrong for your quilt. I can’t explain what happened here with the Frixion pens, I just know that they do indeed bloom back in the cold, just as I wrote previously.
Test, test, test anything that might damage your quilt. What worked for someone else may not work for you.
Rebecca Grace says
What about washing, Jenny? I like to wash my quilts as a “last step” after the binding is done, to remove any hand lotion or grime that accumulated throughout the creation process. I understand why, if the ink is still on the quilt fabric, it could reappear at cold temperatures even though heat makes it invisible. But does the Frixion ink come out when you wash the quilt?
Slightly OT, but my kids’ school science fair was the other night and the projects were amazing — everything from building robotic arms to testing which soft drinks cause most enamel decay on ACTUAL HUMAN TEETH (let’s hope that kid’s dad is an oral surgeon and not a Mafioso!). It just got me to thinking, I wish they had a Science Fair Request Box where we could suggest future experiments for these little scientists, like, “Can Frixion Pens be Safely Used for Quilt Marking?” or “Does Polyester Thread Really Cut the Seams of Cotton Quilting Fabric Over Time?”
Roxane Lessa says
Jenny, you probably prewash all your fabrics, but maybe it’s a sizing residue grabbing the ink? You need a chemist to really test this stuff.:-)
Oh I’m on and off about prewashing-I did wash all the samples again afterwards. And on the initial round documented above, some of the samples were prewashed, some not.
From what I’ve read about the chemistry of this, the marks actually never leave, they just become invisible. And the Pilot pen people did not make this as a quilter’s tool but a writer’s tool. So all this is just us quilters capitalizing on an idea!
I haven’t tried this yet, but I think the trick this blogger was using is that she had batting behind the fabric when she steamed it, to absorb the residue of the gel pen.
I hope this works, as I too would love to use these pens without leaving a ghost behind.
Thanks for all your great blog posts!
Thanks Fran! I didn’t remember that she said to use the batting-thanks for the heads up on that one. So I went and tried that on new samples and although it is somewhat diminished on some, the marks remain. I really WANT this to work but it’s just not.
Always in search of perfection! Another good lesson in patience & persistence. Ah, the three “P’s” of sewing!
Thanks Marcia-I like that-“the 3 p’s of sewing”. I think I’ll use that when teaching.
Franki Kohler says
Good advise. I thought that you rinsed your quilts upon completion. Am I dreaming that? Would washing remove it just as easily as steaming? Hmmmm. . . guess I’ll have to test this.
Well I don’t always want to have to rinse them although I usually do. And unfortunately the rinsing does not remove the marks completely. Oh, if you do test, please blog about it.
Kathy Moran says
I have taken a number of classes from Cindy Needham, the Linen Quilter, and she uses the frixion pens. The difference between what you did to remove the marks and her method is to first iron them out with a dry hot iron (this does leave a ghost of a mark on some fabrics) then steam the heck out of it. However, as you said it is always a good idea to test the fabric you will be marking. Also, Cindy’s experience has been the pens with red in them are harder to get the markings out than purple or black. I did have that experience, especially on a lighter fabric, like muslin. But again, testing is the best insurance. Love your blog!
Thank you Kathy! That is very helpful. I wonder if it is the linens with their older fibers that release the ink better-hmm-that is a puzzle.
Truly, this was not working on the Kona cotton I just tried. I guess it goes back to testing-dang! I want a miracle method! I was using a red marker for my tests.
And it has ghosted on every Radiance I used it on but I only tried that on a few colors and stopped using them on Radiance when I saw the ghosting. I suspect it is the silk content that is causing the ghosting in that case.
Jenny, Thank you, thank you, for doing these experiments so I can avoid this problem. I often wash my finished quilts (to get them crinkly), so how well marks react to water is important to me. I haven’t tried the Frixion pens as I had heard rumors of some problems. My 3 ways to mark are: masking tape/freezer paper shapes, mechanical pencil, Dritz blue water erasable pens. I haven’t had a problem with the last, but I suspect I mark less than you do as my quilting designs are the equivalent of kindergarden drawings with lots of seat of the pants work.
Thanks Joanna-that is really helpful. I actually mark very little and usually it will be for a grid. Do you have problems getting the mechanical pencil out? I have had problems there too-do you have a trick?
Janet McElroy says
I do so agree with you on this with the pen lark which is why I have reverted back to using my dressmaking chalk marker, it rubs off easily – well for me it does as I only use it very lightly – BUT don’t please take my word for it, buy one they come in tons of different colours are not expensive and so if they don’t work for you you haven’t wasted loads and can probably pass them onto someone else who can use them with success.
Thanks Janet! It all seems to go back to testing, and using what works for you. I have used the dressmaker chalk before but not it awhile-seems to rub off for me. Maybe I manhandle my quilts too much!
Testing each and every fabric with whatever you hope to mark with is the only solution in my book. I, too, thought that this marking pen was the “answer”!!! Hugs……………………
Oh, I’m not the only one! Thanks Doreen!
Neil Matthews says
testing the comments
Susan Berbec says
I use the Clover Chaco Liner powder for a lot of my quilt marking. The
Blankets for Preemies group discovered quite by accident that the yellow
chalk does not wash out. The white, red and blue chalk washed out for
all of us but two of us sent quilts to the NICU with visible yellow chalk lines.
We knew the babies wouldn’t care.
I do use the frixion pens and have had no problem with the lines
re-appearing. Steam doesn’t seem to affect the disappearing process.
Thanks Susan-I found out the yellow left marks-ask me how…giggle. The Frixion lines will never reappear unless you get it cold so most quilters don’t have to worry about that-wish I didn’t! I’m sure those preemies were delighted by your quilts!
Just because a famous or well respected quilter recommends something does not mean that it will work. I too have been recommended products only to find that they do not work on the fabric I use. I think that it is extremely important that we test things thoroughly for ourselves. Whenever possible I avoid marking or will use Golden Threads paper to avoid drawing on my quilt—I would rather remove paper than wreck my quilt.
Thanks Susan-I see you have experienced this too-so sorry! It all gets back to testing.
So I’m guessing the blue water-soluble pens are too fuzzy for you? I use them quite a bit for lines and lettering and have not had a problem. I used to just spray them out as I went, but my BF said you had to completely immerse them for the marks to stay gone. Unlike you, I have not tested this. I just blindly followed her instructions :)
Giggle Debby! I don’t always like to have to wash my pieces when they are done-it’s true you have to wash, not just spray them away. The blue pens are the ones I use the most though if I have to mark.
Donna Brennan says
I read every word of this post, and comments. You’re like Martha, helping us learn how to dust properly. I’m getting ready to put my Circle Pizzazz quilt into the washing machine today and am crossing my fingers the turquoise water-soluble pen marks all come out. I’ll let you know! Eek!
Oh Donna your quilt will release those marks just fine! You didn’t heat set them or anything so they will come out. These things seem to just happen to me.