This is my fourth and hopefully my final post on Frixion pens. A recent discussion on FaceBook prompted me to explore this one last time. Some prominent quilters and artists have said things about the Frixion pens that I have not found to be true in my own experience, so I needed to get the facts. I ended up talking directly with a rep at Pilot to get the facts.
If you’re not familiar with Frixion pens, they are a line of pens and highlighters made by Pilot that are heat erasable. Frixion pens make a crisp, clear mark which goes on smoothly and easily with no skipping. After quilting, you simply steam the ink lines away and poof, they are gone! This seems like the Holy Grail of marking methods for us quilters. It is important to note that Pilot did not design the pens for fabric and did not test them on fabric while developing the concept.
But quilters/textile artists had problems with the pens, namely two:
-Sometimes they left what I call a “ghost” mark after steaming the initial mark away. It was faint, but certainly not something you would want to see on your quilt.
-If the quilt got cold, the marks reappeared.
Quilters wrote articles noting that if the marks reappeared in the cold, it was because the quilter did not thoroughly steam the marks. This simply is not the case. The ink combination used in the pens has two parts-one part makes the mark and one part makes the mark disappear. There is still ink left on your quilt after steaming, you just can’t see it. The ink is still there and will reappear in the cold.
I know it sounds odd talking about a quilt getting cold! But if you throw your quilt in a suitcase or the back of your car or, in my neck of the woods, drive up to Tahoe in the winter, your marks will come back. But even worse for competition quilters, if they are shipped and get cold, the marks will be back on your quilt at the show you sent them to-not a good thing.
As to the ghost marks, I did not find a pattern as to which fabrics would show the marks. Some say that if you pre-wash your fabrics you won’t get those marks. That was not the case for me. So I had to test on any fabric I wanted to use them on to make sure I would not be left with ghost marks after steaming the ink marks away.
I felt like I needed to know for sure the answers to the problems with the Frixion pens. I called the Pilot pen company and asked for a representative knowledgeable about Frixion pens and their use on fabric. She was quick to note that Frixion pens were not designed to be used on fabric!
She explained some important things to keep in mind when using Frixion pens on fabric. The Frixion ink is actually a combination of two things: gel ink, and a thermo ink. The addition of the thermo ink is what makes the gel ink disappear with heat. But note, Frixion pens are basically gel pens with some added thermo ink. That means that you are putting gel ink on your quilt when using Frixion pens. That ink will disappear only because of the thermo ink-the gel ink is still there on your quilt unless you take additional steps to remove it.
Because so many customers were using Frixion pens on fabric, Pilot did some testing to try to remove the stains. They tested two specific products that will help remove the stains: Amodex and Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3. I can find the Mötsenböcker’s in my local grocery store but I have not heard of Amodex. She noted that just like removing any other ink stain, sometimes you would need to spot scrub to remove the mark. Ugh-editorial comment!
So in summary, straight from the manufacturer’s mouth so to speak, a summary of using the Frixion pens on fabric:
1. Frixion pens combine gel ink and thermo ink. You are marking your quilt with a gel pen that disappears.
2. The marks will reappear if the quilt gets cold (anything below freezing I think-I did not confirm the specific temperature) unless the mark is completely removed with an ink remover. Even after a thorough steam of the marks, they will reappear in the cold. This is part of the inherent chemistry of the ink combination.
3. To completely remove the ink so that it will not ghost or reappear in the cold, you will need an ink remover and also may possibly need to scrub the area. The manufacturer has tested Amodex and Mötsenböcker’s Lift-Off 3 and found them to be fairly effective in removing the ink.
4. Frixion pens sometimes leave a ghost mark after steaming. This is the thermo ink showing on the quilt, not the gel. The Pilot rep said to rid the piece of ghost marks you would need to treat it with the ink removers listed above.
So this is a definitive summary of the Frixion pens straight from the pen’s manufacturer.
For me, I will not use these pens very often because I frequently do competition pieces. I cannot risk having any problems with the marking method I use. I think they are great pens for other marking needs but we need to be aware of their limitations. And remember that the Pilot pen company did not design these pens for fabric.