Everything you need to know about marking on black fabric
I have a knack for somehow starting with a simple project and making it difficult. This time I came up with a doozie. Start with a black whole cloth quilt. That doesn’t sound that difficult does it? Well let’s choose a design with a lot of marking. And add trapunto. And probably some metallic thread. And probably not just plain ole metallic thread-I can do that one. Let’s make it a silk core with a metallic wrap. Oops, just crossed that difficult line!
I’m just going to cover The Great Search for The Perfect Marking System today. Spoiler alert: There is no Perfect Marker. And, it’s a no-brainer which one is best IMHO. Note that the links for each product are not necessarily the least expensive place to purchase but it gives you information about the product.
Setting the stage, I’m working a whole cloth quilt with trapunto. And my design requires a good bit of marking. I’m using Michael Miller black which is by far the blackest black I’ve found-it’s gorgeous. I buy it in quantity and hoard it.
I tried 9 different methods/markers as noted above. The attributes I was looking for: a crisp, precise and very visible line, a smooth delivery-no skipping, and staying power yet easily removed when done. Hah, like all of that exists in one marker!
Starting from the left, the Clover rolling marker gives great visibility and applies without skipping. But it does not stay put and would be gone after stuffing my quilt through the harp a few times. It would also be hard laying accurate lines against a ruler because the holder is a little fat and it’s hard to snug the marker up to a ruler.
I did try hair spray over top-that is supposed to give it staying power. It did not.
Next, the Kearing White Water Soluble. This could have been the holy grail because in theory, it would stay put until hit with water. It was not. The line was wimpy, it skipped and just didn’t have enough umph for the task.
Clover’s White Marking pen failed for me. The way it’s supposed to work, when you first make the line it is not visible but begins to appear after a few seconds. Well there’s a problem right there-you make a “mark” and no mark shows up for awhile. How can you tell if you finished a section? When the mark finally appeared it was wimpy. Onward.
The Nonce and Quilter’s pencil both failed. They skipped, it was hard to get the mark on the fabric, the mark was wimpy and fat. And I know from experience that the Quilter’s pencil does NOT come off easily. And the whole sharpening issue: I have a professional sharpener. If I sharpen it enough to make a crisp line, the lead breaks too easily. If I don’t, the line is too fat.
The Bohin 91493 is chalk. It went on fat and came off too easily.
I’ve used Miracle Chalk before and it is useful in some situations. In either the crayon or little slab form, it does not produce a crisp line. There is a chalk form but you need a stencil for that.
Let’s move over to the far right, the Hera. The Hera also can be useful in the right situation. By creating a scratched line, you have a mark to follow and it obviously will easily come out. But, this is not going to work on black fabric!
The only real choice is the Sewline, a ceramic lead pencil available here. It does give a crisp line, goes on smoothly and is very visible. I have a test piece that I’ve handled a good bit and of course it’s faded, but the line is still crisp and clear. I have previously dissed this product, thinking it would wear off quickly, but it has more staying power than I thought. I can change my mind, right? Still learning…
Bottom line, for marking on black fabric, the Sewline is the only reasonable choice. And it’s not perfect, just the best choice.
NOTE: I did not test the Frixxion pens as they are not appropriate for this project and have significant drawbacks. Read about them here.
I’ll be linking up to Nina-Marie’s Off the Wall Friday-see you over there with all the good links!
Heather Pregger says
Thanks, Jenny! I love black, but it is a pain to mark. Good information!
Yes Heather it is hard to mark! I avoid marking but sometimes you just have to.
Lyric Kinard says
Can you provide a link and the full name of Sewline? I think I need one.
I went back and put in links for all the products based on your comment-thank you Lyric! You may want to shop around but Hancock’s sells one with graphite, white and a roller ball end: http://www.hancocks-paducah.com/SHOP-BY-BRAND/Sewline-Fabric-Marking-Tools/MODA-SEWLINE-Mechanical-Pencil-Trio?CAWELAID=120167050000009135&catargetid=120167050000000018&cadevice=c&gclid=CjwKCAiA24PVBRBvEiwAyBxf-Si4RU2-3QBnIrl-vpM9PJStywubMzFROeK1nfPzghGeExUsZl0JIRoCsdIQAvD_BwE
I’m with you on the SewLine marking pencils. The most consistent line, easily changed “lead” and will snug up against the ruler well. There is a charcoal color for lighter fabrics.
Yes, they’re about as good as it gets! I have their rainbow of colors so there is one for most fabrics. On “normal” fabrics the blue wash out is still my favorite
Interesting and well done. I came to the same conclusion, though I would add Fons and Porter marker, which is, I believe, also is ceramic. You still sometimes have to watch the marks and refresh them before they disappear. Even more difficult is marking black silks.
Thank you B.J. So I looked up the Fons and Porter and yes it too uses ceramic lead. They reference that the lead is .9mm which may be a tad beefier than the Bohin but the Bohin packaging does not say how thick the lead is. I’m getting one as my back up and we’ll see whether they are similar.
Brenda Perry says
Thank you Jenny for sharing your chalky research! I just finished a small dark brown whole cloth. I used the white “extra fine” (0.9 mm leads) Bohn chalk pencil. The marks are fine and long-lasting, but were difficult to get out. Did you have any difficulty getting the Sewline marks off your quilt? I will try the Sewline on my next project. Thank you again!
I’m not done with my quilt yet but I did try it on a sample and it seemed to work well. But no matter what, don’t believe me! Always try it on your own!
Hi Jenny. At the end you made a comment about the Frixxion pens being problematic, but there is no link to the info. Could you add that please? I’m curious about the problems and would like to learn more.
Thanks Mary! I added that part on the fly in forgot to put in the link. It’s fixed now.
Many thanks for the controlled experiment. The only other method I’ve used on dark fabric is dressmaker tracing paper and wheel. I was able to trace my design with the wheel and the dots of white stayed in place. Of course, I was stitching directly over the marked line, so marking removal wasn’t an issue
Thank you Joanna! I would be afraid to use something permanent as I tend to change my design and my mind….often!
Mary Stori says
Jenny, I’ve done a good bit of hand stiple quilting whole cloth projects for years. One being a black tuxedo jacket ensemble. After experimenting similar to your efforts, I finally began using and telling my students about a good old fashioned tool. Soap slivers…..you like you, I stayed in many hotels while on the road….those lovely little bars were perfect. Avoid ones with cold cream…deodorant ones work well because they are harder. Put them in the freezer….use a vegetable peeler to shave a nice thin edge. Obviously test on your chosen fabric first but it’s the only tool I found that worked pretty flawlessly. Keep it cold or frozen for best results. I used the mark as you go method but was able to mark quite a lot before handling faded it too much…..but before it disappears…just remark the section. Hope this will prove to be os some help to you.
Thank you for that tip Mary! I kind of forgot about that method that I used in my garment sewing days
Jojo Sewist says
Thank you for stating how you store soap slivers. That is just the info I needed.
Pepai Whipple says
I’ve always been somewhat hesitant to use sewline again after a bad experience with pink on cream fabric…..It went on beautifully & I was so happy until…….I tried to remove it. I could not get it out, I scrubbed, I washed with all kinds of products including making up some, lemon juice/baking soda/dawn I think worked the best. It did bleach my cream fabric and you can’t tell unless I point it out so be very careful especially with pink on light colors….I did get a ribbon the judge couldn’t tell & obviously didn’t see it. I’m anxious to hear your removal experience.
Ouch Pepai! I am always cautious of the colors, even chalk. I did a test area but this makes me want to go back and do a full tilt test. Yikes!
Diane Torres says
WOW – Thanks Jenny! What a great comparison and guide. Gonna print this up for future projects. You’ve saved many of us hours of trial and tears… Looking forward to another of your gorgeous creations.
I’m glad it was helpful to you Diane. I just figured I might as well share my journey so you don’t have to do research too!
Ruby Dosen says
Hi Jenny , I’m new to quilting, thank you for sharing your tips, so many great teachers and techniques to explore … the ceramic pen is great to work with .I took a class with Tara Faughnan last fall , she shard that pen with us.
Thanks Ruby-it’s good especially on darks. Use the blue wash out otherwise.
Heather Stave says
Tailors and seamstresses sometimes use slivers of soap to Mark dark fabric. As long as there are no oils in the soap, it supposedly goes on easily and visibly and washes out entirely.
Has anyone out there tried this?
It is used in clothing more often than other sewing. It is too inaccurate for most quilting applications. Have you used it with success Heather? If so, do share!
Extremely helpful. Thank you very much for posting this.
You’re welcome Lorraine. Glad that it was helpful!
Hi Jenny, my question is about the blue dyed -trapunto – piece , it is beautiful , love the blue, I work with natural indigo and L. Blues., …what type of dye did you use , you mentioned it was rolled on thickened dye ? …and did you quilt the pice on a long arm or standard machine ? Thank you .
You won’t like my answer Ruby, I don’t know what type of dye we used nor what thickener. I was blessed to be able to show up and help with the process. I use a domestic machine, no longarm!