Sunday, August 21, 2011

Now You See It, Now You Don't?

Many quilters are looking for the best way to mark quilts. Clearly the key is the marks stay when you want them to (for example signatures and quilt labels) and it disappears when it's supposed to, generally when marking quilting lines. There has been buzz in quilt blogs and chat groups about Pilot FriXion(R) pens, and whether they 'really' disappear. It seems they disappear when pressed (heat over 140 degrees) and sometimes re-appear when temperatures drop (put your work in the freezer and the marks come back). Though I read in one case where the quilt had been washed before being in the freezer and the marks did not reappear. Have you tried this pen yet? What is your opinon? Would you use a FriXion pen on an heirloom quilt? A utility quilt?

Recently I marked a piece of muslin with Crayola(R) washable pens and another with Crayola washable crayon. These are my 'disappearing' markers of choice.


I have used Crayola washable crayons with great success for several years, so I fully expected both the markers and the crayons would come out after one wash.

The experiment:

On two pieces of muslin, I wrote the names of the colors with a regular black Sharpie(R) fine point permanent pen (the one that says 'Not for letter writing or cloth'). This would test whether the Sharpie bled and how well it held up in the wash. Secondly, I labeled the top with IDenti(R)-pen ('Crayons' and 'Pens') to compare it with the Sharpie. Next to the name of the pen or crayon I crosshatched marks and then drew a line out to the right. They were washed in a frontloading washer in cold water, gentle cycle with mild detergent. I did not put them in the dryer and no prewash/spot treatment was used.

NOTE: On the box of Crayola washable pens it states: For Best Results: Crayola Washable Markers wash from skin and most washable children's clothing. Wash promptly in hot wash cycle. Do not use prewash or chlorine bleach. Repeat laundering may be required.


As noted above, I used cold water and the company suggests hot for best results. Additionally, in the hopes of recreating a true quilting scenario where marks may remain for several weeks before washing, I waited three days before laundering thereby not following the suggested guideline 'wash promptly' for best results. Finally, I washed only once and it states repeat laundering may be required.


As you can see in the photo below, the pens washed out quite well. Even held up against the light there is no trace of color in any of the eight areas where washable marker was crosshatched the line area. Alternately, in the washable crayon areas all held traces of crayon. This was quite surprising as I have used the washable crayons reliably (without testing first though of course that is recommended) and they have come out without fail from four quilts washed as in the experiment (front loading washer, cold, mild detergent, gentle cycle).

Recently I finished the Three Bean Salad quilt and used purple Crayola washable crayon* to mark the quilting lines. It washed out! *Please test first and use at your own risk!

Conclusion: I will continue to use Crayola washable crayons and markers for marking. They are readily available, price is good -- around here they cost less than $2 per box during back to school and ohh the variety of colors with 8 marking pens and 24 crayons! On lighter fabrics I will use the washable pen or painters tape for straight line quilting.

What is your tool of choice for permanent or temporary marking?



  1. For permanent marking of words and letters, we use fine-point Sharpies in blue, black, green, and brown. If our resident artist is drawing on a quilt back, she may choose to use other colors, including the red families - red, orange, and purple - knowing that they tend to bleed a little and using that tendency as part of the art. So far I've not used anything that I was sure would wash out - mainly because I'm pretty sure anything I thought would wash out, won't!

  2. I've been using the Crayola markers lately too and so far haven't had any problems with them. Often the marks are left on for weeks before I get a project finished.

  3. I am actually doing a blog experiment with the Pilot pens tomorrow. I am going to really experiment with them though...washing and all. I have it all ready with my scraps of fabric and everything. I am actually making my son do it as part of a school will be on my blog in a few days.

  4. Hi . I found your blog over at Quilting Blogs. Nice to visit. I have enjoyed looking around and have especially enjoyed your pictures of the quilt show visits. Thanks.
    I am also interested in reading about using the different marks. Thanks for sharing your results.

  5. I bought some Frixion pens yesterday to experiment with. Most of my quilts are utility quilts and get washed over and over and over, so I'm not too worried about leftover chemicals eating away at the fabric.

  6. I have been using the washable markers from Crayola for several years, and have never had any problems. One quilt I started and then picked up about a year later had been marked with the markers, and they washed out on the first try. I really like them because the markings stand out well, as opposed to other quilting markers I had used.

  7. I just washed a QOV that I had marked extensively with Friction marking pens. I had also marked on it with chalk and the good old blue marking pens. After coming out of the dryer ( not on the hottest setting) I was expecting to have to iron the Friction marks. NOPE! All were gone. SOLD!