Testing fabric markers: I know, exciting stuff right! But how you choose to mark your fabric can be a contentious issue, particularly in the quilting community, where some commentators see the use of Frixion pens as making some sort of colourful pact with the Stationery Devil. There isn’t as much written about fabric markers for garment sewing, so I decided to test the fabric markers I had on hand (Frixion Erasable Gel Pens and Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers).
I’ve used other markers in the past, but these are the ones I’ve found most useful: they both produce a fine line without much effort, and come away with either the touch of an iron (Frixion pens) or in the wash (Crayola Markers). Chalk, whether in pen, pencil or block form, is always touchy to apply and I’ve had bad experiences with it staining fabric (Chaco Liner, I’m looking at you). Those fabric markers from Spotlight make a very thick, imprecise line, fade quickly once on the fabric and dry out in about 2.5 seconds. Not great results for $10 / pop.
Frixion pens are my mainstay, but they are the subject of a lot of criticism online. Quilters accuse them of not fully disappearing with either heat or a wash, and horror stories abound of people sending quilts to a show via air, only to find their pen marks reappeared in the cold temperatures of the aircraft! Pilot also maintain that they are designed for paper, not fabric.
Crayola Ultra-Clean Washable Markers are often suggested as a safer alternative, so when I found a pack for $3 at KMart (woohoo!), I decided to test both. The fabric used is Robert Kaufman Ivy Pinpoint Oxford – White, an absolutely divine 100% cotton shirting fabric which I’ll use to make a button up shirt once my missing sewjo comes back.
Crayola markers above, Frixion below. If you wondering about the black square, I marked out a 20 x 20cm square on a scrap of fabric in permanent marker, so I could throw it in the wash and test for fabric shrinkage (as per Sheryl’s excellent post on Pattern Scissors Cloth). Since learning this technique, I’ve saved myself so much hassle in not prewashing whole lots of fabric, making it far easier to sew with. (For the record, this fabric didn’t shrink at all.)
I ironed the Frixion pen marks, and the colours completely disappeared. You can see they left very faint “ghost marks” (below), which are the subject of some complaint.
Fresh off the line, and not a pen mark in sight. Even the ghost marks disappeared! (For the record, I use a sensitive laundry detergent on a warm wash).
Another topic of concern is Frixion pen marks reappearing in the cold. They certainly do come back, albeit faintly, if exposed to cold temperatures pre-washing, but it seems the washing process completely removed the pen marks as none reappeared after a few days in the freezer. (I may have put it in there and forgot about it until I went to get some bread!)
After this test, I am confident in using either marker in my sewing. Of course, I always test Frixion pens on a scrap of whatever fabric I’m using to see if they’ll come off with the iron before attacking my garment. And these results are just mine, on this particular fabric, using my particular (quite crap-tastic) washing machine and iron – please make sure to test your fabric markers before use, particularly if using a different substrate.
What are you favourite types of fabric markers?