One of the most frequently asked questions I hear is “what marker do you use?” And I have to say that usually I do use the infamous blue washout marker. It is a felt tip marking pen, with light turquoise-blue colored ink that rinses out with plain, cool water.
If a mistake in marking is made, I dip a Q-tip in water and run it over the lines and they disappear enough for me to re-mark in about 15 minutes or so. However, when the quilt is completed I do immerse it in cool water and swish it about, spin it out if it is in my washer, or let drip if it is a small piece, then air dry flat. I want to make sure all traces of the marker are gone from my quilt.
However you wash and dry the quilt, it is important with this marker to thoroughly rinse it out before adding soap to the wash, or before drying the quilt or applying any heat to it. I’ve never had marks reappear later or set permanently and I’ve been using these blue markers for over 20 years.
For really dark fabrics I use the Clover white marking pen. It goes on as an ink, but you need to use a very light touch, almost letting the fabric draw the ink out of the pen. Pressure ruins the pen’s tip, as it does with the blue marker, and makes the line look worse, not better.
Wait a full minute and the white line will develop. Don’t go over the line many times because you can’t see it; do one line, wait a minute, then see how it looks. If you use a light touch, have two of these pens so you can alternate between them, they last a very long time.
The line is crisp and white, not chalky or powdery, and lasts through all the quilting, rolling, packaging, and scrunching we do to a quilt top to get it in a home sewing machine. It washes out with some scrubbing, but I prefer to run the tip of my iron over the lines to erase them. See package instructions for the ways to remove this or any marker, and yes, test on your fabric first to make sure it works properly before marking the quilt itself. It might work great on yellow cotton, but not on red sateen.
Any remaining invisible residue comes out when I do wash my quilt when it is completed.
I also am liking the Bohin white marker that is like a mechanical pencil. There are other brands out there, and there is an eraser in the pen itself for removing the lines. I like this for “mark-as-you-go” designs that I mark and then quilt right away, with little moving or re-bundling of the quilt itself. Then I erase the remaining line before moving on to another design. They do smudge a bit with handling the quilt, so watch for that. But you can get a very precise, and easy-to-see line with these. Nice!
Always mark a test area and then place it in the machine to see how it appears there, not in room light, but in sewing machine light.
Chalk pencils, lead pencils, chalk wheels, water soluble white markers, Pounce pads, purple disappearing markers—these are all options for us, but I don’t use them often myself. You can try all of them and then decide what works for you in various quilting situations.
I don’t worry about marker ink on my fabric nearly as much as I would about chemicals I cannot use because of allergies to them, items like spray adhesives, or even fusibles, art supplies, glues, and so on.
TEST ahead of time with all markers. And with any marker – make sure it comes out, you can see it, it isn’t a struggle to use.
One thing I’ve learned from entering quilts in shows or exhibits is to take the quilt into an area with fluorescent lighting to see if there are any marks remaining. The Ott light will also show up marks that you cannot see in daylight or normal room lighting.
Another tip is to quilt right next to the line, not on the line itself, and it is easier to remove it when you are finished.
If you haunt your local quilt shops the owners probably have all kinds of favorite markers to show you, explain and sell to you. These intrepid people go to Quilt Market and see everything out there for quilters, and buy what they think will work for their customers. Ask! See what’s new at your quilt shops. But make up your own mind about what product works best for YOU.
Don’t fear markers. They are amazing new tools for quilting and help us create the perfect quilting design.
Keep quilting! Your work gets better every day.