The Truth about Erasable Pens for stitchers

Water erasable pens have been on the market for a long time (by my approximation around 30 years). I personally have a love/hate relationship with them.  Below I am sharing with you some of my personal experiences with different pens/markers, and suggestions for use.

There are so many choices when it comes to tracing a pattern or transferring markings to fabric. It is best to use a tool that is suitable for the fabric you are working with, but the most important thing is to always test your pencil/pen/chalk on a scrap of the fabric before starting your project. There is nothing worse than making a lovely quilt top piece, or dress only to find that those pink pencil marks can’t be removed no matter how many times you wash it! Even if you’ve never had a problem before, test each marker on each type of fabric, before you begin your project. The worst stains always seem to happen on the most important projects – Tears are usually involved. Along with a few choice swear words.

So…Choose the best option, read the directions carefully, and test it to make sure it is completely removable before you begin working on the main project.

Disappearing Ink Fabric Pen

One of the most popular fabric pens; I’m sure most of you probably already own one. The disappearing ink becomes invisible a little too quickly sometimes, but the marks from either end have always washed out well for me. Unfortunately, these pens tend to dry out rather quickly, so it is good to have a back-up handy. Stories abound that you can get the ink to “re-appear” by placing it in the freezer.  I have never had this happen, however I have had the experience of the lines not disappearing properly.


Water Soluble Pencils

A coloured pencil made to wash easily from fabric. These are kind of hit or miss. The brands with harder “leads” need a lot of pressure to make a mark, which can stretch the fabric out of shape. The softer versions often shatter on the inside and you waste the entire pencil trying to sharpen a nice point. Nice for heavier fabrics like canvas or denim.water-erasable-pens

Pilot FriXion Erasable Gel Pens.

The heat from an iron causes the ink to disappear.  These are relatively new on the market, and I have heard many different reports on them.  I personally have had very good experiences with these pens, however I have a friend who spent a lot of time creating a beautiful runner, only to find that the marks didn’t come out at the end.  Once again, if you freeze the fabric, the mark will return faintly, and if you leave the pen in a hot car, the ink will turn clear.


Chalk Cartridge Set or Chalk wheels

Thin sticks of chalk in a holder. I love this option.  I use the chalk wheel as my go to method for marking dark fabrics.  Sometimes, the markings doesn’t come out immediately, however I have never had the issue where the marks remain after a washing.



Far and away my favourite way of marking up light coloured fabrics, a sharp light marking of a 2B pencil is easy see and remove. To remove pencil markings, you can make a solution (as per below), and I use a toothbrush to brush over the pencil markings and remove.


In Conclusion

My personal favourite form of marking fabrics is to use lead pencil for light coloured fabrics, and the chalk wheel for dark coloured fabrics.  I find that these methods are the kindest to the fabrics and the most reliable.

Solution to remove pencil marks

¼ cup water ¾ cup Isopropyl Alcohol (rubbing alcohol) 8 drops of Palmolive green dishwashing liquid (must be this brand, I don’t know why, but it does work)

Mix together and apply using a toothbrush and gently rubbing.  Always test first.


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