There are few tools in the sewing room that could be called life-changing, but Hallelujah for the Frixion Pen! OK so maybe that's a little over the top but I love these pens so much I just can't stop talking about them. Whenever I recommend a fabric marker for one of my projects, I'll always link out the these sweeties.
Alternative Fabric Markers
What do you use to mark fabric? There are a number of different ways, some more modern (and some more effective) than others:
Tailor's chalk? In a variety of colors, doesn't make a very sharp line, can be a bugger to then try to remove it without washing. Drop it on the floor and it can break. Tends to drag the fabric as you mark I find. But it's been used for years in all the best tailoring establishments and many still love it. It might even come as standard in your beginner sewing kits.
Some kind of chalk marker? I still use my very fine white CHACO chalk marker on black fabrics sometimes, but only on the back, because again it doesn't usually all come off fully without washing. This has loose chalk and a tiny wheel that distributes it as you draw a line. Can be refillable. Clear and accurate on dark fabrics.
One of those Hera fabric markers? Basically this is just a way to make a temporary mark on fabric by pressing a small crease into it. Not really a marker. I don't have one of these but it probably has a lot of other applications in the sewing room too as a pokey tool or for a quick finger press.
A traditional disappearing ink fabric marker? Forget it. Those darned things are hopeless – supposed to fade slowly over 24 hours? Nonsense. I used to think it was me, but no, others say the same thing. Go over and over the same place multiple times to create a faint purple line you can just barely see. Turn your back for 30 seconds – the mark has already managed to disappear. In fairness, it works better on some fabrics than others and it did stay longer when the pen was new. Fades over time or can be removed with a damp cloth or washing.
I also fell for it and bought what was supposed to be a disappearing marker in white for marking black fabric. Don't make me laugh! This was hopeless!
A pencil or regular writing pen? Yes, you can use regular pens and pencils to mark fabrics too, but only on the edges or within seam allowances, sometimes on the back if you are sure it's not going to show through to the front. Keep a Sharpie out of your sewing room. Yes, I picked up one by mistake and marked my fabric for a bag thinking it was a disappearing marker.
Or the world's best fabric marker, the Frixion Pen!
More about the Frixion Pen
I'm sure it was never intended to be marketed to sewers, but now you'll be seeing these popping up in sewing rooms all over the world. Maybe you remember the original erasable writing pens from the 80's called Erasermate. It felt like magic at the time, ink that you can rub away, but in all honesty, they were pretty rubbish. They never did write very well to begin with so no wonder they were so easy to rub off.
Now the erasable pen has new technology and is perfect for the sewing room. The Frixion gel pen comes in a wide range of colors, writes beautifully just like a regular roller-ball pen, and can be used on fabrics as well as all the other usual surfaces.
It has a fine nib and is easy to use, meaning you can mark accurately for better results when sewing.
The Frixion Pen uses heat-sensitive ink which means a quick blast with steam or an iron and it disappears. Although one word of caution here – if you use your pen in a light color on a very dark background and go over it several times to make a clear line, it may leave a slight chalky residue when you erase it. That will wash out though.
Ta-dah – it's like magic. Now you can mark all over your fabric with abandon.
Where to get these miracles
I got mine from Amazon and got the multipack you see in the picture above, just because they are pretty and now I have lots of colors.
You can also get them right off the shelf in good stationery stores. Look out for Frixion Erasable Gel Pens.
For those with cold weather
I'd heard it said that because the ink is heat sensitive, in below-freezing conditions it can come back again. That's not something I'll ever have to worry about here in Cayman unless we have another Ice Age, so I popped my piece of fabric in the freezer overnight to make sure it was good and cold.
Sure enough, the writing DID come back in the freezing conditions. So if you plan to use your pens on projects that will be exposed to very cold conditions, left in a cold car overnight etc, then do make sure that you only mark on the reverse side, in seam allowances, etc or places where the marks won't suddenly show up on the face of your nice bag!
I couldn't be bothered to get my iron out for a scrap of fabric so I carried out another kitchen experiment and popped it in the microwave for a few seconds. That did the trick, the fabric warmed up and the ink disappeared again. It's a miracle I tell you. You need one!