Ready to leave your mark? Which tools to use when marking for quilting?

About five years ago I tried hand quilting for the first time, working on a cushion cover I had hand pieced from a kit.  The only information I’d found about marking a quilt pattern advised using a template and a water soluble pen.  So I did!  And it worked ok although I did find the pen lines needed quite a bit of water and friction to disappear!

The water soluble pen. Pros - it does leave a clear line; it's sturdy. Cons - it can leave permanent marks; comes in one colour which doesn't show up clearly on all fabrics.

The water soluble pen. Pros – it does leave a clear line; it’s sturdy.
Cons – it can leave permanent marks; comes in one colour which doesn’t show up clearly on all fabrics.

I then acquired a sewing machine and made a quilt for my daughter using the ‘Turning Twenty’ design by Tricia Cribbs – a big square and two rectangles cut from each of twenty different fat quarters.  The colours and patterns were chosen to try and reflect my daughter’s tastes and it was quickly apparent that one blue marking pen was not going to be sufficient to cover the quilt in the chosen design or indeed be a suitable colour to show up against some of the patterns.  So I began to investigate alternatives and along the way found pros and cons to each tool I acquired!

My collection of marking tools!

My collection of marking tools!

Water soluble pencils. Pros - come in a wide variety of colours; leave clear, long lasting marks. Cons - the leads are soft and break too easily; sometimes the marks are permanent.

Water soluble pencils.
Pros – come in a wide variety of colours; leave clear, long lasting marks.
Cons – the leads are soft and break too easily; sometimes the marks are permanent.

Marking pencils. Pros - produce very thin accurate line which can be covered by stitches; come in a variety of colours; spare leads in different colours can be bought for one pencil. Cons - leads break easily; call me stupid but loading fresh leads into the pencils is very fiddly and a bit 'hit and miss'.

Marking pencils.
Pros – produce very thin accurate line which can be covered by stitches; come in a variety of colours; spare leads in different colours can be bought for one pencil.
Cons – leads break easily; call me stupid but loading fresh leads into the pencils is very fiddly and a bit ‘hit and miss’.

Chaco Liner Pen Style Pros - leaves a clear line of chalk; refills come in a variety of colours. Cons - lines quickly disappear as quilt top is handled; can leave permanent marks.

Chaco Liner Pen Style
Pros – leaves a clear line of chalk; refills come in a variety of colours.
Cons – lines quickly disappear as quilt top is handled; can leave permanent marks.

Chaco Liner - showing the little wheel that helps distribute chalk evenly on the quilt top.

Chaco Liner – showing the little teeth on the wheel at the tip of the ‘pen’ that help distribute chalk evenly on the quilt top.

The Chaco Liner Pen is my preferred method of quilt marking at the moment despite it’s cons.  It certainly wouldn’t be worth marking a whole quilt as the lines brush off too easily (but that con is a pro too – it’s easy to change your mind about a pattern, brush away the chalk lines and start again).   So best to mark a small section of the quilt at a time – I generally do a section that fits into the quilt hoop as I’m going along.

Ready to mark a section of  a quilt top using a stencil.

Ready to mark a section of a quilt top using a stencil.

A section of quilt top marked with chalk from the Chaco Liner next to a section already quilted.

A section of quilt top marked with chalk from the Chaco Liner next to a section already stitched using the same template pattern.

The worst thing that can happen with any quilt marking is discovering a supposed temporary mark has become permanent!  I’ve found out the hard way that all the marking tools I’ve tried are capable of leaving permanent marks.  Of course all come with the warning that a test should be done on a piece of scrap fabric before marking the fabric in the quilt top…  But, really!  Surely I’m not the only quilter who has trusted to luck rather than test each of twenty fabrics (or more) in a quilt top!  As I guide I would say that the quality of the fabric used does seem to affect the longevity of the marked lines.  More tightly woven, thinner cottons (generally cheaper than bespoke quilters cottons) seem more reluctant to let go of soluble pencil marks or chalk lines.  So, definitely do a test on these fabrics and always try to use a marker colour that blends with the colour of the fabric.

If you should have a disaster with a marking tool on a quilt don’t despair!  Lots of kind quilters have posted their attempts to find a solution to the same problem – just go into your search engine and hopefully you will find an answer that brings success!

I’d be very interested to know your experiences – good and bad – with different quilt marking tools.

Allison

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About allisonreidnem

New Every Morning – About Me Hi! I’m Allison, an obsessive patchwork-quilter who has no desire to be cured! I’ve been developing my skills and knowledge by paying attention at my local quilting group and by putting my questions into the computer search engine. I’m so grateful to the generous people who have taken the time to share their knowledge with me in person, via YouTube videos or their blogs. I’m intending my blog to be a link into the worldwide patchwork and quilting community and a means to contribute helpful hints and inspiration as I continue to discover more about this addictive craft. So, why ‘New Every Morning Patchwork and Quilting’? Well! I am a morning person! I often wake in the wee small hours and think through design and quilt construction issues. My woolly–headed evening brain finds such issues far too difficult to resolve! If I’m disciplined enough to be asleep by 10pm, I can be up cutting, piecing, pressing and quilting before sunrise! By the time daily family routine kicks-in I’ve had a satisfying, soul-feeding creative fix. (I should mention that ‘family at home’ is: my patient, faithful husband of 27years; and our equally patient 16 year old son, who acts as our in-house IT support complete with sighs and rolling eyes! Older daughter and son have both recently flown the nest). Not only do I find early mornings my creative time I also find it a time for receiving spiritual nourishment. I often find myself humming a gentle chorus and reflecting on God’s constancy as another new day dawns. ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, new every morning; Great is thy faithfulness, O Lord, Great is thy faithfulness.’ Edith McNeil’s chorus is based on verses from the Bible – Lamentations 3: 21-23.
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4 Responses to Ready to leave your mark? Which tools to use when marking for quilting?

  1. Colleen says:

    very interesting info. I’ll have to have a look around for that chalk “pen”. I recently tried the frixion pen ? they work really well but some people have had trouble with them. I also have tried a quilt pounce pad. These seem like they are a good idea and I think they have been around for a long time but I wasn’t able to get it to work very well. Perhaps I’m not using it properly.

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  2. Thanks for your reply and information :-). I hadn’t heard of frixion erasable pens before but a quick look on the web shows they are widely available in the UK. Are they designed for paper but ok to use on some fabrics? I haven’t tried the pounce pads either.

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  3. Thanks for this very helpful link to Lee’s test. 🙂

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