We road-tested some of the most popular fabric marking tools to see how they performed on fabric and we tested how easily the ink pens and chalk markers were removed from the fabric.
Some marking tools are more suitable for darker fabrics and some for lighter fabrics – select the best option for the fabric you are using with our comprehensive guide.
NOTE: Please ensure that you test these methods of marking carefully on a spare piece of fabric before marking your main fabric. DO NOT iron either of the aqua or self-erasing pens after marking as it will ‘set’ the marks and make them impossible to remove.
Inkless/Chalkless Marking Tools
Clover Hera Marker
This innocuous looking tool allows you to mark your fabric by creasing rather than using a pen or pencil which could be hard to remove. Designed for quilting it allows you to temporarily mark on your quilting lines to guide your stitching. I also use it as a finger press to temporarily press my seams in place. Clover have a version of this tool that you can buy from your local stockist.
Prym Quilter’s Tape
This thin tape is basically a masking tape to allow you to quilt straight lines without having to mark your quilt top. The tape is easily re-positionable to allow you to quilt lines spaced equally apart and is easily re-used multiple times.
Ink/Chalk Marking Tools
This is a felt-tipped pen that marks a pale blue line on fabric so is only suitable for marking light coloured fabrics. The pen is easy to use with a good ink flow but it must be stored with the cap down so that the ink does not dry out at the tip.
Mark & Erase Pen
As above, this is a similar felt-tipped pen that marks a pale blue line on fabric so is only suitable for marking light coloured fabrics. The pen is once again easy to use with a good ink flow but it must also be stored with the cap down at the blue ink end so that the ink will continue to flow into the tip.The opposite end has a colourless liquid eraser, so it’s useful if water is not readily available to erase the marks.
This marker produces a purple line so once again it’s only suitable for use on lighter coloured fabrics. It writes easily on the fabric. The packaging suggests that the pen will disappear over a few days and this is dependent on the fabric type. I tested it on cotton – see what happened below. This pen also needs storing with the tip down so it doesn’t dry out.
These pens have been around for a while now and are not strictly designed for use on fabric. They come in multiple colours but are predominantly suitable for marking lighter coloured fabrics. The idea is that the line is drawn and is then erasable by friction – hence the name – in the case of fabric the action of ironing the marks makes them disappear, or there is a small eraser at the end of the pen that could be used instead.
Cautionary note: There has been evidence that the marks can re-appear over time, particularly if a quilt is stored in colder temperatures. The pen effectively bleaches the fabric so a pale line appears where the line was drawn. It is advised that you only use these pens for marking the reverse of the fabric or if the line is going to be hidden within a seam. You have been warned!
Chalk Wheel Mouse
This tool is basically a container of chalk powder that is used to mark a line of chalk dust on the fabric to produce a line. The tool is easy to use and enables you to mark darker fabrics as the chalk is white. The wheel rolled easily along the fabric to produce a clear line and allows you to mark straight and curved lines with ease.
Removing the Marker Pen Lines
This image shows the pen lines immediately after they were drawn. The fabric was left in normal light for three days and then the lines were removed as per the instructions on the product.
The images below show what happened.
The Self-Erasing Trickmarker disappeared completely by the third day apart from a couple of tiny dots. This makes it suitable only for projects where you need the marks for a very short time.
Both of the ‘Aqua’ type markers were easily removed using the built-in eraser and by spraying with water.
The Frixion marker was removed by ironing the marks.
So, in my view the products all performed well. Be mindful of the potential issues using the Frixion marker in particular and always read the instructions on how to use the products before you start.