The Holy Grail

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really found a satisfactory answer to the problem of drawing stitch designs and marking patterns on fabrics. I’ve got a selection of all kinds of pencils, chalks and pens, some of which do a good job on some fabrics, and some are no good at all…

The search for the best fabric pen

The biggest problems are smudgy lines and fabrics dragging… I long for the holy grail of a pen that produces a fine line and that glides smoothly over the surface. I really hope there’s a boffin working away on this somewhere…

Fabric pens for light fabrics aren’t so problematic. On the recommendation of various bloggers, for a while I was using a Frixion erasable rollerball pen to mark fabric (it disappears when you iron it), but I soon noticed that on some fabrics (especially on linen it seems), when you iron off the marks, some of the colour sucks out of the fabric too, and I was left with faint pale lines – not good! Now I just keep my Frixions just for drafting patterns (so great to have a pen that rubs out!) or for marking fabric on the wrong side. My current favourite for lighter coloured prints is a Fine Line Air Erasable Fabric Marking Pen – it absolutely does what it says on the pen, and I haven’t had any problems with it not disappearing.

Marking dark fabrics is still a problem though, so I am always looking for something new to try. The other day I was buying just a little bit of fabric from The Cotton Patch, so to make the postage a bit more worth while I put one of these in my basket:
Clover Chaco Pen from The Cotton Patch

Photo from The Cotton Patch

It arrived today, and although it’s a really odd looking thing, I am really enjoying using it. There’s a reservoir of chalky stuff, that is dispensed onto your fabric in a very fine line via a roller wheel. Although it’s chalky, it doesn’t rub off very easily, so your marks stay where they are until you actively rub them out. Probably the only thing you couldn’t do with it is to mark very tight curves. The other advantage is that it is refillable, which appeals to my cheap eco-friendly sensibilities.  I’m currently making a set of monochrome pouches (for a commission) using black linen and some Summersville fabrics, and it’s come in so useful already:

Monochrome pouch with Summersville

Now I just need to find an answer to my problem of getting fluffy bits of wadding off black linen…. failing that, I’d love to hear what you use for fabric marking.

16 thoughts on “The Holy Grail

  1. you need one of those little adhesive roller thingies from ikea for removing the fluff of the linen – I love the chalk pens too, but watch out for the grey one, I bought it for marking paler fabric where it’s hard to see the white and it doesn’t remove well.

    1. Thanks for that Sarah… these are always the things you find out too late aren’t they! I remember finishing something for a customer and discovering my water-erasable pen marks weren’t erasing… Had to start all over again…

  2. Clover roller for me and have been using it for a year now, absolutely loving it. Even bought them as gifts to give to other sewista’s that I know and love 🙂 and I use a lint roller or sticky tape as well to take fluff out of things dependent on which is closer to me!

    1. I have a Prym pen (not sure if it is the same one), but it dried out fairly quickly (something to do with me leaving the lid off all the time I think 😉 ). I now find that you can revive it if you soak it in water for a bit…

  3. I use the frixxion pens and clover chalk thingy too, and love them both. You could get the fluff off the linen with packing tape wrapped (sticky side out) around your hand 😀

  4. I had one of the chalf pens and liked it, until it broke open in my sewing box and let lose enough blue chalk to cause havoc. I was not pleased so to be aware of where you keep it.

    1. I use dressmakers carbon paper to trace off the odd embroidery design. You get them in various colours. I have tried the whire on dark green fabric before . You can see it and does not rub off too easily but it is a problem with tight corners which become hazy. So you have to keep you eye on the big picture as a guide. Mixed feelings so am game to try the Clover pen.

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