Monday, November 10, 2014

NLS #6, Mark my words!


Markers can spike a pretty controversial discussion. Seems every kind of marker, at some time, has ruined the best intentions of even the most able sewist. There are stories of marks reappearing like the Walking Dead. Some horror stories relate many many different ways to remove some despicable marker from some very expensive fabric.  Everyone has a technique. Brides with purple marks on their bustles, babies with marks appearing two hours before an heirloom portrait is to be taken, silk charmeuse marked with tailors chalk and wax permanently ironed into the silk, oyyyyy, I could go on and on but I am sure you have heard many of these near urban legends already.

Markers and marking are nothing to be afraid of. Above are all the markers I use, There is no perfect marker and the best you can do is use the proper marker for the appropriate fabric and task. Above,  you see in my marking stash wax tracing paper, Frixion pens, Chaconer marking tools, tailor's chalk, #2 "fine" mechanical pencils, Crayola washable markers, serrated and non serrated wheels to use with the wax marking paper and assorted water erasable and air erasable markers. Let's go through them one by one.


Frixion Pens:   
I love these and use them quite frequently. Frixion pens look and work like any pen. But heat will erase them. You mark, you sew, you iron it, the mark is gone. They make a fine line which is so important at times and often hard to come by with markers. One thing with all markers, ask yourself, "am I going to be sewing right over this mark?" If so, don't fret the erasing part too much. If you are tracing a pattern to embroider with  a marker and it will all be covered with your stitches, what's to worry?  Button going on top of the mark? No matter.
Back to the Frixion Pens, they are heat sensitive but they are also cold sensitive, pretty magical, So that tiny little spot that you ironed away into oblivion is really hiding in the fibers. Bring that fabric out into cold weather and the spot will come right back. However if you wash the piece after construction and with a bit of simple soaking remove the ink from the garment, it is gone and won't come back in the cold.  If you need a fine line, these are great. I use them all the time, no issues. Disadvantages: sometimes they dry out before you are ready to call them empty. I get mine at Staples but they are at any office supply place as well as notions purveyors online. They come in packs which are a better deal.

Waxed tracing paper and wheels:
This is great for marking darts, or long lines needing accuracy. There is waxed and unwaxed tracing paper. The unwaxed paper is powdery and when you lay it against your fabric the color will brush off on to the fabric. Only hitch is it is a bitch to remove. The more you rub and try to clean it off, the more it embeds. The non waxed paper is awful stuff and what is available at the chains. When you see it, keep walking. The waxed tracing paper I really like.
Let's imagine you have just cut out a sleeve. You have two sleeves right sides facing and on top is placed your pattern for the sleeve. Now it's time to mark. You slide one sheet of the paper colored, wax side up under the bottom sleeve in the stack. The color is facing the wrong side of the bottom piece. Now slide back the pattern piece and place another piece of tracing paper colored side down against the wrong side of the top sleeve in the stack. Put your pattern piece back in place. Take a serrated wheel and run it along the dart lines or wherever you have lines to be marked. It does a good fine line with usually just one pass. . Disadvantages? The wax marks will melt into the fabric once ironed, sometimes not a good thing. Other times they disappear beautifully.  Do a sample on a scrap before using. The serrated wheel can perforate your dart lines and tear the pattern piece. The wheel can also be tough on delicate thin fabrics like silk organdies and charmeuses. These papers and wheels are best used on solid medium weight fabrics like cottons, woolens, no silks. They are quick and easy to use and clear to see when sewing, giving a really sharp line. Where to get? I've been told that "Singer" tracing paper at the chains is waxed but I don't personally know that. Big sheets are available from Richard the Thread.


Wax Tailor's Chalk:
This is traditionally used in tailoring and great for marking wools. In my hand is a "sharpener". You run the edge of the tailor's chalk through that little metal piece and it will sharpen the edge, important if you need a fine line. This little sharpener holds a  piece of chalk and has a brush on the other side to brush the chalk away if desired. You can also iron the wax chalk away on woolens, Disadvantage: On silks the wax is absorbed into the silk and when ironed spreads and looks like a really nasty grease stain that will not come out. Once again, samples should be made, ironed and judged before using on your fabric. I like the way tailor's chalk feels in my hand when I sew. If nothing else, you look pretty professional when using it.


Fine point #2 mechanical pencils:

Don't swoon, but this is one of my favorite markers but it does require a bit of prep. You cannot beat a fine point mechanical pencil for a really really fine line. This is what I use, believe it or not, on most of the marking on heirloom garments. It is wonderful for marking fine linens,organdies, and voiles. How do you get it out? That's where the trick comes in. I starch the fabric well before marking. I do a light spray, iron, and repeat at least two more times. You are building up the starch layers which will make a barrier between the graphite and the fabric. These pencils also allow you to make a very visible fine line with the absolute slightest touch. Once your starch is dry, mark your linen with the slightest of touches. When the garment is complete the pencil should wash out nicely but again, the area may just be covered with a button or embroidery and no need to worry. I have marked many an heirloom garment with these pencils, my personal first choice. I know others don't agree with me on this and that is fine. Personally, I have never had an issue.


Chaconer or Chaco Liner:

These are chalk filled little containers that have a teensy serrated wheel on the end. You roll the Chaconer along and the wheel dispenses the dust and makes a really sharp line. I like these a lot. The line is clear and sharp. Disadvantage:  I don't use these on delicate fabrics because of the serrated wheel but on anything else they are quite good.  Advantage: they seem to last forever and do a great job. You can get refills for the red type, called a Chaco Liner. You can find these in the quilting department at the chains.



Other pencil type markers:

These are two pencils I like a bit. The blue washout pencil lasts a long time compared to the fine line marker type , although I am always a bit leery of washout pencils. And it's nice to have the tailor's chalk in a pencil form if that's what you are most comfortable with. Disadvantage: sometimes the leads fall out. Advantage: You don't replace them as often. 



Crayola washable markers:

It was an "aha" moment discovering these. I love these and use them quite a bit. They are great for when you want to mark squares, circles, triangles, etc. Make yourself a little "legend" on paper of the marks and their corresponding color used. It can really help when doing more complicated designs where matching is critical. And if you know any three year old who uses these you know they really are washable. Disadvantage: They won't give you a real fine line,  but often that isn't needed. As with any washout marker, do samples first that include ironing the sample. I think every sewing room should have a batch of these, and hide them from the kids!


Washout and air erasable markers:

I lumped these together because, frankly, these are the markers I use the least, unlike many sewists. The air erasable markers are only good for a limited time and if you sew in unpredictable or often interrupted fits and spurts, air erasable markers are not for you. They are temporary, sort of. There are many tales of them re appearing and the ensuing efforts to make them permanently disappear. The Mark B Gone  washout pens and others of their type disappear like the crayolas with water. Legends abound about those misfiring as well. Many claim washing them out with soap in the water actually sets them. Another urban sewing legend? The Mark B Gone does provide a really fine line which appeals to many,particularly embroiders. They are easy to "draw" with compared to other markers and therefore great for quilting and embroidery. Disadvantage: They don't last that long and need replacement more frequently than other markers. Samples need to be done to make sure  they will not come back on your fabric after the fact.

There are many options out there for marking your fabric. DO SAMPLES. Avoid unhappy accidents by testing and ironing the marker on a sample piece of your fabric. Try to get rid of it after ironing and before ironing. When you get into a sewing frenzy and start ironing and sewing it's hard to remember there is a little purple dot on the right side of the garment. Ironing could make it permanent.

My favorites and must haves: the Chaconer, the mechanical pencils, the Crayola markers, Frixion pens and the wax tracing paper and wheel.  Experiment and see what works best for you and your project.

( I have no affiliation to any of these products or vendors. Only in my dreams do people give me markers to endorse and try out. These are just my personal and honest opinions of the products based on years of use.)

Many of these products can be found at the chains, from Richard the Thread and Nancy's Notions. I am sure there are others as well. Happy marking!......Bunny

36 comments:

  1. Nice round up!

    For people in the UK (and I suppose the rest of Europe via amazon), a Crayola replacement is Berol kids markers. They are great, because they are made to wash out of anything - kids are kids after all! And the marks are gone with a bit of water in most cases. I use them a lot.

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    1. That is really great info you have shared for our European sisters. Thanks, Laura.

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  2. I've used most of the tools you described. I was taught never to use tracing paper on anything other than muslin. A tool by Clover called a stylus works for straight lines when using tracing paper. It looks like a ballpoint pen but has no ink. There's a marker by Clover I use occasionally that makes a white mark that takes a few seconds to develop, but it also makes a fine line. I generally use the wax tailor's chalk only on bulky wools, the powdery kind usually brushes off easily from flat wools, however. Many markers have to be thread traced over because they fade. Finally, there's a method called "pouncing," which involves piercing fine holes in a pattern with a wheel that looks like a tracing wheel, laying the paper on the fabric, brushing powder through the holes and then thread tracing or drawing in the pattern.

    There's a craft chalk set by Allary and some other brands that I do not recommend. The colored chalks don't come out.



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    1. Thanks for your input, Anon. There are definitely many other methods, the best of which is thread tracing, for sure, and I appreciate you pointing these out for us.

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    2. There are so many methods. As you said, it all depends on what you need to do, and you're right, samples are a must.

      I like to thread trace if I have the time and if the garment merits it. But you often can't thread trace without marking with some other method first so it's good to know as many options as possible.

      Another tool I've used (possibly incorrectly) is a Japanese Hera marker. It creases the fabric. I marked some guidelines with it because I experimenting with working very cleanly. The lines were hard to see, however. http://www.amazon.com/Clover-490-NV-Hera-Marker/dp/B0011451F8

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  3. Thanks for the great info!

    In addition to the ones above, I love using the mechanical pencil version of the chalk pencils and tailoring markers. For chalk markings, I use the wide markers (Allaray Chalk Cartridge) and the fine marker (Bohin 9mm mechanical chalk pencil). I also have the Dritz mechanical tailoring pencil. The nice thing is the refills for these come in multiple colors (white, yellow, blue, red).

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    1. Thanks, Sandy. I would love to know where you get the mechanical chalk pencils. Thanks.

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    2. Hi ladies, I have just seen these on www.amazon.com. They are a French Brand called Bohin Extra Fine Chalk Pencil ( around $9 with refills included) 0.9 lead. They do look really good. Washable, twist eraser & refills. There are 6o+ reviews on amazon which I haven't had time to read however 5star ratings. Hope this helps you Bunny,
      Robyn x

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  4. I have a chalk sharpener that looks like the one below, but most professionals don't think it works well. They use a razor blade or a box cutter or the blade of an old pair scissors.

    http://www.macculloch-wallis.co.uk/Content/Products/8793_m.jpg

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    1. That's really interesting, anon. I've done the razor blade thing too. I find that little metal piece does a really good job as it is sharp.

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    2. Whatever works. I also have the sharpener you show and real tailors have chuckled. I need to teach myself to shave the chalk with a blade.

      BTW, the yellow powdered chalk dispenser can be refilled (I've heard people call them "lollipops." I call it a "popsicle." ) I've seen bags of colored chalk sold. You also could refill it with pounce powder, which comes in colors, or if you only need white, cornstarch.

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    3. ha Anon. that's funny! i sharpen lots of things with my exacto blade, it's because i worked in a sign shop for years and an exacto blade is always in your hand so you learn to just use it for everything. It's habit mostly, but i do like to get a chisel point on my pencils (similar to the flat marking side you get on a tailor's chalk).

      see here:
      http://matthewjamestaylor.com/blog/the-art-of-sharpening-pencils

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  5. So helpful! Thanks for the thorough overview. And I'm wondering about that Betzina pattern you are having such trouble with. Can't you just place the pretty collar on a blouse pattern that already fits you?

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    1. Lynn, I really don't have a raglan jacket or blouse pattern that's tried and true. Part of this experience has been to find out what it would take to get a Betzina pattern to work for me. So far it is to do the same adjustments I always do on the size I always use, not her recommendations. I really think other than a larger waist there really isn't that much difference. I see that now that I am using the pattern size I always use.

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  6. Bunny, I just love these tutorials for beginners. While not a beginner in all areas, I am learning and loving all the sewing talk. And THANK YOU for the great tip about crayola wash out markers!

    Amen to the merits of a simple mechanical pencil. This is what I use most often too, and especially on fine, white cottons/linen/silk for delicate hand embroidery. But after years of doing hand embroidery, I've realized the lead is pulled down into the fabric by the thread when pencil lines are stitched over (right through the starch). Even so, it matters not because the lines are covered with stitching.

    I have had problems with colored chalk (dark blue especially) staining cotton woven fabric...so when I use chalk I'm careful to use the lightest color that still lets me see the marking. A dark heavy line isn't usually needed anyway. Linda S.

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  7. I usually use tailor's chalk or the colored pencils. I got the Chaco Liner pencils and loved them at first, but the yellow is hard to get out. Also, after a little use the wheels on mine got stuck. I thought it was maybe just a lemon, so I bought another one (this time white), but the same thing happened. I need to try those frixion pens and the crayola markers, though. Thanks for all this info.

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  8. This is great info! I usually use air erasable markers, but as you have said they require replacing frequently. It would never have occurred to me to use kids washable markers, but I think I will give them a try as they're a bit more affordable and come in many more colours.

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  9. Very interesting post. You have some serious marking equipment.

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  10. Lovely post today Bunny; I have a range of markers and as you so rightly say, what is perfect on one type of fabric isn't on another.
    How I drool and long for the beautiful marked board you have.....................I can only get the cardboard one here in the U.K.
    I have begged ( and I really do mean BEG!) so many suppliers in the U.K. to help us UK sewists as we cannot get them here. Apparently due to the size they are not allowed to be shipped to us from the USA. Boo hoo.

    I used to say I didn't have a jealous bone in my body....................I do, green with envy over your fabulous pinable board! Still love you.xx

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    1. This board came from Joann Fabrics here in the states. Maybe they can ship overseas to you. They are frequently marked down to forty to fifty percent off as well.

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  11. Great overview of all the different marking tools. Each one has advantages and disadvantages and testing is the only way to find the correct marking tool for the job. Like you, for heirloom sewing and embroidery, I prefer the starch, starch, starch and #2 pencil. :)

    KathyD

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  12. I love the wash away blue pen the best, Bunny.
    I must caution you against using those Frixion pens, though. They leave a chemical in the fabric that can bleach out the color on some darker fabrics. Tons of quilters have been quite disappointed with them, after some time. One gal even used one to mark her quilting lines all over the top of the quilt...did the quilting beautifully...ironed them away & even spritzed the top to make sure they were gone.. She then sent the quilt to a show, via UPS. It the cargo hold of the plane, the temperatures dipped & ALL THE MARKS reappeared! The quilt was disqualified for the show!

    Several quilters have done tests with various conditions...starched first, no starch, washed with detergent & without. I have several blog posts marked for reference.

    http://quiltingclimber.blogspot.com/2011/07/frixion-pens-evaluated.html

    http://www.freshlypieced.com/2013/07/frixion-pens-should-you-use-them-for.html

    http://mythreesonsknit.blogspot.com/2012/05/pilot-frixion-pen-sewers-warning.html


    The pres. of the company even posted online that these pens were NOT make for use on Fabric, only paper.
    The only time I will use mine now is if I am drawing a line, like for triangles & the area of the pen mark will be cut off. I don't want the chemicals left in any of my quilts.

    Hope you & your readers find this helpful.
    fondly,
    Rett

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    1. Thanks for all that info and the links, Rett. Greatly appreciated. They also have a caveat to not sign any checks with the pens.

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  13. Good old thread marks made with gray silk thread work on pretty much anything. Also, shards of Ivory soap work well on any colored fabrics that are washable, as most are today. Cheap, too!

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  14. Very nice and detailed roundup Bunny! That's a lot of work and experience!

    I love my graphite pencils - the graphite does not move, so you can even mark lightly on the wrong side on a seamline without it showing thru. I use regular leaded pencils (usually a low B) and sharpen with a little metal sharpener (pointier than a mechanical pencil). I also like those Crayola washout markers.

    I find the trickiest is getting decent marks on dark fabric. As Anon posted, i turn to thread tracing and basting a lot, sounds like a hassle but on slippery/fussy fabrics you are marking and sewing in one go, better result all round.

    I also like one product you didn't mention - artists' water soluble color pencils (sometimes sold as watercolor pencils or aquarelles). They come in all sorts of colors so you can pick the best for your fabric but BEWARE - ****different colors are based on different pigments and will thus react differently with the same fabric even if it is the same brand of pencil**** Reds and oranges are notorious for lasting long time. Not so with the whites and light greys which leave a nice line and brush/wash off easily. Sharpen with a pencil sharpener or exacto blade (if you want a longer lasting flat point like a mini-tailor's chalk).

    Again, the most important factor is TEST TEST TEST!!!!!! Pre-wash and treat your fabric, grind the honey out of it with your proposed markers, LET IT SIT TWO DAYS, try to get it out. Of course this is a hassle and requires thinking ahead, but if you're spending dozens of hours on a gorgeous heirloom piece it's only right. Just whack off a 4"x 4" piece of your fabric and get it over with, you'll be very glad you did. (Ask me how i know...)

    Happy Sewing! steph

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    1. Thanks, Steph, for all that info. I didn't know about the watercolor artist's pencils. I am glad you emphasized the testing. I do think the best marker in the world is thread tracing with a thick fuzzy thread. But for some work, like embroidery or where you need to trace an intricate design that won't work and we need something to give a finer, sharper line. Thanks for your input. It is a very subjective topic.

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  15. Hi Bunny, I love this blog about your markers journey !! When "the one" that works for you is discovered like I found, it does make you happy. I have found my peace with a Japanese Brand called "Clover" & yes it is air erasable, but it also has an instant corrector eraser on the other end. The drawing tip is a perfect width for me. My only deal with air erasable is that you can't leave your work alone for more than a day, because it will vanish. ha ha, Robyn

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    1. Thanks, Robyn. I've seen those and have wondered how they work. Thanks for letting us know about them.

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  16. Such good information!! Some of us don't even know what's available, never mind what works when.
    I usually use tailor chalk, or silk thread, but will consider more options now that I've read your post. I've learnt the hard way to never try to cheat, by NOT marking, being in a rush to get it made. It makes it so much more easer when you mark it all... it always pays off to put the time in at the get go. I've learnt, those marks are there for a reason.....use them!
    thanks again Bunny!

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    1. Yes, they are critical to fit as well as design and need to be respected. As you say, you can't just rush and not do them. Not doing them also can lead to some major frustration as well. Thanks for your input, Joyce.

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  17. I use mechanical pencils a lot. I also use gel pens to mark the dots for buttonholes and buttons using my Simplex guide. The gel will wash out of most fabrics. I also go back to an old standard, tailors tacks.

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  18. Thank you for mentioning the graphite pencil Bunny and the technique of starching the fabric. I use a lot of starch in my sewing particularly when working with cottons. I find it helps as a stabilizer. Starch is also a natural 'soil release'. I still starch my husbands collars and cuffs and some of these shirts are seven years old and still look fresh, no ring around the collar. Will you be talking a little about starch in your articles?
    Great series, Regards, Rosemary

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    1. I use starch a lot as well, particularly in taming unruly silky slinky fabrics. I will keep in mind a post about starch. Thanks for that idea, which I hadn't thought about.

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  19. My favorite at this point is my lime green frixion pen. It shows but it isn't so much color that it would be disfiguring if it came back. I have noticed that some of the colors will leave a white mark on white fabric when ironed out. I use white fabrics almost exclusively and have seen this happen often. I think I am seeing the chemical trace. It only matters on sheer fabrics, it is barely noticeable on opaque fabrics. My method is to use as light a touch as possible in areas which will be visible.
    I am going to try the pencil method. I love mechanical pencils for taking notes I just have never marked fabric with them.
    I have the worst luck with the wash out and disappearing variety. Once I had fittings for twenty five costume dresses, I had each girl try on a costume and then marked up where there needed to be alterations. I was going to spend the next day making all the alterations. Life got in the way and I got delayed and I don't need to tell you what happened.
    This year I used the wash out one and for some reason on this particular fabric it wouldn't budge, I finally got it out with peroxide.
    Bunny, this series is so informative.

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  20. This was a great writeup, and these series of posts are very informative. Thank you for doing them.

    I've been curious about what others use for marking on fabric. I've personally had the unfortunate experiences of colored chalk ruining fabric, fabric marker lines disappearing and then reappearing later, etc. I had to re-cut and sew a dress because of the reappearance of supposedly disappearing marks. I've resorted to using #2 mechanical pencils too, as I can usually get it out, but hadn't considered starching the fabric for an extra layer of protection. Great tip!

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