The Best Fabric Marking Tool You’ll Ever Use

Frixion pens

Tailor’s chalk. It’s just not that great. There – I’ve acknowledged the elephant in the room! As an alternative my Clover Chalk Pen is pretty awesome, but this week I learned about a new-to-me marking tool – the Frixion pen. This baby may just change my sewing life.

These pens aren’t aimed at Sewists, but they are readily available. You can find them in pretty much any supermarket. I was confidently told this and chose to test the claim by wandering into the supermarket nearest my office. There they were, hidden away on the bottom shelf of the stationery section – three for £6. I don’t think I’ve ever yelped in a supermarket before.

The pens have a fine tip (great for detail) and use thermo sensitive ink which can disappear beneath the heat and steam of an iron. (There may be a faint chalky residue left behind, so bear that in mind.)

I’d also been told that if you put your fabric in the kitchen freezer, your marks would become visible again. Could this be true? Might a person magic back dart markings or fit adjustments? I decided to conduct an experiment.

marking fabric

pressing fabric

After removing the marks with a hot iron, I placed my fabric in the freezer.

fabric in freezer

In the time it took me to eat a packet of crisps whilst browsing Instagram, the below reappeared…

final fabric

Neat, huh? Have I just changed your sewing life, too?

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69 Responses to The Best Fabric Marking Tool You’ll Ever Use

  1. Ros says:

    WOW! Quite possibly.

  2. Emily says:

    Hmm…I wonder what their long-term effects on the fabric would be? If they’re not acid-free (google is less than clear on this), the fact that the ink is still around after disappearing could cause problems after time.

  3. Jenny Lester says:

    Sorry Karen – I thought you knew about these pens!! I have been using these for about a year and they are A – Maze – Ing!! I had a Desert Island Day class today ( where my evening students come to my class for a day away from the kids) and a new student hadn’t seen these pens, so was quite worried when I signed my name on her fabric before she cut it out!! Then to the ironing board and voila disappeared. I didn’t know that it would reappear when cold but hey who sits fully dressed in the freezer! I now use these pens in my diary (yes still have a paper one!) as how many times to arrangements change – just use the end of the pen, which is not a rubber but applies heat to erase – hence the name Frixion!! I have all the colours. Take care though as after marking the placement of buttonholes a student then applied her iron on interfacing!! Marking disappeared – so she had to do all over again – he he!!

  4. Jenny Lester says:

    PS saw the sneaky ice lollies in your freezer!! 😃

  5. Jane says:

    In a word – yes. Hot footing it to Sainsbury’s faster than the speed of light! x

  6. Louise says:

    I recently got hold of these pens and I’m a total convert! I managed to impress my daughter as well. I have been known to hold the fabric/paper close to a lightbulb to erase as well. I’m using them for fabric, patterns and my notes so they are perfect and mean I’m not scrabbling round for the right marker

  7. Cat ^..^ says:

    Thanks!! Just bought some – can’t wait!

  8. louise says:

    They look brilliant. just popped over to ebay and placed an order. thanks

  9. Lori B. says:

    I guess these pens aren’t an option for those of us who live in parts of the world where the winter is below freezing! lol

  10. Marianne says:

    Interesting! Do you know at what temperature the marks reappear? If this happened so quickly in your freezer it could be at just a few degrees below zero. Would be pretty embarrassing when your marks suddenly show up on your wintercoat. Like a sewing Cinderella: rushing to be home before the temperature hits minus three!

  11. Oh Gawd! who knew?
    d xx

  12. BMGM says:

    I’ve been using these pens since I learned about them in a quilting class. I mark my quilting lines with them.

    I didn’t know that about cold temperatures making the markings visible again. I will have to be careful to keep my quilts and clothing out of the freezer or outdoors in the winter.

  13. Beth says:

    COOL! I need some of these!

  14. Rachel Wain says:

    aah i’ve got some of these and never thought to use them on fabric, thanks for sharing! 🙂

  15. dinglebobbins says:

    I wonder whether the marks would still reappear in the freezer if the fabric was washed before putting it in the freezer……another experiment.
    Imagine shipping a quilt to someone, and during shipping, the quilt is in a very cold temp. The recipient opens it up, and there’s marks all over it.
    I contacted the Pilot (brand) pen folks once about the diameter of their pens. I wanted to use one with a compass to make circles, and I suggested they make a skinnier Frixion pen. Their response: “We don’t recommend using our pens on fabric.” That made me really wonder. I have been less confident about using them since.
    ‘Wish I had the ultimate knowledge about what the ink is made of and how safe it is on an heirloom.

    • Diane says:

      I have heard that someone sent a quilt to a show and when it arrived after shipping via air the marks were all back on the quilt. (In the belly of the airplane it is very cold I guess.)

  16. Great pens, I use an air erasable pen but it disappears before I get those pesky darts done ( normally on a different day to the cutting) Will keep my eyes peeled. J xx

  17. MelissaPurls says:

    I’ve used the Frixion pens before–loved them! But I’ve never tried them on fabric. I’ve seen them mentioned on blogs before and I need to try them.

  18. jenksin says:

    Sewing life changed! Need to get me some of these pens!

  19. Just ordered one! Thanks for the tip!
    X

  20. sew2pro says:

    Surely these are the devil’s work (where there’s magic..). Step away from now!

  21. fk says:

    I wonder if they’re available outside of Britain. I’ve never seen them, but will check.

  22. I’ve been using them for a while till I found out the leave a permanent mark on certain fabrics, more visible in plain colours, of course. It’s kind of a decolouring mark, it leaves a white mark (or yellowish in white fabric), and this happened in patchwork cotton…so be very careful! I found a chalk pen with different colour chalk, exchangeable, and it’s what I use now
    Regards!!!

  23. Sewniptuck says:

    I’ve been using these, but be warned… don’t write ‘notes to self’ all over your self drafted pattern and then iron over it – duh! Should have put the pattern in the freezer!

  24. Beth says:

    I love these. You do need to be careful though as a ghostly white mark can sometimes appear (the mark, as you’ve proven, does not actually disappear altogether when heated) – if you only mark the wrong side and conspicuous areas then you’ll have nothing to worry about. I would be without my frixion pens! 🙂

  25. twotoast says:

    Looks as though you can pick them up from WalMart in Canada. Yep, I know it gets cold here, but I’ll test to see what happens when the fabric is washed – does the gel wash out? Thanks for the ‘heads up’!

  26. Katie M says:

    Oh my goodness … that was my tip!! I’m so glad you have found them useful. I use my Frixion pens all the time to make markings. I always try to mark on the wrong side and (where possible) inside the seam allowance. I just had a good look at the darts on my most recent Liberty blouse and there is no trace of pen left. It’s been washed at least 5 times.

    Knowing that the pen leaves a residue, and can reappear at cold temperatures, I don’t use it on the outside of fabrics, or on anything I can’t wash.

  27. Yvonne Bennett says:

    They are available in the USA at Hobby Lobby and I saw someone mention buying some at Wal-Mart. I’ve not tried them, but heard all rave reviews.

  28. Florence says:

    I use these for quilting as I just snuggle under them in my already very toasty house, however, I know from a quilter who took her quilt to a show that the pen marks can start reappearing in just a mildly chilly atmosphere. For this reason, when I’m dressmaking, I’m fairly circumspect about where I use them now as I think clothing more than any other sewn item will be exposed to a range of temperatures.

    • Ros says:

      Oh, that poor quilter! I can’t imagine anything worse at a show than suddenly seeing pen marks appearing all over your quilt as if by magic.

  29. Nathalie says:

    That is amazing I need those desperately! I use very thin slivers of soap

  30. Bunny says:

    I have been using these for a couple of years now. They are wonderful. A thorough test was done on Artisans Square. If they are washed they will come out permanently. I live in a very cold climate and have never had a problem. I have heard of one prominent quilter, who put over a year into one quilt for a major competition. It was very likely she would win. When the quilt was hung in the air conditioned room for the competition the marks reappeared. So sad!

  31. happysewer says:

    I’ve just discovered these too. They are brilliant

  32. Bonnie says:

    I was given one of these pens for a Christmas gift this year and I finally got up enough nerve to use it……. My FAVORITE marking tool EVER! I had to find more in different colors so that I could use them on light fabrics too. These pens make marking for buttonholes so much easier now! Keep up the great posts!

  33. Louisa says:

    I’m interested to know if the ink reappears in cold after washing. Winter is far longer and colder here than I want to think about now that spring is finally on the way!

  34. I use these once in a while but since I am such a fanatic with the iron they are not so useful. So mostly still use chalk and tailor’s tacks. But for drawing stitching lines etc they are handy. Also I don’t find that they mark very smoothly on fabric, only on smooth cottons are they useful. Interesting that everyone uses them so much.

    • With you there, Beth. Actually I bought at huge expense one of those German mechanical chalk pencils recommended by you, Miss Karen, and I love it. I sharpen the pencil leads and often just use them unloaded into the pen. But mostly, I don;t mark things at all – tailor’s tacks and notches etc. But then I am not a darter, so to speak 😉

  35. ellegeemakes says:

    Clever! Out with the tailor’s chalk. In with the pens!!!!

  36. I struggle with tailors chalk and don’t get on with tracing wheels and carbon paper, so I’ve been using water soluble pens from the haberdashery. These look cheaper though. Although after all the cold comments I think I’d do my own test of freezer after washing before using them on fabric. Still, if they’re that cheap it’s worth a try.

  37. Tanit-Isis says:

    I have heard about these but I confess as a Canadian I’m a little leery of using them on my clothes… sooner or later just about everything but the undies is bound to be exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. 😉 I have had really good results with the wash-away markers that just disappear when you squirt a bit of water on them, though they don’t replace chalk for dark fabrics…

  38. Tracy H says:

    Great tip thanks for sharing. I must admit Your post did make me wonder at who had ever thought of putting fabric in the freezer it would never of entered my head that the print might return at very cold temperatures.

  39. Janome says:

    PS having used the fine frixion pens a lot, I jumped on the highlighter ones, thinking they would be good for the darker fabrics, but I have to say they erase much more sketchily, both on paper and fabric. Still handy at times, but nowhere near as good. The range of colours with the fine ones is great too, isn’t it?

  40. Kimmy Rocket says:

    What a lovely, little innovation. Although, I can’t help wondering if one might have to think twice about which me-made items they whopped out in colder climates, so as not to unveil some unexpected embellishments. Just imagine if you’d marked the tip of your bust darts on the right side of the fabric – we all know what a good bust dart points to 😉

  41. thanks for sharing the magic-freezer tip! i usually use a frixion pen, but more than once have inadvertently pressed my markings away, and grumbled at myself whilst awkwardly re-marking. as far as the concern about markings reappearing in the cold, i haven’t encountered that yet (and i live in frozen tundraland). really, i think any residue would disappear when washed.

  42. Simona says:

    Oh! I love these I got them all the way from Korea and got 24 colours. My life is so much easier! Love them. Glad you discovered them to!

  43. modistegirl says:

    Definitely worth a try, possibly only used on the wrong side of fabric through sheer cowardice.

  44. I think this is the perfect item that fits both my stationery and sewing obsessions! I had never heard of the pens but will look out for them. I’ve struggled making neat marks that disappear with tailors chalk and those funny little chalk pencils that are meant to rub out with the brushes in the lids (but never do). I find the chalk never gives me a neat line and the pencils don’t rub away!

    Thank you for posting about them!

  45. katekemp2804 says:

    Someone mentioned these with regard to marking off cross stitch patterns. They are on my Amazon wish list and I’m hoping I will receive some for my birthday next week. If not, off to the supermarket I go!

  46. Kara says:

    Wow, I own one of these already! I shall try It out. Nice to know they wash out, but probably only on toiles and summer clothes.

    Otherwise I swear to refillable pencils, like this: http://www.amazon.com/Dritz-Quilting-Chalk-Cartridge-Set/dp/B001UAJ7C6 So much better than the regular tailor chalks.

  47. These sound very cool. I mostly use water soluble pens on lighter fabrics, which work amazingly. Though if you’re forgetful like me and iron over it, or leave your UFO (unfinished object) there for months, it can turn permanent. If I see these in my supermarket I might try them, would be a lot more value for money than the expensive water soluble pens (plus you can get straight into continuing to sew, rather than having to dry your fabric first).

  48. Someone in my sewing class was talking about these a couple of weeks ago I think i will have to seek them out. oh and thanks for the science lesson I love a good experiment :0

  49. JS says:

    As it happens, I recently bought some FriXion pens. They worked OK, although the blue didn’t completely disappear, but I definitely can see using them for some functions, for example, marking a light-colored interfacing. But I still love tailor’s chalk (Clover and Royal are favorite brands). I can’t use a FriXion pen on a dark wool

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  52. Giorgia says:

    On the Pilot website they claim Frixion pens ink disappears over 60 degrees C and reappears at below 10. I think a good way to try if this is accurate is to put some scribbled on fabric in the fridge and see if it works. Based on this it is really strange A/C kind of chilly activated the ink again!

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