FriXion Pens — Should You Use Them for Quilting?

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So, as you might have seen last Wednesday, I used a red FriXion pen to mark on my chevron baby quilt top. This generated quite the discussion in the comments of my WIP Wednesday post. Some people reported having problems with the pens. And a few bloggers have done their own tests — see Melissa’s post here and Angela’s post here.

But you’ll notice that neither of the tests mentioned above were on an actual quilts that went into actual washing machines, etc. And after all the comments and speculation, I was curious how the pen would behave in more of a “real-life” setting (it seemed to me that machine washing and drying was especially crucial to test). And hey, I just happened to have a marked-up quilt! I decided to put it through its paces to see what would happen.

I posted all of the following photos to my Instagram feed, and honestly, the reactions and comments I got on these photos were as interesting as the test results themselves. I’ll talk about why in a few minutes.

Test 1: Ironing. Once I was done quilting and binding, my first test was to iron the quilt itself. I ironed it on the cotton setting with steam.

The result: Yeah, that’s not good. The marks aren’t super noticeable from far away, but they are definitely still there. But based on my online research before I used the pen, I was prepared to see this. I had read that ironing may not fully remove the marks, but washing the quilt would. And I wanted to wash this quilt anyway when it was complete.

The reaction when I posted this photo on Instagram: Lots of people were very surprised that the marks didn’t come out when ironed. Some commented that they have never had this problem with their pens. However, others said the same thing has happened to them. None of us could determine what factors accounted for our differing experiences.

Test 2: Machine washing and tumble drying. Next, I washed the quilt. I used the “Normal/Casual” setting on my Whirlpool machine, with warm water and Tide Free HE detergent—nothing else (no OxyClean, color catchers, etc.) I also dried it on the “Normal” setting, medium heat, no fabric softener. There was one towel in with the quilt during both washing and drying.

The result: Much better! I could not find any sign of the marks, anywhere on the quilt.

The reaction on Instagram: Yaaaaaaay. But a few people commented that their marks did not wash out completely.

Test 3: Freezing the quilt. Yes, this is weird. But I’ve heard lots of stories about the marks coming back when the quilt gets cold. Living in Wisconsin, that could be a concern for me—what if I put a quilt in my car to take to a class or a trunk show or whatever, and it gets cold enough that the marks come back—just in time for me to show it to students or a guild group? So I stuck the whole quilt into the freezer for 30 minutes.

The result: A few marks did come back, in four locations on the quilt. All four spots looked about like this. In other places, the marks did not return at all. Hmmm. In the end, I just touched the iron to these four trouble spots and all the ink disappeared again, so the quilt is all good now.

The reaction on Instagram: Whaaaa?


To summarize:

The marks re-appearing when the quilt is cold could be annoying under the right circumstances, but I don’t find that to be a dealbreaker. What’s more concerning to me is how inconsistent these pens seem to be. Everybody seems to have a different experience with them. On Instagram, we discussed some of the variables, but we couldn’t pinpoint any cause-and-effect relationship—some people had problems with black pens, others didn’t. Some people had issues with blue pens, others didn’t. Some people had problems with the pens on dark fabric, others did not. What accounts for all of these differences? And for that matter, why did my marks come back in some locations on my quilt, but not in others? It was all the same pen, same fabric, same wash cycle, same frozen temperatures, same everything.

So, given that my marks did not iron away, I won’t be using these pens on any quilt that I can’t wash—such as quilts for publications, shows, etc. But since the marks did wash out nicely for me, I probably will continue to use these pens on quilts that are for family, friends or my own house (which I almost always wash before the first use). I still prefer them to those blue Marks B Gone pens, which always seem to run out on me after about 5 minutes of use. : ) Despite the inconsistent reports, I think a good machine washing should remove FriXion pen ink. And even if it doesn’t come out in the first wash, I have to assume multiple washings (especially with a stain treatment or OxyClean) would do the trick eventually. But don’t quote me on that!

And obviously everyone needs to make up their own mind about how much risk they’re willing to take with these pens, especially given their unpredictability. I’ve heard from people who used them regularly and never had a problem—then one day, suddenly, the marks just wouldn’t come out on a certain project. So you just never know, I guess.

I’m keeping my FriXion pen around, but I’m giving it the serious side-eye. You’re on notice, FriXion. Be on your best behavior from here on out. And a huge thank you to all my Instagram peeps for the discussion and reports on personal experiences! That was a very important part of my experiments. : )

 

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  1. Samantha
    Samantha says:

    So…this is old. 🙂 but I was just reading.

    I use these all the time for embroidery. I use a hair dryer to erase the lines. I have put them in the freezer and the lines only show up super faintly in a couple spots.

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  2. sherry pasquariello
    sherry pasquariello says:

    Just wondering if you prewash your fabric and if that could have something to do with the marks not coming out completely with ironing? Sorry I didn't read through all the comments since I'm seeing this blogpost quite awhile after you initially did your test so maybe you already answered this question? I don't prewash – I've never tried the Frixon pens but have heard a lot of positive things about them, but was curious if prewashing could be a key factor? Thanks!

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