Tools of the Trade

I’m often asked about the best way to transfer designs onto fabric ready to embroider so I thought I would share some of the marking tools that I use in my work. The tools I use often depends on that fabric I’m working with (and what I remembered to take with me!). Here are the different types I have in my stash.

Good to Know… When using any marking tools, you should always test a piece of the fabric first to check if it’s suitable for the project you are working on.

Air Erasable Pens

I’ve been using air erasable pens for many years, in particular the Barnyarns Magic Pen. They are great for drawing out designs onto fabric ready for embroidery. Some of the pens have a finer nib so you can do some really detailed lines. They come in a range of colours depending on the brand, you can even get a white pen for dark fabrics. I found that the pen for dark fabrics is hard to see at first as it gradually turns white.

This type of pen fades differently depending on the fabric. I’ve found that on vintage fabrics it doesn’t last as long, especially if the work is in direct sunlight for a long time. If you are finding it takes too long to fade, you can dab the marks off with a damp cloth. Ironing will sometime bring the pen lines out of the fabric and can make them permanent so make sure they have fully faded before ironing the piece.

Fabric Marking Pencils

I picked up a fabric pencil on a trip to Barnyarns as I was looking for a way to have a design last longer than the air erasable pens I was used to. I picked up a Sewline mechanical pencil which comes with graphite and white refills and a built in rubber to remove the lines.

The pencil is really great for marking the fabric and stays in place if you’re coming back to a piece of work. I haven’t successfully removed the lines with the rubber supplied but I did find that a damp cloth took the marks away easily.

Water Erasable Pens

After finding the air erasable was disappearing too quickly, I bought the water erasable version by Prym. This pen has a thicker nib so I found smaller details harder to draw, especially fine handwriting. I found it was great for pieces that I was working on over a few days as it stays in place. Remember not to iron the fabric as this can heatset the pen.

Once your design is complete, you can use a damp cloth to remove the lines. I’ve found this easy to do but on very pale fabrics there is sometimes a residue which takes a bit more water to remove.

Heat Erasable Pens

Newer to the fabric marking tools is the heat erasable pen, the most popular is the Pilot Frixion which comes in a range of colours. I was late to the party with this product, so many of my friends have been using them for dressmaking and embroidery projects. I picked up a bargain pack in Tesco and you an find them online really easily.

I’ve used them for drawing embroidery designs which need to stick around for a longer project. You can remove them with the heat of a dry iron or a hairdryer. I’ve mostly had a positive experience although on a vintage piece of cotton I noticed a ghost image appeared after ironing the design away.

***Please note that this is just my personal observation on the products I use regularly, everyone has their favourites and I recommend trying lots of different types to find the best one for you.***