Marking Designs for Hand Quilting

by Virginia Smith

I am doing hand quilting on my blocks and the fabric is light in color. I tried chalk, but couldn't see it. I have a quilter's gray pencil and used it for a few of the blocks. Will it wash out when I wash the quilt?

I'm leery of the washable marking pens because I've heard the marks will come back. Could you advise me what is best method for marking light fabric? Thanking you in advance.


Thank you for your question about marking designs for hand quilting. The information I provide works well for hand or machine quilting designs.

I once used a washable fabric pen. Despite washing my fabric, the purple ink was still visible, although faintly so. But, the point is I didn't want ANY markings to show!

It's true that washable fabric inks can become permanent. For example, if you mark your fabric and leave it on for a few days or weeks, the ink could become permanent. Or, perhaps you unintentionally leave your project in the sunlight. The heat of the sun might cause the ink to set into your fabric.

The same is true if you should iron over the ink. That would cause the ink to take up permanent residence in your fabric! These scenarios can wreak havoc on your fabric! Hey, I didn't mean for that to rhyme!

I've used (with much success) a "Berol Verithin" marking pencil. These are perfect for marking designs for hand quilting. They make a silver pencil for light fabrics (#753) and a white pencil for dark fabrics (#734). You can buy them at most sewing and quilting stores.

Berol Verithin pencils sharpen to a fine point, and they maintain this sharpness well. You'll find that as you rub your hand against the lines, though, the pencil marks begins to disappear. So, be careful when handling your project. These pencil marks wash out easily. So you don't have to worry about permanent staining.

You might also consider soapstone pencils. They make a light marking (not a light color, but a light mark) on your fabric. But they rub off easily and you have to sharpen them often.

Bottom line: Always test new marking products on scrap fabrics first. Rub it, leave it in for awhile, put it in the washer and the dryer. Give it every challenge you'd give your real project. It will save you the stress of ruining perfectly good fabric!

Finally, while you're marking designs for hand quilting, you'll have the confidence of knowing those marks will disappear when you want them to!

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