Open Line Friday – Fabric Markers

Micron Pens, Fabric markersHurray!  It’s Friday…

Time for another Open Line Friday…Please ask away…No question is too big or too small.   Also, please help answer questions…as a group we have a lot of experience.  So join in!  The More, The Merrier!

I’ll start by commenting on the Mystery Whole Cloth Quilt-a-Long.  (By the way, if you haven’t joined in, it is not too late…You could easily catch up with the group!)


I know a lot of you are struggling with the Zig Zag…and I think a little struggling is okay…that’s how we improve.  However, The Zig Zag is not critical to the design of this quilt and it is more important that you enjoy the process.  No one should be discouraged, nor should you spend inordinate amounts of time on The Zig Zag.  If you are struggling, replace the Zig Zag with a gentle wavy line.  Double this line IF it would be fun and a reasonable challenge for you.  If not, skip it.  Later in the project, you will be able to go back and add the extra line IF YOU WANT to do so…

I would rather see you do any free motion quilted line than a programmed stitch or a “feed dogs UP”  design.


Today, I have a question for the group:  What are YOUR favorite permanent marking pens for fabric?  Can you recommend any good articles, links, tips about using marking pens on fabric?


Last week someone asked about storing bobbins and you all had great ideas!

I have two favorites:  The Bobbin Saver  and a wooden bobbin spool rack.

Thread Saver Bobbin HolderThe Bobbin rack is found at JoAnn Fabrics.  I use it of the Bernina 820 bobbins which are too large to fit in the Bobbin Saver above.

Bobbin HolderNow it’s YOUR turn…What are YOUR Questions and Answers!


PS…All tutorials, images and information are the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are intended for personal use only. Feel free to re-blog, pin, or share with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, please contact me at  Thanks!

85 thoughts on “Open Line Friday – Fabric Markers

  1. I use the blue (or purple) marking pens (blue is water erasable and purple is air erasable) and to permanently erase I use Blue Line Eraser, the markings don’t come back as they sometimes do with just water.

    • I use a 2b pencil with a sharp point (and a chalk marker on dark fabrics, but sparingly), and I rub out the pencil marks with a quality white eraser after completing the quilting. Any residual lead marks have washed out easily. I have had issues with the supposedly erasable they are relatively expensive, dry out (the last time I bought one,in a packet, t was dry before I had even used it…took it back for a refund) and generally have caused more grief than ease in my experience (this is purely subjective). I have also had issues with chalk colouring my quilting thread – I have a favorite quilt which is quilted in beige thread, which is still bright yellow in parts, after multiple washes. (doesn’t detract from my enjoyment of this quilt, as it is a ‘shabby’ scrap quilt, but it made me rethink using my yellow chalk marker on other quilts).

    • I also use Blue Line Eraser, which I love, and most of the time it doesn’t come back but sometimes it does. A customer told me last week that it was coming back on a quilt I quilted for her so I told her to just spritz it with cool water. I quilted one of my own quilts with a lot of blue marker on white, however, and it hasn’t come back one bit. I wonder if the fabric also has something to do with whether it comes back or not?

  2. For permanent marking pens I use microns. For temporary I love Frixion except for batiks where they can leave a small permanent line :(. As for bobbins, the do make a bobbin saver in a larger size that fits the Bernina 820-830 bobbins! As an alternative I learned a great trick – if you store thread on a thread holder (similar to the bobbin rack you show) you can cut a drinking straw and slip it over the peg, slip the bobbin on and then your thread and the two will store together!

    • The pen holder is actually an old fashioned (or not) holder for stems of flowers in an arrangement. Wow Lori..great idea. Mine from my mom and grandmother are coming OUT of the dishes cabinet today! I inherited several sizes.Only flowers blooming right now are camellias and I usually float them. BTW, I had to go ahead with first cataract surgery on Tues, Other one will be done in 10 days..Eyes not working together right now. LOL I have one closed to type this. Will catch up with FMQ when I have new lenses for close work. Distance is clear with no lens after the laser technique. Oh, westlake, you can sometimes find the “frogs” as they are called for flowers, in thrift or antique shops.

    • The glass pen holder is a flower “frog”. I have several –all purchased at antique stores. Some are quite shallow-look for the deep ones to hold pens. They usually cost between $10-15.

    • It looks like what is called a “glass Frog”, florist use to use them in the bottom of a vase to hold fresh flowers so they can arrange them. I have only found them in antique shops. Very hard to find. Good luck

  3. I also like the Micron pens. However, you can make any pen permanent by brushing an art medium over it which dries clear, works even on colored pencils.
    Question: On bobbins how do you keep the thread from dangling off. I always seem to have several in my keeper that want to escape.

    • to describe this… we use a small section of the curly plastic binding used on folders in business made at printing shops. One individual segment just fits around bobbins..cuts easy with paper cutting scissors.Camera is defunct or would post photo. I bought 50 of them at printing shop for next to nothing because businesses weren’t calling for that type binding from that shop anymore. My bindings are 10.5 inches long and have 18-19 segments that can be cut off for bobbin thread protectors. Some folks in our guild love them and others not so much.

      • You know, I tried to do something like that but the colors of thread are so close that I want to make sure I’m using the same color in the bobbin. I accomplish this by placing both the thread and the bobbin in a small clear ziploc-closure plastic bag–the bags can be purchased in the jewelry/craft section of any store (100 bags for about $5 but maybe snack-size ziplocs would also work). This way, I’m sure that the thread on the spool and on the bobbin are exact matches, I don’t have to hunt, and any tails are kept inside the bag.

    • Most quilters make a label for their quilts, to document who made it, when and the recipient of the quilt (if there is one). To do this you can either embroider the label or uses a permanent pen to write on the label. I like to make mine with a pen in my own handwriting. Should my quilt survive many years, there will be a part of me with it. (Although, they will probably say, “Wow she had terrible penmenship!”. LOL It will still be my writing.)

  4. I have used magic markers on fabric and then spritzed with rubbing alcohol for a nice effect. Heat set with an iron! They don’t give a crisp line and tend to bleed. I’ve used fabric crayons but the colors are not as intense as I like so I have gone to water soluble wax pencils and inktense pencils. I can get a much stronger color that way.

  5. Lori you can get the bobbin saver in two larger sizes. One of course is called large and the other is for the M class bobbins for the long arms.
    I have used the Copic fabric markers before. They are a permant marker and add to your design.

  6. I have had trouble with those blue marking pens in the past. I currently use the sewline pencil and love it. It makes a nice fine point. For permanent marking I used a sharpie…. until recently I bought a Frixon when I read that the sharpie will fade over time…. I guess I haven’t quilted long enough for that to happen yet 🙂

  7. I use the Sewline pencil and love them! For those who use the Blue water soluble pen, if you have problems with the blue coming out, spray your piece with water and lay a paper towel over it. Pat the paper towel down on the piece, walk away and let it dry. It will pull up any left over color.

  8. Hmm. permanent marking pen…the few times i have needed a permanent pen was for making a label/ID on something due to be turned in at guild asap. I like the Micron pens and the ZIG Millenium pens by Kuretake. I find each in the fine art or the scrapbooking section of the stores. They are archival. We used those when we sewed a snowball block pattern with our guild member signatures in center of the blocks. I also use fabric paint sticks..can’t find them to tell you the brand name. They came in a box of 12. Have you ever had a dark part of a design to land by a seam and it looked like lint ora string? I have tried to pick those off! Thus I touch them up somehow witha paint stick to look like part of fabric design. This especially works well on a pillow cover or wall hanging or if you are seeing a pair of” eyes” where they don;t belong!!

  9. Lori, I really want to thank you for your blog. I LOVE it. You really have a heart to teach quilters free-motion quilting and you do a great job, too! Your blogs are interesting, your challenges are fun, and I look forward to it each day. It’s the only one I follow daily. Thank you and have a great day.

  10. Instead of free motion zig zag, I used a double needle and two shades of cream thread. I set my Bernina 440 QE on a zig zag pattern using as wide of a stitch as my foot would handle. It made a really pretty stitch, and the back was lovely, also. Since doing this I found a triple needle and will give that a try too.
    For temporary marking, I use a Frixion. It is easy to use and always completely erases with a hot iron. Micron is a great permanent marker, comes in several sizes and is archival. Love your blog, Lori

  11. I use Bohinn mechanical pencil ( white), Pat Campbell’s fabric markers, and Roxanne quilters markers ( silver).

  12. I have always enjoyed your blog, but the new changes you have made since the new year have made it even more enjoyable and motivating. Thanks. Go bobbin savers….and frixion pens!

  13. Still swear by the little square bobbin box my grandmother bought me 60 years ago. It holds 24, the bobbins are easy to take out of the box, the color of the thread faces up so there is no searching, it came with a lid (never used it) and since it is a nice little flat box it fits nicely in a drawer. When quilting I fill 5 or 6 bobbins at a time. The second spindle on my machine becomes my “holder” for all the filled bobbins – you can grab one in two seconds when you need it.
    As for permanent markers – rarely use them. The only permanent pen I have ever used (on a label) is Rub-a-Dub Laundry Marking pen!

    • It never dawned on me to use the second spindle for wound bobbins. Mine seem to wander all over the place in the middle of a project. Thank you, Sue, for this easy fix!

  14. Morning……just a note on the Micron pens: I wish they would put the size number on the pen itself instead of the cap. It’s too easy to get those mixed up.
    Thanks for all of the good information.

  15. I use Microns for my quilt labels. I learned online (can’t remember where) to compose the text on my computer, print it, place it on a lightbox, and then place the label fabric over it so that I can trace the lettering. So far none of my quilt labels have faded, and they are washed often.

  16. I am looking for someone or a program I can purchase to create a pattern for me to piece from a pdf file I have. It is an emblem from a club I am in and I would like to paper piece the emblem and it it to a quilt. I would need it atleast 16×16 would like it larger to place in the center of a king size bed. Any advice or guidance would be much appreciated. Thanks all, elizabeth

    • Would a copying machine help? Blow it up as large as possible. Cut the pieces apart. Blow them up individually at the same %. Lay them out to make sure they fit back together. Make pattern pieces from them by adding a seam width around each piece.Just sayin’…I would try that.

  17. I notice some of you are talking about removeable markers and Lori’s question was for permanent pens which are used for label making or in art quilts are sometimes used in embellishing. I think the best are Micron since they come in great widths. But there are other permanent pens that work well. I think you just need to test them on the fabric you are using. Ink works well, too, if you are embellishing. Art stores are a great place to look.

  18. I have a wooden spool rack that can be hung on the wall or stand. It is very similar to your bobbin holder. I love having the colors of the thread visible but worry about dust. I wish there was a clear plastic or plexiglass cover. Do you know if there is anything like that?

    • Hi Jan,
      I made a clear vinyl cover for my large wall rack. I measured then made a deep dart on upper top/sides & bottom/sides so that with both sides creased length of cover, the cover sets over the rack with top, bottom & side edges touching wall. I hope this makes sense. I bought the medium weight vinyl at JoAnns on sale.

  19. Thank you Lori and readers–love all the tips! I love the Mircrons because they are acid free and archival. I also love the Sewline pens. I confess disappearing pens, in general, make me nervous so I use lots of wax free chalk.

    I’m happy to hear that the Frixion needs to be pre tested on batiks. I’ll try it!

    My tip is if you accidentally iron your Frixion marks but still need them, don’t retrace. Put your piece in the freezer for a while and the marks will reappear, more faintly, but they will be there. To get rid of them entirely, soaking the piece several times after completion may keep them from reappearing in cold temps. Show quilts are often mailed and fly to show in cold air plane baggage compartments. They could arrive with Frixion marks that have reappeared on them. Yikes!

  20. I use Micron markers for permanent marking ( mostly for quilt labels). When it comes to temporary marking on my quilt for quilting, I most often use fine point washable Crayola or Rose Art markers. I’ve learned to stay away from reds as they are more stubborn when removing with a cold water rinse.


  21. Thank you, Lori. I don’t just want to DO fmq…I want to master it. The fmq mystery quilt a long is giving me the incentive and reason to work at a little every day. I have a hard time with “practicing a design” but totally get the step by step leading to try something I may not have done before with a purpose.

    I never tried zigzags but after working with it a while I can add it to my I CAN DO THIS list 🙂

    To answer todays question I have only used permanent markers once..on a friendship quilt..and used Micron pens.

    Thank you again. By the way, I subscribed to the AQS magazine just because of your articles.

    • Thrilling to hear that you mastered Zig Zags. Just a little practice every day and you will get there way sooner than you think.
      I’m so excited to hear you subscribed to AQ Magazine–there are so many great articles, don’t you think?

  22. I purchase clear flexible plastic tubing from my hardware store…1 foot will last a long time (1/2″ – 3/4″ interior diameter depending on the size of your bobbin), measure the interior height of your bobbin and use an exacto knife to cut the tube in sections to that size. Slice down the length of the sliced off tubing, and wrap around your bobbin. This will keep the thread from winding off the bobbin. This is a less expensive way than anything else I’ve found.

    • This is indeed a great idea, I was so excited when I learned this at a workshop I went to a while back. I have been doing this for my bobbins for a while and it works a treat. I found that my quilting friends also love them but some of them found that making their own was a hassle or worse still, that cutting them was quite hard on their older hands and wrists. After I had made them all a batch I found I had kind of perfected my technique, so I started selling them locally to people who don’t want to make their own, and just this week a friend and I opened a little web shop. I call them Happy Bobbin Rings. I am happy to supply a web-link to my shop if anyone thinks they might like to buy them pre-made and Lori doesn’t mind. I don’t want to offend. I love this blog, it’s the only one I never miss a post!

  23. I Am only a beginner…so I always look forward to your posts Lori. You make it easier to understand. Thank you so so much. I use a 2b pencil. And toe sponge separators for my bobbins.

  24. I just used Microns on the labels instead of stitching…I was hoping it would last and was glad to hear good results from other quilters that they do. 🙂

  25. Hi Lori, Lovin’ your site. My question is do your markers not dry out faster standing on end in the frog? I thought one time long ago that it was better to keep them and gel pens laying down to prevent them drying out. I use Micron for labels, chalk for hand quilting and pencil 2h I also use ceramic pencil Bohinn.

    • I’m laughing out loud right now…I DO store my micron pens in ziploc bags–but that simply is not PHOTOGENIC! I usually store pencils in my frog, but dumped them for the photo-op! I agree, it’s best to store marking pens flat in a ziploc bag or plastic box.

  26. I was told to leave my micron pens lying flat. Which I have done in a cigar box and they have been lasting for years. I use them when I make quilt labels.

  27. Wow, so many posts, no idea how you have time to respond to all of them!
    I practiced my writing, it is fun, because I “know” where to go. Should I develop the habit of pulling up the bobbin thread each time I start a new word? And then how to end the stitch? I have a “fix” on my machine… Where it stops in place for a few stitches…. But what should I do?
    One inch seems quite large, is there a reason you recommended that? Bigger is easier?
    The zig zag, is / was a challenge… Bad tension for 1/2 of it…. Perhaps this will become the practice piece! My zigs seem to be about 1/2 ” across, and it is reducing the space in the box…. Yours look about an 1/8 of an inch…someday…. Mine might too.

    • Mary, I try to link the words with a sweeping line so there are less stops and starts. When you start a new line, then pull up the bobbin thread and stitch several very very tiny stitches to secure before beginning the writing. I chose one inch because that was the size of my ruler and it seemed easy to read. Bigger or smaller would work too–

  28. I really like the Clover Stack-n-store (with Nancy Zieman) Bobbin Tower which I have found at JoAnn Fabric since it holds bobbins securely including capturing the thread ends enough that they don’t unravel creating a thread mess! I’d post a photo if I could, as this is a great tool for me.

  29. I confess I’m not done with my zig zags but the practice has been beneficial. I was having a lot of problems…I was fine going down the line but echoing back up on the left I was crossing over and not able to keep even spacing. Then it dawned on me to try echoing on the right and VOILA! it worked. I have my mystery quilt hanging on my design board and every time I walk into my sewing room I like my zig zags even more.

    I never thought of using the Micron for quilt labels…I have it for marking embroidery patterns, but it is a good idea for quilt labels.

  30. Wow, all the comments are Spot on!!! thanks Lori for the Mystery, my zig/zags are progressing… I found that drawing 2 lines on either side of the main line 1/8 out, I am able to hit the line each time and am getting into the rythum of the stitch. The tension is important as I would get the bobbin thread on the tip of each zig or zag when I moved the other way. When I decreased the tension and went slower it was better. I use the micron pens for not only my quilts but also for zentangling. another way to train my mind and keep the synapses charged!!!!

  31. I don’t have a favorite permanent marker. However, 25 years ago when I learned how to quilt, the local quilt shop owner recommended a green Flair marker for marking quilting lines. I test it on every fabric in the quilt before I use it. But, It has never failed to wash out.

  32. I have been working on a project that, so the mystery has been delayed. HOWEVER, I am now in the midst of it. I have just been practicing zigging and zagging and echoing and trying some writing. I have a really busy week and think I will practice a few minutes each day, and next weekend, I will have time to put the pieces together on the real quilt! Thanks so much for your blog and your fun suggestions.

  33. To keep my bobbins from unravelling I use clear tubing cut at a little less then 1/4″ and split it on one side. I saw this on a Fons & Porter show and it works great. It wraps around the bobbin and you can still easily see the color of your thread. I really like the idea of the straw in your thread to put the bobbin on top. I will try this one soon. Thanks

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