There are many ways to transfer embroidery patterns to fabric, but one of my favorite ways is by using fabric pens. This post will share some of my favorite brands and types of fabric pens. I’ll also share some tips for choosing the best fabric pen for your next embroidery.
Disclaimer: This post has some affiliate links in it. I receive a small commission from purchases at no additional cost to the buyer. I only recommend products I would use and love and that are of good quality. All opinions are my own!
Types of Fabric Pens
I’ve separated the fabric pens into three common types for this article:
- air erasable
- water soluble
- heat erasable
Air Erasable Pens
I am including the air erasable pens in this post so that you are aware of them, because they are easily confused with water soluble pens. I purchased a pen that was labeled as a “disappearing marking pen”, which I confused with water soluble pens! Little did I know that it was air erasable until I had started using the pen and transferred over my design.
Air erasable pens are great for projects that you can complete quickly, (preferably in less than 24hrs). The ink will disappear on it’s own, but the time in which this happens can vary from brand to brand. I’ve seen some that disappear within 24 hours, and others that say they take 2-10 days to disappear.
A common use for air erasable pens is needlecrafts / quilting. I could see how this kind of ink would be really convenient for when you are sewing or quilting: you don’t have to worry about the marks staying on the clothing or quilt you’re working on. However, for embroidery, I find them to be a little bit tricky.
Personally, I don’t use air erasable pens, as I have had experiences where the ink started disappearing almost immediately. Also, I find that embroidery projects sometimes take longer than you anticipate them to. It would be awful if half of your design disappears before you are finished!
Water Soluble Pens
Water soluble pens are a great option for tracing patterns onto fabric. There are a few different types and colors you can purchase depending on the color fabric you intend to use.
Removal tip: Dabbing the markings with a damp cloth may appear to wash away the markings, but I have found that they come back once the fabric is dry. In order to fully wash away water soluble pen markings, I recommend rinsing the embroidery under running water or fully submerging it.
Many pens don’t stay on the fabric very well and they also run out rather quickly, but I don’t run into this problem with Leonis markers. These water soluble markers do a great job of marking the fabric and the marks stay visible for a long period of time (even after handling/touching the embroidery a bunch!). Once you’re done embroidering, the marks easily wash away under running water. Leftover marks and fabric staining is rare with these markers.
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Clover is another brand that you can normally find in stores like Walmart, Joan Fabrics, etc. The blue pens don’t seem to last as long as the Leonis markers. These pens have a finer tip on them compared to Leonis markers.
They have a few different pens, including a fine tip blue water soluble pen and a white water soluble pen for when you want to mark darker fabrics. The white pen can be a bit light when you first mark the fabric with it, but I’ve found that it darkens once it dries!
Frixion Heat Eraseable Pens
I did a whole review on these if you’d like to read more in depth about Frixion pens, but they are great heat erasable pens that have a fine tip.
Heat erasable pens are a great option if you can’t or don’t want to wash the fabric you are using once you’re done embroidering.
To remove the marks, running an iron over top of them will make them disappear.
Note: These pen marks can at times reappear when exposed to cold temperatures, so definitely keep that in mind before you use them!
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Amanda is a hand embroidery artist and teacher. With over 15 years of experience in the craft industry and embroidery, she owns and runs Crewel Ghoul, sharing tutorials and patterns to help inspire fellow crafters to get inspired and creative. In addition to running this website, she teaches on Skillshare and Youtube.