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Quilt Marking: Removing Chalk

Sewlady asks...

Help!


What is the best way to remove stubborn chalk from fabric?

Julie replies...

I wish there was one, dynamite, go-to removal method that worked for everything, but there isn't.

So far, and I've been quilting since the early 90's, I haven't had a problem removing any quilt markings. Neither have there been any problems with the blue washout marker marks reappearing on the samples that we've created for the Generations Quilt Patterns line. Those sample quilts get hot and cold during transport, folded, unfolded, hung under direct light and washed or steamed to refresh the quilt. No marks have re-appeared.

Testing is Crucial

Every marker I use is tested on a scrap quilt sandwich I make from the exact same fabrics and batting in the actual quilt. It is created before I start stitching the top.

I draw some lines with the marking tools I expect to use and then I stitch over them to imitate the finished quilt. (I've read from several long arm quilters that they believe that the color from some chalks is actually 'set' by the heat of the needle and machine as the lines are quilted. While I have not experienced this personally, long arm quilters quilt for others and clearly don't want anything to happen to a customer's quilt. So stitching over your drawn lines is essential to good testing.)

The sample is set aside until the top is finished. Then I try removing the markings according to the manufacturers' instructions. If they work as stated, I'll proceed with the marking. If not, I'll try something else on the sandwich and repeat the experiment. There's just too much time involved in creating a quilt top to chance markings not coming out.

Know the Product You're Using

Read the instructions that came with the marking tool. If there aren't adequate instructions on the packaging, I'd stay away from the marker.

If we quilters were only interested in a mark that we could see and wouldn't go away, we'd all be using permanent Sharpie pens. But we ARE concerned about the ease of removing the marks once the quilting is finished. If the manufacturer isn't concerned enough about that aspect of the process, I don't want to support them with my dollars.

Sometimes you'll find a marker that has the properties you're looking for, but it's not made specifically for the quilting industry. Kids washable markers and the new Frixion pens come to mind.

There's nothing wrong with using these markers...

...just as long as you take the time to test them
under the same conditions that you'll use them.

You need your own information because the manufacturer hasn't supplied it for you. Then try it on smaller, less important quilts, not an heirloom created for a special event.

Some chalks, like that the comes with the Ultimate Pounce, are removed by ironing. Other chalks can be set if they are ironed because of the inclusion of wax in the marker. The instructions are crucial to determine which chalk you are using.

Possible Ways to Remove Stubborn Markings

Quilters have reported successful results with the following home-made solutions:
  • Gently blot the marks with a soft white cloth and solution made from 1/2 white vinegar and 1/2 water. (Some use a solution with 2/3 white vinegar to 1/3 water.) Quilters report that the marks don't seem to disappear until the quilt has dried.

  • Cool water with a drop of Dawn dishwashing liquid. Use a soft toothbrush to gently rub the solution into the marks.

  • Grandmas' Cleaning Solution (found now at craft stores, Walmart and possibly your local quilt store) used according to the instructions.

  • OxyClean, if used, should be used lightly. Many quilters have reported that while it helped remove or reduce the marks, it has a tendency to remove some of the color of the surrounding quilt fabric. Only testing will tell.
With any of these suggestions, test is a small portion of your quilt so that you don't accidentally make the problem worse. Also, if it doesn't work, you won't have wasted your time applying it to the whole quilt.

To our readers, if you have other suggestions for removing stubborn quilt markings, please leave your suggestion via the 'Comment' link below. Thank you!

I hope you find a solution in one of our suggestions. Please let us know how they work for you!


Piecefully,

Julie Baird
Editor

Comments for Quilt Marking: Removing Chalk

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Removing red chalk marks
by: Joanz

I saw the comment about Oxi Clean. I used Oxi Clean Max Force pre-treater gel stick on white material with a grey and white back ground. I had red chalk marks and tried everything else.

Yes, I tried Grandma's Secret and it turned it orange. I rubbed the Oxi Clean on with a little water and then washed the quilt. All the chalk came out.

Quilt Marking
by: MrsBeasley

Those Mr Clean magic erasers are wonderful for removing marks from quilts. I just dampen a corner of the magic eraser and lightly rub it on the mark. The mark disappears without marking the fabric.

Removing chalk marks from quilts
by: Missie

I have noticed that many quilters use way too much when marking their quilts. The key is to LIGHTLY mark your lines with any of the products. Do NOT stand there and go back and forth over and over the line when marking. Use a light touch and your results will be much better. When my quilts are done the first thing they do is go into the washing machine to get out all of the marks, hairs, floor dirt and dust in the air. Then they are line dried if possible and I show no marks anywhere.

From Julie: Missie, that is excellent advice! The marks should only be as dark as you need to see them. I agree!

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