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Quilt marking for hand quilting with difficult fabric

by Maddie

My favorite chalk pencil by Bohin (shown with extra 'leads')

My favorite chalk pencil by Bohin (shown with extra 'leads')

Maddie asks...

What product would you recommend to mark hand quilting lines/patterns when you do not want to wash the quilt or iron it?

I have a red fabric in my quilt that is transferring color especially with heat. I did wash and pre-treat the fabric. Thanks.

GQP replies...

If you have quilting designs—something other than straight lines—that need to be marked, I recommend the Bohin Mechanical Chalk Pencil in white. It uses ceramic chalk 'leads' to produce a nice, easy-to-see, fine line.

Just be aware that some re-marking may be needed during the quilting process. My experience with this pencil has been that the marks are somewhat durable for machine quilting.

I 'smush' the quilt under the arm of my sewing machine, and 're-smush' as needed during the quilting process and do need to re-mark from time to time...I like a nice solid line to quilt on. But this manipulation would at least mimic the hooping and re-hooping if you're working in a small or portable quilting hoop.

Ink-based Markers

If the red fabric is running now, stay away from the blue washout marker (which is my personal favorite). You must thoroughly wash the quilt in cool water first to remove the marks. I'd be concerned about aggravating the fabric bleeding issues.

Air erase markers (these are the purple ones), produce a nice visible line. After quilting, I'd personally want to wash the quilt to remove any possible chemicals left behind. Since this is hand-quilted you're going to have a lot of time in the quilting and wouldn't want a mark coming back after all that time and effort.

Marking Pencils

Graphite marking readers keep telling me that they don't come out very well. If you do choose the graphite pencil...please do some testing first to see how well or if the pencil markings come out.

Marking Pencil Removal Spray

Quilter's Rule Marking Pencil Removal Spray
While I've not had a chance to test it myself, I have been hearing some good things about "Marking Pencil Removal Spray" by Quilters Rule International. It comes in an 8oz pump spray bottle and is phosphate-free.

It clearly states on the bottle, "Safely Removes Marking Pencil Marks".

Quilter's Rule lists on the label that the following pencil markings can be removed with this product:

  • Berol
  • VeriThin
  • EZ pencils
  • General pencils, and...
  • Graphite lead

They further note that yellow pencils may take more applications to remove.


It is recommended to test first on a small sample of the fabrics used in your quilt. That's a good suggestion for anything you try. Then...

  1. Shake well before each use.

  2. Spray the pencil markings to be removed.

  3. Wait 15 seconds for the liquid to soak in.

  4. With a soft white cloth wipe off the pencil markings.

  5. Wipe again with a soft damp cloth

If you're interested, this product retails for about $7.25 for an 8oz spray bottle. Ask for it at your local quilt store.

You've noticed, of course, that with this spray, your quilt gets wet and then you use a damp cloth in the final wipe. If bleeding is a concern, then it knocks out this option too. And again, you'd need to test it first.

So in the end...

...that's why I've suggested the Bohin Mechanical Chalk pencil with white chalk. I've used it, I like it, I recommend it! (Even though you're going to have to re-mark from time to time.) There are other brands of these 'mechanical pencil' type chalk markers, but I have no personal experience with them.

Hope this information has been of some help to you.

Readers, if you have suggestions for Maddie, please add them with the 'Click here to post comments' link found below.


Julie Baird

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