Friday, April 30, 2010

Quilt Labels - Which Pens To Use

Ok, I'd like to think I'm pretty good with Google. That if I have a question, I'm pretty confident I can find my answer on my own. Not that there is anything wrong with asking someone else, but, I usually learn even more than I was bargaining for when I try on my own first.

I seemed to have failed last night, or perhaps, the information just is not out there. I'm going with the latter, because I'm good with Google. ;) 

Either way, I'm taking it upon myself to add it to the world wide web so ya'll don't have to go through what I did last night.

Lemme explain...

I've been one of those that didn't really realize the importance of using labels on my quilts. I've never labeled one. I know. That's bad. Noodle lashings later please. :) I've read so many stories of quilts from the past and no one knowing where they were from or how they came about, and it broke my heart. So much love and time goes into a quilt, they deserve to hold the information of their origination. Future generations deserve to know where they came from and the history behind them. I'm going to label all my quilts from now on. I will also label the ones that I've made in the past that I can get my hands on.

So, last night I started playing with options. The one that I REALLY wanted to work was this one. I designed a really cute label, followed all of the directions carefully, printed my label and it was beautiful. I loved it. I let it sit for a couple of hours and then I did a hand washing test. My label was no longer pretty. It was faded and the ink bled.  (see the large "wordy" label in the photo below). It was horrible. I haven't given up on this yet though. My printer is a photo printer and word is that won't work as well. I'm hoping sometime this weekend to try a normal ink jet printer to see if the results are the same. I will get back to you.

Good and Bad

After this disappointment I tried a Pigma Micron pen as my local quilt store recommended them as well as many others on the www. Also recommended were zig pens and even Sharpies. As you can see above, I didn't have much luck with these either. I was getting worried as to how I was going to be able to do my labels. If the labeling didn't last, what was the point to even do them?

I persevered. Today I went shopping and grabbed a few more pens and did an experiment. I am by no means a professional or a spokesperson for any of these pens, this is purely just my experience and results may vary depending on fabric used, detergents, etc...  

Let's do some test writing... 
Pen Test - Writing on Fabric
 I used 8 different pens. Sharpie in black and a turquoise color, a Perma Writer II, a gel roller in black and one in red to see if there is a color variation, Pigma Micron, Zig and Copic Multiliner.  I used Moda's Solid Natural fabric. 100% Cotton. I did NOT pre-wash this, it's right off the bolt. I did iron on freezer paper to the back of it to make it easier to write on. I also took a pass with the iron (cotton setting, no steam) after I wrote on the fabric. The above photo shows the results.

Pen Test - Just Wet. No Scrubbing
This photo shows the fabric after I ran it under cold water. No scrubbing. It's just wet.

Pen Test - Scrubbed and Still Wet
This photo shows it scrubbed for about 4 minutes using dish soap detergent. Mine is Dawn hand renewal. I don't know if that makes a difference, but it shouldn't. I scrubbed it pretty hard against itself, more so than I believe a washing machine would. I'm tough that way. :)

Pen Test - Final Result
This shows how it turned out after all that scrubbing and about 20 minutes in a high heat dryer! I also hit it with a hot iron, set to cotton, no steam, to get the wrinkles out.

The first thing I notice is how the ranted and raved about Pigma pen is one of the lightest ones on that fabric. I choose NOT to use that one. I feel the same about the Zig Millenium pen. Granted, on quite a few of the pages I read about Pigma pens, was that you had to let it sit and dry for 24-48 hours before washing it. I did not try this. I'm not that patient. =P

I wouldn't use the sharpie either. The black did better than the turquoise but still faded quite a bit. Now, I have heard that if you prewash your fabric before using the sharpie, it lasts longer, but I did not test that. I'm a bit weary about using a Sharpie on my precious quilt anyways. 

The gel roller actually turned out the best out of all of them. The color didn't fade at all, even in the red. You do have to write a wee bit slower with this one for good coverage but it would be worth it.

The Perma Writer II turned out really well too. The tip is finer than the gel rollers so that is a positive if you have to trace fine lines.

The Copic Multiliner did well too. These are actually more for drawing, such as anime. When you use them with Copic markers, it won't bleed. However, that's a whole different ballgame. It's just nice to know they work on fabric too.

My end result is I want fantastic results, and I want them NOW! LOL. I am by no means saying not to use Pigma Pens. My own local quilt shoppes recommend them. It's just that I am not that patient. The gel rollers and the perma writer II are both pens made specifically for fabric and they turned out great! I choose these babies! :D

I would love to hear your opinion on what you use, good and bad, and if you try something similar to what I did, let me know your results. Or, even if this information was helpful to you, or not. :) 

Happy Quilting....and as always....

Much Love!!!

54 comments :

  1. I have no idea where I got this pen but it's just called Permanent Fabric Marking Pen Japan.
    It works and is fine lined. No fading or bleeding. It's just black ink though.
    Thanks for all the hard work and more choices!

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  2. I never liked sharpies on fabric...ever. I used a micron pigma for the siggy swap and my solid was kona white, it was so fine it got snagged up on a few of them. If you were to take a stroll to the scrapbook section micron pigma has larger sizes, I want to try one of those because I liked the look of the pigma.

    Nice comparison! I didn't think the gel roller would pan out!

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  3. Gee-I just bought a Pigma pen for this. lol. Luckily I have Copic multiliners too so I'll just use those instead. The funny thing is, Copic multiliners are pigment ink just like Pigma pens. Guess there's more to it than that. Thanks for doing the work!

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  4. Thanks for doing this...and you think you have no patience. I teach high school and have 4 teenagers of my own at home---I thought I had patience but i just went with the sharpie and did no testing whatsoever. Crap, now what are all my labels going to look like?? Oh well I hope I have no complaining gift recipients or maybe they will justnever wash their quilts. Thanks again.
    Ann

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  5. Wow, what a timely post. I have been unhappy with the labels printed on my printer, didn't like the sharpie or pigma pens and if just done all the research for me. Thanks!

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  6. Thanks alot for the hard work. I am making a quilt for my Mother-in-Laws 70th birthday party. I had everyone at the party sign a piece of fabric. I used the Permawriter II. I feel so much better now knowing it won't fade.

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  7. This is great information...thanks for sharing!

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  8. quite a study there!! i use my spoonflower labels with pigma pens and have no issues... who knows!!

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  9. This was my first visit to your site and this post was something I have been wondering about for a while...thanks for all the research you sure saved me some time! I love the gel pens too because of all the color choices, think how much fun you can have with labels now!

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  10. This is interesting. I worked as a curator for a number of years, and we were always told to use Pigma pens for labelling. I can see that you had success with some other pens for washing but I wonder about fading or discoloring over time and other factors? I know that the idea with museum numbering is that you need to be able to read the numbers years later. Many inks tend to fade or discolor in light. Just something else to consider!

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  11. Where did you find the three pens that you liked?? The gel rollers and the permawriter?? Thanks for doing the work for me. I am not even that patient!

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  12. Thanks so much for you valuable information.

    Mandy

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  13. Thank you so much! Great information:-)

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  14. Such great info!!! Saving us all heartache. Thanks!!!!!!

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  15. Picked up a couple Gel Rollers for Fabric --- for the Modern Siggy Swap II. I used a fine tip Sharpie for round I and wasn't happy with the results at all. Here's hoping for a better experience; many thanks for the research!

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  16. Thanks for putting the time and effort into your pen study! I scrapbook as well as quilt, so I was interested in seeing if I could use a pen I already had. I love your blog, you have a cute sense of humor! And of course I love the content!! Take care and happy quilting.

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  17. Hi!

    I found you through Moda Bake Shop (love the Random Reflections strip quilt - pattern saved!), and at the moment I'm backtracking through your posts!

    Just want to thank you for testing pens!!! I have never had the patience to do this, and I love your results! When I saw you had tested the Gel Rollers, I just said no way that's going to work, and then they turned out to be the best - who knew!? My quilt shops (I'm in Norway, btw) also recomends the pigma pens, and I find that I have to do each line several times to get a good result - love them for tracing stitcheries though :o)

    And speaking of labels... Just a quick warning of what not to do: A few years back I did what I thought was a smart thing and bought "Iron on" labels. It was a booklett with lots of qute quilt related labels, you just cut them out and ironed them onto your fabric and then stitched the label to the quilt. Looked wonderful, and came out of the washing machine still looking wonderful. However, after now 4-5 years all those labels have for some reason turned an awful shade of bluish purple and not a single line is sharp!! So here's a warning - don't do it the easy way! I still have the booklett, but now whenever I want to use any of those patterns, I trace them with a lightbox and a pen. Looks like I'll be using Gel Rollers from now on ;o)

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  18. I'm so happy you did this test. I was told to use Pigma Pens as well for labeling. My son just showed me today a quilt I made for my granddaughter a couple of years ago. The label is fading. I'm definitely going to use the gel rollers. I've never heard of them before, sure hope I can find them.

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  19. I was so happy to find this info. Thank you so much for sharing it. I am really not a quilter but I do want to use a fabric pen in a project I am working on. Does anyone have any suggestions as to what fabrics are best to write on?

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  20. Thank you so much for sharing your hard work! I'm not a quilter, but I've been researching the best pens to write on fabric for a clothing project I'm designing. You just saved me a lot of frustration!

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  21. Thanks for this! I just wrote out a label using a Pigma pen, and really didn't like it, so I turned to Google! Thanks for adding to the answers on the interweb!

    As a side note, my mother-in-law used those Printed Treasures sheets for labels for all of my kids' quilts. After a few years of cuddling and lots of washing, the print is now a blueish-purple, and the fabric itself is gross and stiff and crunchy.

    I think I'm going to go with Spoonflower for my labels--although it's not the cheapest option, I think it will be the longest-lasting!

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  22. Like most of the others, I thank you for your research. My quilt guild is making signed blocks for our outgoing president, so we want the best pen for our signatures.

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  23. Thank you!! Hockey team signing a quilt block for its team manager ...

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  24. Thanks for the analysis. I have a couple of the pigma pens, but they are very fine and I need something a little easier to work with. I did some test washings with them on a piece of muslin, and I found that if you did let it sit for 24 hours or so before washing, the ink did not streak and held up very well. I'm going to check at Hobby Lobby for the gell roller and the perma writer. The tips are fatter and may work better for some shop labels. I appreciate your efforts.

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  25. http://www.sakuraofamerica.com/Pen-Archival under the "applications" tab says that the Pigma Micron is not intended to be laundered. Surprised me, because of course everyone raves about it! Thanks for some alternatives...will go shopping tomorrow!

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  26. Excellent post. Thanks for testing all these pens.

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  27. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  28. Thank you for your research & for this page. I am a new quiltmaker & want to do autograph blocks for a reunion quilt. Your research is fabulous. Much appreciation!

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  29. Thanks for this great comparison! I just purchased a gel roller on amazon for future quilt labels!

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  30. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!! I feel I'm a Google Wiz too and was annoyed to see how little I could find on fabric markers. You so totally rock for doing this test. Saved me tons of analyzing, time & money! I live outside the US (Bermuda) and I have to order craft supplies online (our island is too tiny for variety) and I always feel like I kind of have one shot at finding the right thing since it's so costly to ship here. Anyway, thanks again!! Off to Amazon to add your recommendations to my cart!

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  31. no matter what you use, you should always test first. Differences in fabric, washed, or not can make a difference in how your pen reacts. Same with soap, water and TIME. I have used the pigma pens for years and have never had them fade out like yours did..BUT, I always plan ahead, prewash and allow plenty of SETTING time!

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  32. wow I was always told to use the micron pixma pens they would not run well they did not run but they sure faded. Thank you for the time you put into this. I think you should set the pen with ironing too. That is what I do.
    Beckie

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  33. I was using the Micron pens but realized that they are not durable enough. Now, I use them to write out my label and then embroidery over the writing. I use 2 strands of floss. I do like the idea of using the gel pens. Thanks for sharing your research. Great information.

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  34. thanks for the info! I had just tried a test today, all I had was a Pigma pen & a Zig pen, used both of them on a test similar to what you did, & both faded terribly!! Was so disappointed! So went to the Pigma web site to see what I did wrong, & saw that they aren't meant for laundering!! What a surprise!! I had always heard that Pigma pens were what you needed to use for quilt labels! so I have been googling trying to find what to use & found your post, so thanks for all that information!

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  35. thanks for the info! I had just tried a test today, all I had was a Pigma pen & a Zig pen, used both of them on a test similar to what you did, & both faded terribly!! Was so disappointed! So went to the Pigma web site to see what I did wrong, & saw that they aren't meant for laundering!! What a surprise!! I had always heard that Pigma pens were what you needed to use for quilt labels! so I have been googling trying to find what to use & found your post, so thanks for all that information!

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  36. I have used Pigma Pen to write quilt labels for ten years and have had absolutely no problems with them fading. Here are some tips: always make sure your fabric is free of starch and/or fabric softener before marking. Either of these will diminish the permanency of the marker. Heat set after marking with iron as a high a setting as the fabric will allow. Then allow the piece to sit for at least 24 hours (48 would be better) before your first washing.

    Using these simple steps, I have had great success with Pigma Pens. No fading, no bleeding, no disappearing. :-)

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  37. Very helpful post, thanks!! I think I'm going to embroider my labels from now on!

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  38. hello my sweet..now what a great review…but I am still not sure which one you recommend…I was seeking a reference and was going to go with pigma…scrap that now lol thanks to you…which do you use now…4 years later…madamesamm@me.com

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  39. From what she says at the end of her post: The gel rollers and the perma writer II are both pens made specifically for fabric and they turned out great! I choose these babies! :D

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  40. I have had really good luck with the gel roller pen and they are not very expensive at all. I use it on unwashed fabric and heat set it. The gel is thicker by far than the Pigma pen. You can sort of shape how you write but you have to be careful of it coming out too thick.

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  41. I'm working on a small hanging quilt for a baby shower. The guests wrote messages on a small square. My main problem has been finding the perfect pens. I initially intended to embroider the messages but the thread showed through and looked bad so decided to just write on them. I have spent a small fortune on pens. My next choice was going to be the pigma pens. Not sure if I want to invest in them now. But sooo glad for the reviews. Just need pens that wont drag or bleed.. Thanks Debbie S.

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  42. I just bought an Epson printer because on the Inklingo chat group someone reported Epson is the permanent ink printer. Epson is working on technology to have really good permanent ink printers. Not good for Inklingo, but perfect for printing photos, labels, etc on fabric.
    I have heard good comments on the Pentel Gel Rollers for Fabric and have been unable to find them locally. Where have you found them and the Perma Writer II pens?
    Thank you for a very timely post! Our managing Broker (real estate) is beginning chemo for breast cancer, 3 agents are quilters, we're making a signature album quilt for all the agents, staff, etc to sign for her.

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Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to comment. I really love hearing from you!! :)

Happy Quilting!

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