Which Permanent Markers for Quilts?

I’m making a quilt to be used as a wedding “guest registry” by a friend. It will be a “couch quilt” after the wedding, used for naps, watching TV, etc., so it will be washed. This led me to wonder what type pen the guests should use to sign.

Although a laundry pen would seem obvious, I ruled that out because it can be difficult to get it to move smoothly over fabric. That left Sharpies and Pigma pens as the primary contenders, and both are available in a variety of colors, which is nice.

pens for use on quilts

The Contenders

I’ve heard pros and cons regarding both, and when I asked a vendor at a show for suggestions, she expressed shock that I might use a Sharpie.  I have to admit that I had doubts when I first read Mark Lipinski’s remark about using Sharpies to “fix” a quilt, years ago.  However, I’ve tried them since and they’ve worked out fine.  Mind you, I’m not concerned about archival quality, I’m concerned about the ease of use of the pen and how well the signatures will hold up to washing.

Since I had both types of pen on hand, I made a couple of little quilt sandwiches, one with poly batting and one with cotton batting.  I was concerned that either or both types of batting might absorb the ink and transfer it to the other side.

Permanent marker for quilt

After Washing and Drying

Yes, these are the “after” pictures.  Both inks were essentially unchanged after washing and drying in cold water on the delicate cycle.  The pigma pen had a broader tip, so the mark showed up better both before and after washing.  Neither pen bled significantly during writing, and neither soaked through the batting into the backing.

Because Sharpies are easier to find, I’ll probably use those for guests to sign the quilt. And I’ll show the quilt to be used as a guest registry in a later post.

Anybody out there have suggestions for permanent markers to be used on quilts?

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8 thoughts on “Which Permanent Markers for Quilts?

  1. I like using the Sharpie for the same reasons you listed. They are very easy to find and I know from experience with kids and grandkids using them that it is almost impossible to remove. I use them on my quilt labels and they hold up very well and are less expensive.

  2. Thanks for doing the test for us. It helps to see them side by side. What thickness Pigma pen did you use? Mine are quite fine.

    I used a Sharpie on my son’s Iowa quilt. I have a package with several colors of them, and I tried a few on a cotton shirt to test the colors. Some of them bled the ink away from my drawn line, while others stayed “intact” as yours above. And this is without washing. Whatever someone decides to use, I recommend they test it on their own fabric first.

  3. I did this for my son. I cut squares and people/couples signed a 12 inch square. Then my DIL and I laid them out and I put them together. The effect was a solid background. People wrote in all directions so we wanted some order to it all. We used both sharpies and the quilt pens. 10 years later the sharpies are still the most visible and readable.

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