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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Testing Crayola Washable Markers for Embroidery

This tutorial was written by Thorn Trace for her blog
Reposted with permission. You can see the original post here.

Abstract: Most Crayola Washable Marker colors wash out of fabric with an hour or two of soaking.  The violet marker was the most stubborn.  Overnight soaking removed all marks.  These washable markers may be suitable to use for marking embroidery and quilting patterns.

Crayola makes a line of washable markers.  When I saw them in my kids’ art and school supplies, I wondered if they might be suitable for marking embroidery and quilting patterns.  So I decided an experiment was called for.  I wanted to cover a fair number of variables in my little experiment so a little planning at the front end was essential.  

I did a quick feasibility test by writing all over a piece of fabric in marker then washing it cold water.  Just one marker, one fabric, and immediate washing.  No pictures, but the marks came out.  Sure the fresh marks came out, but what if they sat a while? What about different colors? Different fabrics? This definitely called for more study.  

First I decided that I need to test at least three different time points.  I finish most of my embroidery projects inside of a week, but sometimes go to 2 weeks.  If I had a large quilting project I figured it might take me up to a month of work.  So I needed swatches for each time point: 1 week, 2 weeks, 4 weeks (It’s nicely exponential).  

While I usually use cotton for all my crafts, I sometimes branch out.  I needed a representative sample the different kinds of fibers I might use.  I cut swatches from cotton, screen printed cotton (what if the marks came out of the cotton but not the screen print ink?), cotton/poly blend, and a pure synthetic fiber (I don’t know precisely what it is, but someone gave me a bunch of it and I sometimes embroider on it).  

Next I needed to test a range of colors.  I decided to make a series of marks using different colors that would be the same on each swatch.  This way I could observe if any of the colors would behave differently and I would know where to look on each swatch.  ROYGBIV = Red, Orange, Yellow, Blue, Indigo, Violet.  Scheduled wash date in black and fiber content in brown. 
Unwashed Swatches

After one week, I took my first set of swatches and soaked them in cold water for an hour.  The nice blue water soluble fabric marker I use generally washes out within a few minutes, so an hour seemed fair.  I did not scrub, stir or agitate the swatches, only soaked.  As you can see from the picture, most of the marks came out.  The Violet was a little stubborn.  

Washed Swatches 1 week old soaked 1 hour in cold water

After two weeks, I soaked the next set of swatches.  As you may recall, I did pilfer these markers from my kids’ art box.  As any parent will understand, I got distracted by the demands of my offspring and these swatches ended up soaking overnight and a little bit into the next day.  What’s interesting is that in these swatches, even the Violet V washed out.  

Washed Swatches 2 weeks old soaked overnight in cold water

After four weeks, I soaked the last set of swatches.  To split the difference, I soaked these for 2 hours in cold water.  The Violet V remained, but is more faint than in the 1 week set that was soaked for 1 hour.  So when in doubt, soak it longer, maybe even agitate a little.

Washed Swatches 4 weeks old soaked 2 hours in cold water

So the lesson here (if you’re miraculously still reading) is that Crayola Washable Markers are indeed washable.  I feel comfortable enough in using them to mark my own patterns.  It’s likely that other brands of washable markers will behave similarly, but I have not tested them yet, so please run your own experiment if you want to know! 

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  1. How cool! I love doing embroidery, and I never thought about these markers; thanks so much for reporting on your experiment! Fabulous news!

  2. I have tried this experiment too but did not let them sit for a long time. I did try ironing and then washing. I found the same thing--avoid the purple. But for all that I am still hesitant to use on a quilt top. Since you found the same results I might be a bit more courageous! Thanks

  3. I use the markers all the time. I have had no problems with them washing out. The nice thing is that they are cheap and there are a variety of colors.

  4. Well I may just have to give them a try I have been buying the frcton pens and there not cheep my way 4$ a pen so kids markers sound better to my wallet too ;) thank you for sharing your test results.