How to use air-erasable fabric pens for hand embroidery

There are loads of different transfer tools available to us as stitchers, including white and blue water-erasable transfer pens, washable transfer paper you might use for more intricate designs, and even simple pencils (which you can see me demonstrate in my post about the window method for transferring hand embroidery designs to fabric).


While these tools are great options for when you're stitching a previously-determined design (for example, a design from a digital pattern), you may occasionally find yourself in need of a more temporary method for drawing on your fabric. In those cases, it's nice to have an air-erasable fabric pen among your supplies.


Overhead photo of two pens on a pink surface. The pen at the top has a white cap and white body, and the pen on the bottom has a purple cap and white body.

In this short post, I'll review what these pens are and where to get them, how to use them, and how to remove more stubborn marks. I've also provided a very short demonstration at the end of this post where you'll be able to see them in action!


What are air-erasable fabric pens, and where do you get them?


Air-erasable fabric pens are pens that produce disappearing marks -- yes, just like the disappearing ink pens you may have played with as a kid! Theoretically, their marks disappear over time with exposure to light; however, you may need to rinse your fabric with water to fully remove their marks in certain situations (this is why testing your fabric before committing to any transfer tool is a super important part of the process!).


You'll find air-erasable transfer pens, developed specifically for use on fabric, online and in most craft stores. If you're in a physical craft store, you'll typically find them near the embroidery supplies (though you may also find them in the sewing notions and/or quilting sections), and will usually find them in shades of pink or purple.


I've included these pens from Kearing in my own kits from time to time, but you'll find very similar pens from other companies and brands as well (including Dritz and Clover). I haven't found a huge difference between brands in terms of their pens' quality, ease of use, or ease of removal; that's why I suggest going with whichever brand you have easiest access to given your specific situation.


How do you use air-erasable fabric pens?


Before committing to this particular transfer tool, be sure to test your pen's marks on a scrap piece of the fabric you'll be using for your project. This will give you a chance to see if the marks will fully disappear, or if you'll need to do any additional work to remove them once you've finished your project.


After you've tested your fabric, air-erasable fabric pens can be used like any other pen or pencil: simply draw directly onto your fabric and stitch over your marks. Because the marks disappear with exposure to light, consider only using these for projects you plan to stitch relatively quickly. Alternatively, you may choose to use these pens in the final stages of a project; for example, I love to use these as a way to help me determine where I might place a few final embellishments that can be stitched relatively quickly.


Troubleshooting


If your marks do not fully disappear with exposure to the ambient light in your working space, try placing your project under a brighter light source (such as a lamp, or outside and in the sun during a very sunny day). If stubborn marks remain, you may need to use water to fully remove the marks. Yes, this does seem to defeat the purpose of the tool itself -- unfortunately, certain fabrics in certain colors tend to hold onto that ink a bit more stubbornly than others.


Short video demonstration of air-erasable fabric pens for hand embroidery


In the super short demonstration below, you'll see what it looks like when I draw on my fabric using two different colors of air-erasable fabric pens (pink and purple) and how they react to light overtime.



As you can see, the marks from my pens were fairly stubborn; after this video, I rinsed my marks off with just a bit of water, and placed my hoop in direct sunlight. That did the trick!


Thank you for being here, and happy stitching!


I hope this was useful, and I can't wait to see what you make - whether you create something from one of my kits or patterns, or from a design of your very own! If you'd like to share your work with me, you can always tag me on your social media accounts (@hopebroidery on Instagram and Twitter, @hope.broidery on TikTok). If you don't have public social accounts, but still want to share, consider emailing me a few pictures (hope@hopebroidery.com), I would love the chance to tell you how much I love your work!


Happy stitching!