The great signature quilt pen debate (Part 1)

As I prepare to make a wedding quilt for my niece, I’ve searched high and low for information as to the best pen to use for the signature blocks, but decided to do my own experiment. What works for someone else may not necessarily work for me! Kylee wants to actually use the quilt, and I WANT her to use the quilt. I don’t make quilts so they can sit in a drawer, dammit. I’m making snowball blocks, and the writing area will be about 2×4.5″. I’m having guests sign the blocks before I sew the quilt together, so I paper-pieced them, allowing for easier signing.

Snowball-BlocksI decided to cut several squares of the white fabric and take them to “Sunday Dinner”, where a gaggle of friends gather at my sister’s house. I thought it would be best to get several different types of signatures with several different pens. Everyone writes differently. Some have a light touch, some press harder. This would result in different results when washed. I wanted to try to get 2 different signatures of each pen. Since I’m a doodler, I have tons of great pens hanging around. Here are the four pens I used for the experiment:

PensSharpie Ultra Fine Point, Sharpie Pen Fine & Medium, Prismacolor Premiere 05 & 08, Micron 03, 05, & 08, Nano-Liner 04 & 06. Yes, I used several sizes of each pen, if possible, to see what wasn’t bold enough and what was too bold for a signature. Kinda like the three bears. One’s gonna be juuuuuust right…..

I am using Kona cotton, Snow White color. I washed it in warm water with Tide (no fabric softener), and pressed it (no starch).

We had a signature party at dinner, and these are the samples I collected:

Signatures-parchmentI pressed the signatures with a hot iron to set the ink (hopefully!), quickly zig-zagged them together and threw them in the wash. Warm water with a load of towels. I figured if anything was going to scrub off the ink, it would be towels! Plus, worried about bleeding with the first wash, I wanted something okay to ruin. The first thing I realized is that I sewed them every which way. I’m a dork! But, as you can see, right off the bat the Sharpie Ultra Fine Point is out. It faded away in the first washing. It may be permanent, but not on fabric!

Pen-sample-wash-1The others held up well, with no bleeding and little to no fading. I’m leaning towards the Prismacolor Premiere pens at first glance. The black is truly black, while the Micron pens are a sort of brown-black.

This sample is going to be thrown in every single load of wash for the next 30 days. Hot water, warm water, cold water. Whatever the temp of the rest of the load, this will be added. Because you never know what temp a quilt will be washed in once it’s out of your hands. I’ll report back on my findings, and hopefully we’ll have a clear winner!

What is YOUR pen of choice?

Cindi 100

5 thoughts on “The great signature quilt pen debate (Part 1)

  1. Hi Cindi,
    Just wanted to say thanks for sharing your research! Lol I have read several bloggers who have really set on using Sharpies and had used them a few times myself but, the last time I did it ran! I’m not sure why but I’m interested in your final out come ;0) thanks Sarah

  2. I haven’t found a pen I like so far so am waiting on your research! I have heard many times that the Sharpie’s do not do well on fabric for being permanent. Please let us know when you figure it out!

  3. Pingback: Best pen to sign quilt squares with?

  4. Sorry in advance, I can’t help sharing this.
    Several years ago I was asked to put quilts blocks together that had been made to be a friendship quilt for a dear lady’s birthday. She died. The blocks were from the 50s as I recall. In those days….no fun, colorful, wonderful, bleeding, smearing pens to be had….and if there had been these dear ladies could not have afforded them. All the blocks were signed by embroidering their names on block. I took the challenge and the quilt top turned out grand. I moved and don’t know if they actually quilted it….I hope so. 🤗

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