Marking Tools Series: FRIXION pens

Mentioned in the episode as good for sewing

Frixion Markers

Frixion Stamps

Frixion Fine Liners

Lisa also uses for writing and note-taking

Frixion  Clicker

Frixion Color Sticks

Frixion Ball Point

Frixion Highlighter


The information read on the podcast came from a blog that offers a Comprehensive Guide to Frixion

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Read Full Transcript

Episode 19

Lisa   0:14

Hello, stitchers. Welcome to Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. I'm your host Lisa Woolfork. I'm a fourth generation sewing enthusiast with more than 20 years of sewing experience. I am looking forward to today's conversation. So sit back, relax and get ready to get your stitch together.

Lisa   1:00

Hello, stitchers and welcome to the Stitch Please podcast. I am so excited to be here today to talk to you about a limited series that we are going to be offering just for a sporadic few weeks or so, not contiguous, but interrelated. And that's going to be about marking tools. I was thinking a lot about that because I think it's important to have good marking tools for your sewing. And there's lots of different marking tools that I use for different projects. And because your sewing projects often have different needs, different characteristics based on the fabrics and the use, it's good to have a range of materials with which to mark them. So today's episode is about FriXion pens, which is wonderful because it combines two loves: my love of sewing and my love of stationery. I absolutely love pens. I was the kind of kid who was a total nerd and back in the day, when it came time to buy school supplies, you know, I could get a Trapper Keeper (remember the old Trapper Keepers?), a Trapper Keeper and fresh pencils and fresh pens and fresh papers and fresh notebooks. All of those things meant the start of school for me. And the start of school was, since I also love school, it was like a year of new possibilities, you know. And so, I really do love pens and I could spend a lot... I could and have spent a lot of time testing out different types of pens for different purposes. And this is the reason that I have so many FriXion pens. And I began this, my attachment to FriXion pens, I began it when I was doing a lot more quiltmaking and could find the pens at independent quilt shops. And then I started also noticing them at Staples. And so I wanted to spend a little time today talking about the different types of FriXion pens that I have and the FriXion marking pens, and what the benefits of using the pens are, what are the risks and drawbacks of the pens, and essentially all the different types of pens that are available. This is not a sponsored episode. I don't have a relationship with Pilot, which is the company that makes the pens. However, if you are interested in them, I have included the links to the different pens that I own in the show notes. And if you want to buy them, you can just click on the links and if you do buy them, we get, like, a fraction of a penny from your sale as part of the Amazon affiliates program. So if you are interested in that... But also, the links are there that show you the name and the type of pens, and so if you want to get it from somewhere else, that's fine, too.

Lisa   3:46

So to begin, I want to talk about the very first pen that I got that was a FriXion pen. And this was… I'm sorry you hear this background noise because I actually have all the pens sitting right here. The first one I think I ever had was what they call a ball clicker pen. And this is a ballpoint that rolls. But before I actually get into that type, let me tell you about the FriXion ink and why it is so amazing. So I did a little bit of research and I found this description on a website and I will include the link to the website in the show notes as well. But let me just read to you about the technology of these pens. Essentially, it's a proprietary ink that the pens are using. And it uses three types of chemical compounds that rely on acid base and temperature sensitivity, and these are three inks. So the first ink is a special type of dye that changes color upon reaction with acids. The second type of dye is a compound that acts as acids to produce the color change and then, three, compounds that regulate the temperature at which the color transition will take place. So when you rub the ink with the hard rubber eraser that comes at the end of the pens, heat from the resulting friction causes the temperature-sensing compound to activate the acid compounds, thus neutralizing the dye. And that's how they make the ink virtually disappear. I think for our purposes, it's the notion that the ink disappears with friction, and friction causes heat. And that's why we started to love it so much in the sewing communities. And so, this is one of the things I'm really interested about with these pens. And that is the, for some people, I've always kind of enjoyed erasable pens, not Air Erasable, but erasable pens. But these, because the ink is so varied, and there's so many different types of methods that the pens use to deliver the ink to the paper, it really is a really great pen, it just is. And again, you don't have to take my word for it. I know they sell them at Staples and Office Depots. They also sell them still at individual and independently owned local quilt shops. But I really do love these pens. And that's just because, as I said, I'm a nerd but I also love sewing notions. So the idea that this pen is able to do so much in such little space is pretty exciting to me.

Lisa   6:22

And so, since I told you a little bit about the technology behind the pen, let me talk about the delivery systems. And that's the pens themselves. FriXion pens come in a variety of styles, or of forms, I might say. I just thought I had seen a few at the quilt shop. I'd seen a few at Staples, which is the closest office supply place to me. I did not realize the extent of the FriXion line until I started to do a little research. And just this small research revealed that there are about 17 types of FriXion pen. And that does not include some of the ones that I use all the time because those aren't considered pens, because they are either markers or they're fine lighters or they're highlighters. And so I just wanted to just go through a little bit to give you a bit of information about the type of FriXion pens that are out there. And I do have some of these. There's the original one, and that one, it has, I think, a clicker on the top or it has these kind of like, racing stripes. No, it doesn't have a clicker. The Clicker is the clicker. This one is a FriXion pen that has silver, I guess, I would just call them racing stripes along the side. And that's the type that they call the Original. And then they have a business point, or a Biz Point. They have a color pencil-like pen, which I have not used. Oh no wait, I do have that one. It does look like a color pencil. And I've got a bunch of those. They've got the US ball pen, the US Ball Erasable, they have a 0.4. They have a point US Erasable. They have something called a Ball Knock and a Ball Knock Retractable. I have one, they call it the Ball Clicker. This like is one that's made out of wood. They have one that I have not seen called Ball 3 Color. And this is the kind of pen that, during back in the day, you could get these pens, this is when I was a kid, they were a little bit chubbier than regular pens and that's because there was four or three different chambers of ink. And you could get, I think, the ones that I recall were red, green, black and blue. And you could get all these different color inks in the same pen as long as you push down the lever. They have that for FriXion, they have it in 3 Color. They have it with a wood base and 3 color, they have it with a metal base and 3 color. And they have it with 4 color, which again, I had not seen, but the research suggests that this is clearly real. And so that doesn't even include the other types, which is the fine liner, or the markers. And those are the ones that I use most often. And all the different colors that these products come in. They're pretty amazing. And so, as I said, I love pens, I love papers and notebooks and stuff like that. So any opportunity to combine pens, and stationery with sewing is something that I really love. So something I'd like to learn more about are, like, sewing planners and sewing notebooks. Because that combines two things I like, you know, notebooks and sewing. But for now, my passion has kind of completely fallen into, at least for the subject of this episode, these doggone FriXion pens. When we come back I'm going to talk more about the pens that I use and offer some suggestions about using them, and some of the benefits and drawbacks that I have found with the pens. So please stay tuned.

Lisa   10:15

Here at Stitch Please, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, we talk a lot about sewing. But if you want to see and not just hear about some of the things we've been discussing, feel free to join us on the socials. You can find us at Stitch Please on Facebook and you can also find us on Instagram at @blackwomenstitch. You can find photos of projects that we've been working on, really interesting social commentary, and on Thursdays at 3 pm, Eastern Standard Time, you can join Black Women Stitch for a live Instagram chat. Again, that's every Thursday at 3 pm. So, find us on the socials, follow up with us. We are happy to hear your direct messages. You can reach out to us at the Black Women Stitch page on Instagram. It will help you get your stitch together.

Lisa  11:14

Hey, stitchers. Welcome back to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch. We are doing a limited series on marking tools. And today's episode is going to be devoted to FriXion pens. Future episodes include topics like chalk, tape, wax, and other ways to mark fabrics because I just think it's just nice to have these little short, maybe a little shorter episodes that talk about techniques that I think are incredibly useful for sewing, and things that I have learned over the years, as well as new things, completely new things, that I'm also experimenting with and things that I have really enjoyed over time. So today's episode about the FriXion pen is going to turn next to some of the other type of pens that I didn't mention in the previous segment of the episode. As I mentioned before, there's like 17 different types of pens. In addition, they also have markers that are divided into multiple categories. And so I wanted to share just really quickly, a couple of the ones that I have been using. Something I pay attention to a lot with pens is the size of the tip, or the size of the line that the pencil or pen can make. I think that's really useful for determining if you want to write in a journal and, you know, everyone has... I think that there's two things two factors that are important when picking out a pen, is how it feels in your hand and the kind of line that it writes. Does the line smear? Does the line bleed through the other side of the paper? If you are a person that writes kind of hard that… I know that at some points, you know, depending on how I might be feeling, if I'm taking notes, or if I'm in a hurry, that I could sometimes press really hard so much so that I'll leave an indent in the surface of the paper that I'm writing on. So there's all these different factors to consider when you are choosing a pen. And for the FriXion that's no exception. And so I find that there's some of the FriXion that I have that I don't use for sewing as much, because the tip might be a little bit too fine. And I really like that when I'm writing but I don't love that for marking on fabric when I want things to be a bit more thick or dense or obvious. Gosh, when I say “thick, dense and obvious,” it sounds like I'm describing a person I don't like. I can name some names, but that would be mean. So I don't want those kind of lines when I'm writing, but I do want those kind of lines when I am sewing. And so I just wanted to tell you about the FriXion color pencil. It's what they call color pencil “like” that comes in a 0.7 millimeter and it comes in lots of different colors. I think I might have about 12 of these. I'm looking at the orange one right here. It has a cap that's removable instead of a retractable tip where the writing stylus part comes out when you just press the button at the top or the bottom. Sometimes I like that for a pen because I can get, well I guess I'm obviously really irritated by lots of things but losing the cap to a pen, oh my gosh, that can be really upsetting. Especially if you happen to lose it in your purse and you don't know that the pen cap is gone and then the ink is everywhere. No bueno. Really not good. So I prefer a cap. I prefer, ideally, I prefer a pen with a cap. But if it doesn't, like some of my favorite... I have not a FriXion but a Pilot retractable gel pen that has just the clicker at the top. And that's one of my favorite pens to write with because it has some type of sheath around the, you know, the part where… I don't know what all the anatomy of a pen is. I guess when I was doing research, I kind of researched that. But you know, I gotta leave something for y'all to do. Like you all could look up pen anatomy and see, like, what all the little parts are. But anyway, that part where you write with, it has like a kind of a gripper around the base. And that really feels good in my hand. And so I tend to just buy those pens over and over. And then if I'm getting really fancy, I'll be like a grown up and buy actual refills, and refill the pen. That really does make me feel like a complete adult, when I, like, buy a pen refill instead of just buying a whole new pen. But the purpose of this was for me, just for me to share that I did buy these color pencil-like erasable gel pens in the 0.7 millimeter size.

Lisa   16:07

And I found that while they, you know, they pressed away... the ink, you know, went away really easily, it was not great for marking on the fabrics that I want it to mark on. So I tend to hold on to those for, either hard cotton, tight cotton wovens, and so they're not as useful to me as my absolute favorite, which are the markers. And so the markers come in two styles. They come in a fine liner, which is really narrow, I think it might be 0.5 even. They're really nice and narrow, tidy, tidy pens. And then the marker is much thicker. A marker is more like a felt tip pen. The FriXion marker is like a felt tip pen. And that's something I really like about that one. I also wanted to let you know that in the course of my research, in addition to the pens that I have, as I mentioned, I have the Clicker, I have the original one that has the gray racing stripes along the side, I also discovered that there's another delivery system that was completely new to me until I saw it when I was doing the research, and that is a stamp. S-T-A-M-P, a stamp. It's about maybe two and a half inches long. It's kind of about the size of some chapstick, you know what I'm saying? And it's shaped like a square and the cap pulls off and the stamp comes in a variety of shapes. I happen to only find the ones that had the weather. So there's like a sun and a moon and an umbrella and, you know, other things that are related to weather.

Lisa   18:03

And I want to talk about some of the benefits of the FriXion pen and then talk about some of the drawbacks. And this has to do with the technology behind the pens themselves. And so as I mentioned earlier about the ink in the formula and how it was created, there's one thing I wanted to add. Remember earlier when I was talking about the way that the FriXion, or the friction, work for the FriXion pen? It's through heat. This is one of the reasons why it's such an amazing tool to have in the sewing room -- that they make a lot of pens and a lot of different stabilizers, for example, that disappear with water, that disappear when you put them in the washing machine, that disappear with their own particular erasers. But this one, I really like those stabilizers and, in this case, the pens, that disappear with heat, because we spend a lot of time while we're sewing, pressing. And because we are pressing, we have a hot iron next to us or near us when we're doing the sewing. So the idea of having marks that can disappear with heat is really great. And that's one of the reasons that I really like the FriXion. One of the drawbacks to that however, and to have it be related so much to temperature, is that it can really be influenced. It's meant to be influenced by temperature and so let me just share with you something I found when I was doing the research, and it was saying that because of the heat reacting properties, the ink may reappear when temperatures reach below 10 degrees Celsius or under 14 degrees Fahrenheit. I could talk more about that. It's best not to leave the ink out in hot cars, or other conditions that may subject it to vigorous friction, or it may disappear. They also don't recommend writing on the back of page when using these pens, because the heat might transfer to the other side, causing unwanted erasing. And I remember when I was first learning about these pens, and I was in these different quilting groups and stuff. This one lady told a story of her grandson, like, drawing this really amazing picture or doing his homework or something like that. And then it got left out in the hot car, and all his homework disappeared, which was, you know, tragic, or like the beautiful artwork that the kid had drawn with the pens had disappeared. And I think that this, again, is the reason why the pens are so popular among sewists and quilters, because it does disappear, but one of the things you do have to think about are it reappearing. And so that was what I wanted to talk about next.

Lisa   22:18

Hello, stitchers. We have a limited edition opportunity for you to support the Stitch Please podcast, and the Black Women Stitch project as a whole, and get some more fabric in your collection. These are mystery fabric boxes of fabrics that have been divided into woven and knit. There's boxes that are stuffed with black and white fabrics, there's boxes of chevron fabrics, there's boxes of fabrics called, I think, adventure or nature or something like that. And these are completely full of fabrics. These are medium flat rate USPS boxes that can be sent directly to you for $30 and that shipping is included. So if you're interested in building your stash, or taking a chance on some really cool fabrics, let me know. You can DM me on Instagram at @blackwomenstitch. Or you can send me an email at and we will send you a mystery box of very cool fabrics, $30, shipping and insurance included, and that'll help you get your stitch together, too. Thanks.

Lisa   22:30

Welcome back to the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch. And you are listening to a special series on marking tools. And today's topic is FriXion -- FriXion pens and markers. And in the remaining time, I want to talk specifically about the markers or pens that I use most often for sewing, and to offer some tips to help avoid some of the problems that can emerge from using these pens in your sewing. So I'm looking right now at three pens or three products actually, that I have used most often in my sewing. And the first is the FriXion Fine Liner. It is one that I just recently discovered. It's like a really narrow, I believe I'm looking at the tip to see is this a 0.7 or 0.5… It's like one of those extra fine Sharpies. It's a really very narrow, very clean line. And it has the eraser, of course, built on top (it's cute) in the same color as the pen. So this pen is turquoise and the lid is turquoise, too. I think they do that for the other ones as well, the one that's more like a colored pencil. The eraser matches the color of the pen. This one that I use the absolute most is the FriXion Colors. They call it FriXion Colors. This is essentially a marker set. The tip of the line is very thick. And it has been really fantastic. I think I had one set that I bought that had 12 markers in it and then I found another set that had, like, 24 markers in it. And did I say "oh, Lisa, you already have a set of 12, why do you need a set of 24? Isn't that silly?" No, I did not have that conversation with myself, in the same way that, when I was a kid, if I had a box of 12 crayons and 24 crayons, and then the 64 crayons came out and it had a sharpener in the back, I wanted all three because you never know what color you might need. And so that was what the FriXion Colors kind of brought to my sewing life. It was such a rich variety of colors that it worked really well with the things that I was sewing.

Lisa   25:01

I also recently started using the FriXion Stamp. But I do have to share some of the advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages is that it does disappear on contact with heat, in most cases. And I want to be clear on that, on the "in most cases," because that is an important caveat. So for example, just the other day, I was using the FriXion Stamp, and I was just testing it on some Ankara fabric that I had, this might have been a scrap leftover from the dress, or from the skirt that I made to wear to DC Frocktails and I just wanted to see how it would work. And so I stamped the stamp on there, and it had this cute little sun. And then when I went to iron it, it faded a little bit, but it didn't fully disappear, which I thought was odd. I then used it on a neoprene type knit and when I put the stamp on and ran my same iron on at the same temperature, it disappeared instantly. And so this is just to say that it's absolutely critical that you do two things when working with these markers or pens. First, test it, test it, test it, test it. I cannot emphasize that enough, you absolutely have to test this on your fabric, on a scrap fabric. Many of us when we are sewing, we keep the off cuts, or at least you should I think keep the off cuts of your fabric until the project is finished. This way, you know, if you poke a hole in something or something goes wrong, you'll be able to, you know cut a new facing if you need to, or something like that. Like, I don't, like, cut out a garment and then throw away absolutely every scrap of fabric until I've finished sewing the garment completely. This gives you lots of fabric to practice with. And so practice with the FriXion. Put it on there and iron it and see what happens. Because this will tell you two things. Well, before I get to that, let me say what the second thing is, the first thing I said was to test it on a piece of scrap fabric. The second thing is, if you want to make your markings (like, you know, when you're marking for where pockets should go, or if some pattern and direction indicates "this is a triangle, this is a circle," you know this is an X or whatever), you can mark those in the seam allowance. You don't need to mark them out in the garment proper. A lot of those instructions are asking you to sew to a certain point; you can mark that space in the same allowance. Now, there are many times when you need to mark on the garment itself to mark the stitching line, to mark a dart or something like that. And this is where I have found great success with the FriXion markers, but again, only when I test them first. Something I felt really bad about was I let a friend use one of the FriXion markers, and I think she was marking a stitching line for a pair of jeans or a pair of pants, and when she pressed it, the marks disappeared but it left kind of a white mark behind. And I just felt really really bad because I didn't, like, say or insist that she test it first. I guess it had always worked for me. So I just felt really bad about that. And so this is why I'm really emphasizing and stressing to everyone to test the markers, test the pens, test the stamp, test anything that you're going to use, especially if it's going to be something that's visible, you know, like if you have to mark where your pockets are going to be. If you have to mark a stitching line -- a stitching line, especially because sometimes, I always think that "oh, I can just wing this fly." No, I cannot. I cannot wing the fly. I'm like, "oh yeah, I'll remember to pivot here and go down. How hard can it be?" It can be really hard. And if you're stitching, especially if the fly front of a pair of pants isn't precise, it can just, it can really mess up the look of the garment. And so you really do want to mark those stitching lines because of the precision, but you don't want to have a residue or a faded mark or a mark that hasn't disappeared. And so that's why I do highly recommend FriXion but I also really stress that people should test them ahead of time.

Lisa   29:51

Another thing that I've loved about the FriXion pens is this: since I sew a lot with synthetic fabrics, because I don't like to iron my clothes after I've made them, I love ITY knits, I love this Pure Plush that I'm wearing actually right now, which feels like a really cozy combination of like fleece and velour which sounds weird, but it's really very comfortable. Those fabrics are very difficult to mark -- a fabric with a nap, a fabric that is neoprene, it's thick and stretchy, a fabric that is also really sheer. Sometimes you have to put shaping elements -- you have to put a dart, you have to put a curved seam, you have to certain stitching lines or topstitching lines, there's pleats. And I really like to mark my pleats by actually drawing the direction of the arrow, you know, when they say you need to fold it in four inches or fold it in three inches. And you know, I've marked those arrows so that when I'm holding up the garment after I've... when I'm holding up the pattern piece, after I've cut it out, and I'm looking at the wrong side of the fabric, sometimes I don't remember which direction the pleat was supposed to go. So I started just writing the arrows right there on the wrong side of the fabric within the seam allowance or the fold allowance of the pleat. And this has been really great to help me keep track of everything. But again, it's really important that I test, which I do in advance, to see if this is really going to vanish once I press it.

Lisa   31:29

Another thing about the about these markers vanishing, before you press them, is when you make all these marks, you get everything all set and then you go to press your dart, or you go to press your shoulder seam, and then the steam or the heat from the iron makes the rest of your marks disappear. That is very irritating and that has happened to yours truly. So do kind of be careful about that. Another thing that people often talk about is how the marks can reappear in cold weather. Now, I did test this once on an ITY knit. I made some marks on it. And I ironed it and then I put it in the refrigerator for three days. And after three days, I took it out of the refrigerator and the marks did not come back. However, I did not put it in the freezer. And I think that that is the distinction. I have never experimented with the FriXion putting it on a piece of fabric, ironing it to disappear, and then putting it in the freezer, because the marks reappear at 14 degrees. And so that is, you know, that's something I usually, as I said, I'm like, you know, what, if I'm outside for that long, and it's 14 degrees, like, the last thing I'm worried about is my marks from my garment showing back up. But this is another reason again to test to make sure they disappear. And to make sure that, if you're really concerned, is to make sure that you mark them within the seam allowance. And then that way you don't have to worry about it. If it shows up, it'll show up in the seam allowance. And that's not something that you are going to see. In addition, if you're wearing the garment like... science, what is science saying the normal body temperature is supposed to be, like, 98.2 or 96 point so and so? Like, I don't know if your body can actually withstand being that cold? I don't know. I'm from South Florida, y'all. You know, I think that 40 degrees is, like, oppressively cold. So I just wanted to kind of put that out there because that is one of the drawbacks that people have about these.

Lisa   33:48

But for my purposes, the FriXion markers, the FriXion pens, and now this new addition, the FriXion Stamp, have been an addition to my sewing room and my sewing life that has far more benefits than deficits. And if you exercise caution, if you test things ahead of time, if you work within the same allowance, and even if you don't work within the same allowance, like I've done a lot of projects that have darts and marked my darts by drawing them or tracing them with these markers, and it's disappeared, then you shouldn't have any problems. But I guess the answer is to test first. Kind of like we say "measure twice, cut once." I would say, test it to see if it works for you. And hopefully you'll have just as... you'll have results that have been as consistently good as the ones that I have been able to have.

Thanks so much for joining us for this week's episode of the Stitch Please podcast. We've been talking about marking tools and the topic of today has been FriXion pens. There are links to the pens and the stamps that I've been talking about in the show notes, in the Episode Notes. And so if you are interested in buying these pens, you can buy them right directly from the links that I have. And this connects to the Black Women Stitch Amazon account, which gives us a fraction of a penny, I believe, of every sale that happens to come through. And again, the product links are there, but if you don't wish to buy through Amazon because you don't prefer to support Amazon, you can also, like, look them up and find them on your own. Thanks again for listening. See you next time.

Lisa   37:25

Thank you for joining us for this week's episode of the Stitch Please podcast, the official podcast of Black Women Stitch, the sewing group where Black lives matter. There are a variety of ways that you can support the program and you're doing it right now. By listening to the podcast, it does help us grow. Another way to do that is to rate the podcast, review it, subscribe to it -- all of these things are ways that you can support the podcast without having to spend any money at all. If you would like to spend some money to support us, there are ways to do that as well. You can make direct donations to our Patreon site for monthly contributions, as well as one time contributions to Paypal, Cash App, or Venmo. And finally, we have another cute, very adorable way for you to support the Black Women Stitch project. It's a pin! A P-I-N enamel lapel pin that's very cute. It's about two inches wide and one and a half inch tall, and it’s of the Black Women Stitch logo, and that is $15 with free shipping to the US. And so if you drop $15 in the PayPal, Venmo or Cash App accounts, and then send me your mailing address to my email either at, or you send me a direct message on the Black Women Stitch Instagram page, we will put the pin in the mail to you. Again, free shipping. $15 for the pin. And all of this goes to support the Black Women Stitch project. Thank you again for joining us this week. Come back next week and we will help you get your stitch together.

Hosted by Lisa Woolfork

Lisa is a fourth-generation sewing enthusiast who learned to sew while earning a PhD in African American literature and culture. She has been sewing for more than twenty years while also teaching, researching, and publishing in Black American literature and culture.

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