Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blue Washout Pens

I have had quite a few emails asking me about the safety of the blue washout pen, so I thought I would show how I use them. I have been appliqueing using these pens for over 10 years and have never had any trouble, however there are a couple of things you do need to think about. One of the most important is to avoid heat...I used to live in Brisbane (a pretty hot climate) and if a block was left in a hot car for a few hours, the pen could have been 'set' by the heat. Once you have marked a block with blue pen, never iron it until you have washed the pen out.

Firstly I generally only draw out 1 or 2 blocks at a time. Leaving the blue pen in for a long time is not a good idea, having said that a few months is usually ok. I trace the pattern onto my block using a lightbox, if you don't have one of those, sticking the pattern onto a window or putting a lamp underneath a glass table top work just as well. 
Once the applique on the block is finished, I then totally submerge it in cold water (water only, do not use any soap or detergent at this stage). Give it a gentle swish around, I usually do this for about 1-2 minutes. This removes all traces of blue pen.
Give it a gentle wring out by hand...
Hang it up to dry...
Once dry, I then iron it with the steam setting on. At this point I have never had any lines coming back, or even any yellow lines showing up.
This is the method I use to wash out the blue pen...does anyone else use the blue pen? How do you wash it out?


  1. Hi Cathy
    I have noticed that many of the participants here draw the applique shapes onto the background. I never have and must say, I have a lot of friends who applique and none of them do it either. Maybe it is a regional thing? We learn from each other. I use the tissue paper pattern, pinned here and there to the background and slip the applique pieces under the spots where they belong. I got this idea from the Piece O Cake folks who make clear plastic overlays to do that sort of thing. I suppose our work may be less precise this way than doing it your way. Interesting.

  2. Hi Cathy, I use the blue washouts all the time..! I used them for applique on the CWBQ and I use them for marking quilting patterns on a top. Fingers crossed, I have never had any problem with them. On finished quilts I spray with cool water with a tsp of bi-carb fully dissolved, then wash as normal....

  3. I've used the blue pen for years and had no trouble with it. I think the secret is to totally submerge it in water like you say and not dab at it with a wet cloth or cotton ball. It does say 'washes out in water'.

  4. I have had no problem with the blue pen but I stick to the brand that's been reliable. If you have doubts, don't use them. I use different methods from time to time but mostly stuck with the overlay for years. Lucky there seems to be lots of methods that we can pick and choose from.

  5. Yes, I use the blue pens too and remove the lines exactly as you have shown. Whilst it can be tempting to iron your work as you go, lol, don't do it!! And I totally second Cathy on not leaving the pen on for longer than absolutely necessary - I had a bad experience where I 'rested' a project only to find several months later that the blue lines are now pretty permanent :o(

  6. Great Advice..I've never drawn on the background either...something that was never taught to me from the early days...what Brand of Blue Pen are you talking it Clover??

  7. Thank you, Cathy, for this nice article!
    I use the blue pen (if it is indeed a regional thing, we use it in Belgium;) but encountered trouble with it... But after reading your post, I understand it is because of the heat and/or the sun (we have soooo bad weather in Belgium that we run outside everytime we get a few sunshines:)))
    I also want to thank you for the excellent tip "putting a lamp underneath a glass table top "!!! I use the window but (because of the bad weather?;) I'm sure my glass table will be more appropriated in the future!

  8. I used to use the blue pens alot only Clover ones though as i have a horrible mishap with the Birch brand of blue pen.

    So after that i didn't want to risk it so bought a light box i now cut out my applique pieces and place the pattern and fabric over the light box and stick the pieces down with a few dots of Roxanne's glue baste it.

    Adele xx

  9. What an interesting discussion. A friend uses these blue pens for marking. Washes the lines out with cool water promptly and voila! no visible sign of blue pen use. Until...when the quilt was laundered and tossed into the dryer, soft yellow marks were left along the traced blue pen lines.

    I use a mechanical pencil to trace my design!

    And, sometimes I don't even trace the design. I just wing it! ; )

  10. I have used the blue pen for hand quilting (not applique) and am very careful to rinse it out. I hope I don't ever run into the problem that Piecefully Pam's friend did.

    For applique I use the technique where I trace the pattern onto the back of the square using pencil. I have come to absolutely love this technique.

  11. I have never used a blue pen or draw on my background. I use a light table or my front window and sometimes a plastic overlay.

  12. I agree, total submersion is the ticket in plenty of water. If blue pens are used on a sandwiched quilt it is very possible that without enough water the blue goes into the batting - have heard of it re-emerging elsewhere on the quilt (in puddles-like marks) or as lines (the yellow ones Pam's friend experienced). For a bed-size quilt I would fill my entire bathtub and let it soak for a good half hour before draining and then rinsing again.

  13. I use blue pens for marking hand quilting lines, I have never had a problem removing them. I wait until the quilt is finished, then machine wash (gentle) without detergent, followed by a wash with detergent. Works for me.

    I'm currently using clover fine line pens as they last x2 compared to other makes.

  14. I use the blue marker too, but only Clover brand fine line. The fine tip allows you to apply less ink, which makes it easier to remove. In the past I had trouble with the thicker and darker blue pen.
    I use it to mark where my appliques go and for marking quilting lines.
    I keep a bud vase with water and an artist's paintbrush next to my chair when I'm quilting. As I get a section done I run the wet paintbrush along the quilted line to remove the marks.

  15. I have always used the blue washout pens to mark the backs of my applique blocks - mostly because I'm way too impatient (and/or lazy) to cut out all those shapes ahead of time. I just baste a hunk of fabric on the front using those lines and then cut around the basting 1/8" to 1/4" and needleturn.

    I agree that the trick is to complete submerse the block in water. I have had problems with just spraying or wetting with a brush - then the lines always come back for me.