Wednesday, February 10, 2016

FriXion Pen - a 'scientific' test on fabric

I've been using the Pilot Frixion pens for a while but with my recent foray into the land of quilting (am I a quilter now?), I thought I would conduct a very rigorous scientific experiment to see how they shape up (you can detect the sarcasm there right?). 

The Hypothesis 

"The erased lines reappear in low temperatures"

I've read other reviews - Freshly Pieced for example - but as soon as they start talking about snow, I kinda wonder if it is relevant in our Australian climate ie hot!!

Now I'll preface all this by saying that Pilot (makers of the FriXion pens) are designed for paper. The are not designed for fabric or tested while developing them. 
"perfect for everyday use at work, home or school. With no damage to the paper, you can erase and instantly re-write over your mistakes."
Information online does state that the ink will reappear in temperatures below -20 degrees.
"The friction-generated heat caused when rubbing the paper with the special tip turns the ink invisible (put the document in the freezer and the ink re-appears)."

The Test

"Test the fabric in temperatures below -18 and between 0-4 and a control of approximately 28-30 degrees"

Method and Materials

I used two styles of FriXion erasable pens: the Gel Pen in Black and Blue and Marker in Violet.    

Here is before photo. I ruled three lines onto three 5" charm squares. One to be placed in the freezer, one in the fridge and one was my 'control'.

I gave them all a quick press with steam. Not talking long here people and I possibly could have ironed longer, with starch, sprayed water or something (maybe a later test!). You can see where the heat has removed the words I wrote at the top and I didn't even go over the top, that's just from the iron close to it.

I then popped the 'freezer' one into the freezer. Flat on a pull out drawer for one hour. The 'fridge' went into the top shelf .... on top of a box of choccies... mmmm I should find them again... and finally the 'control' was left right on my kitchen table. Now I will say that there was a good chance the fridge and freezer were opened a few times during that hour so possibly some changes in temperature! 

As an indication, I found this temperature guide from Choice. Fridge temperatures should be between 0-4 degrees and freezers should be -18 degrees. Now depending on where you live in Australia, you might get fridge type temperatures but I don't know of any where (unless you live in the snowy mountains areas!) that gets below -18 degrees. 

Analyse and Results

"Lines have returned at the lower freezer temperatures and faint lines at the fridge temperatures"

After one hour I removed the fabric charms and here is what I found. The lines had certainly reappeared on the freezer fabric and faint lines on the fabric from the fridge. The control fabric was exactly the same. 

If you ironed it again the lines would disappear. The freezer temperature fabric is much more prominent than the fridge fabric. I even had to draw these amazing little arrows on the photo as I didn't think you would see where they were! The line was only from the marker rather than the pen at this temperature.

Theorize and Apply

"I wouldn't recommend that you use the pens to mark quilting lines"

But for use in seams say marking notches in a pattern or tracing around a pattern that you will then cut on the line it would be totally fine. If you are anything like me and perhaps more carefree (and not entering quilts into competitions for example!), then go ahead knowing that you can just give it another blast of steam from the iron and they will be gone. 

Besides ... I'm not going for any sleigh rides in the snow with my quilts any time soon....

If you want to read more - try this awesome one by Quilt Skipper who spoke to reps at Pilot!


  1. Someone told me that to make the lines never come back, even in cold weather. After you iron your lines to make them disappear, wet or steam them and they will be gone. I've not tried it though since I live in the desert southwest, Arizona, US. it rarely gets below 4 degrees Celsius here in the winter.

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