How To Remove Pencil Marks From Embroidery

You have just finished an embroidery project and you see the pencil marks left. What to do? Should you start the same project all over again or should you try to remove the pencil marks? You should do the latter.

This is possible and can be relatively simple, depending on multiple factors. However, in some cases, it can be a bit more daunting. We will explain the entire process below and we will guide you through the specifics and steps you must take. Let’s start from the beginning. 

Six crucial things to keep in mind

Before you decide to remove the pencil marks, there are a few things to keep in mind. These facts can apply to all your future projects and they can give you a complete or better said a better idea on how to avoid the same problem.

  • Always use a suitable marking tool

We are referring to pens or pencils that are specifically designed for this purpose. The best example is a water-soluble pen. The traces can be removed with water and there will be no traces. 

Another option is a heat transfer pen. Keep in mind that these traces are permanent and they obviously cannot be removed. Always double check when using this method. Check the pattern in reverse, using a light source. Do that on a piece of paper before transferring it to the fabric. 

  • Keep your pencil sharp

Your pencil for embroidering projects should be sharp. Keep it sharp every single time you use it. This is mandatory due to the fact, thin lines won’t stick outside the embroidery and the pattern will cover them perfectly. 

  • Most pencil marks can be removed

Most pencil marks can be removed completely. Some require more time, some less but there is an opposite side of the story. Some pencil marks cannot be removed.

This rarely happens, in less than 10% of cases but it can still happen. The reasons why are multiple. The pen used may use ink or chemicals that cannot be removed without damaging the fabric. The fabric is already damaged or something similar.

  • Take care of the fabric and thread

Never forget that some fabrics and some threads cannot be washed in the washing machine. Others can be washed with cold water only. There is no need to add that removing pencil markings, while damaging the fabric is the last thing you want to do.

Always read the instructions or consult the web and see which steps you need to avoid for particular fabric or thread. For instance, silk fabric and silk threads need a lot of care.

  • Do not use soaps that may contain moisturizers

Some soaps contain moisturizers. They are great for regular fabrics and clothing, but not for embroidery. They can make the threads ‘’dull’’. The colors will look old and the entire embroidery will look cheap.

  • Hand washing is always a safer option

If you don’t know which type of a fabric that is, or which thread is used, hand wash it. This is much safer and far less intensive project than using washing machine. The risk from damaging the fabric or thread is close to zero. 

Steps you need to take

Here we have the main section. We will discuss a complete guide or better said the steps you need to take to finally remove pencil marks from embroidery. The overall process is simple but does require plenty of time.

Things you will need:

  • Eraser 
  • Spray, stick or gel stain remover
  • Dry spotter
  • Absorbent pad

Important: When choosing the pencil eraser, always go for the biggest one. A small one, the one you can see on the top of a pencil will smear the ink and make this even more complicated than it is. 

1. Use the eraser and erase the marks

There is no need to explain this step in detail. All you have to do is to use the eraser and remove the marks. Keep things slow and make sure you don’t damage the embroidery. 

2. Use stain remover

Now you will have to apply the stain remover to the targeted area. You can use a dry-cleaning solution. Spray it on the desired area and use dry spotter to rub it in. Cover it with the pad and let it absorb the liquid for half an hour.

In some situations, mixing one tablespoon of any detergent for dishwashing with 2 cups of water (cold water only) will do the same job. You can try both methods. 

3. Remove the embroidery

Always remove embroidery from the frame or hoop. This is mandatory in order not to damage the threads and the project. Make sure you take your time. If not possible, then skip this step.

4. Wash it in cold water

This step is very simple, but also very time-consuming. You will need to rinse the embroidery in cold water for at least 30 minutes. Do not use detergents or anything similar. Do not use hot water either. Both of these can damage the embroidery.

5. Wrap the embroidery in a towel

The goal here is to draw the excess water out. The best option is a fluffy towel you can find in any store. Make sure it is completely dry before use. Wrap it perfectly around the embroidery and let it still for a few hours.

Don’t rush this step and try to avoid removing the embroidery from the towel until it is partially dry. There is no need to leave it there the entire night. Your task is to draw excess moisture.

6. Iron it

Place the embroidery on the towel and iron it. Here you need to make sure it is as dry as you can get with the iron, without damaging the embroidery. Don’t use the highest temperature setting.

Go slow with a lower temperature and always make a few passes before moving to the last step.

7. Let it dry

Leave the embroidery on the warm towel and let it dry perfectly. It may need a few hours or the entire night, depending on the room temperature. Once done, you will have embroidery without any pencil markings. 

Removing stubborn pencil marks

The steps above are great in 70% of situations. The guide works well and it is a safe method the one that won’t damage embroidery nor fabric. However, we can see that this doesn’t work in some situations (as we have explained at the beginning).

When that happens, you will need to move to this process. It is designed for stubborn pencil marks that are very difficult to remove. Once again, all you need to do is to follow the steps.

  • Mix water with alcohol and dish soap

Take a medium-size bowl and mix ¾ rubbing alcohol with ¼ water. The water should be the same temperature as the room where you are located. Do not use cold or hot water. When the two are mixed, add a few drops of dish soap. Ideally, you will use mild dish soap without strong and harsh chemicals. 

  • Use a toothbrush

Dip your old toothbrush into the mixture we have mentioned earlier. Let it soak for a few seconds and then run it on the embroidery. The same step can be used when removing pencil marks from fabric. Use soft pressure and try to remove all pencil marks but in multiple passes. Be gentle, especially around the area between the thread and the fabric. 

  • Repeat the second step with clean water

Dip the toothbrush into the cold water and repeat the previous step. The goal here is to remove the excess dish soap and residue without damaging the embroidery. Once again, be very careful when performing this step.

  • Rinse the embroidery

Use cold water to wash the entire embroidery. Hand wash it only. Never use the washing machine after the aforementioned steps. The washing machine can damage the threads and the fabric. 

  • Wrap it in a towel

Wrap the embroidery in a towel and let it absorb all the moisture. The time for how long this step should last cannot be generalized. In most situations you will need 30-60 minutes. Don’t let the embroidery get completely dry while in the towel.

  • Let it dry

The last step is to let it dry completely. You should see your results now and we hope that your mission was successful. In a case the markings are still present, you can repeat the ‘’how to remove stubborn pencil marks’’ tutorial once again.  

Common mistakes to avoid

Despite the fact all of these steps are straightforward, there are a few mistakes that may occur. Below are all of them, explained so you can make sure they do not affect your embroidery.

  • Washing embroidery at high temperature

This can cause fabric and threads to shrink. However, threads and fabric won’t shrink at the same percentage. You will end up with loose threads. This is a serious issue that can completely ruin your embroidery and there is no easy fix.

It applies to all types of threads and fabrics. If you are not certain about the washing properties of the fabric, hand wash the embroidery. 

  • Using strong soaps

Strong soaps can make your embroidery dull and old. Avoid the ones with moisturizers. They can make the fabric sensitive and in rare cases they can cause threads to leak color.

This can even happen with threads that are rated as safe to wash at a high temperature! The situation is even more severe with threads in high contract colors such as red. 

  • Using too thick marking pens

You will end up with too thick lines that cannot be hidden with threads. We have mentioned at the beginning that using sharp pen is mandatory. Always use a proper marking tool, the one that suits your needs.

There are also water soluble pens that can be removed easily with warm water only. These are perfect for beginners and those who make common mistakes. 

  • Washing silk and metallic threads 

Washing won’t help you, and you can easily damage the embroidery. Always take care with this type of fabric and make sure you hand wash it. We advise you to use special marking tools for silk that can be easily removed and that won’t leave permanent traces. 

  • Rushing the process

Removing marks will take some time. Just because you want to complete it in minutes won’t get you there on time. 

Conclusion

Removing pencil marks from embroidery is a time-consuming process, but the one you can do it at home, all by yourself. Make sure you do not skip any steps mentioned above and also make sure to take your time.

You will remove the pencil marks successfully, and you will end up with a great project, complete without any errors.