Quilt Labels

A week or so ago, I wrote my first Various & Sundry post for 2016. In a comment, BAMQG pal, Annemarie, asked about quilt labels. It occurred to me that I had been meaning to write about quilt labels for a long time and I hadn’t yet done it.

First, I think quilt labels are VERY important. They document the work of women who are not being paid to make things. While you may think that women and their work are valued, I think that we have a long way to go to have handwork (even by machine) valued as much as something such as, for example, a technology infrastructure or a new and successful app.

Second, I think quilt labels are important because they can tell the story of your quilt, if you want. Even if the story includes only:

  • maker
  • date
  • recipient

It is a small story, but a story nonetheless. It can be the starting link of a chain.

Label for Small Items
Label for Small Items

Third, for bags and small projects, I have a small label I print out in batches of about 20 on a page. It is not personalized to any particular project, but it lets people know who made the item. I even put these on ATCs. While simple and not unique, they can link a small item to my larger quilts. These would be perfect to make on Spoonflower and I might just do that.

Fourth, ALL quilts are important even the baby quilt you whipped up overnight for a baby who came early. The child will look at the label, wonder at and ask about it when s/he is old enough.

I did a little meditation on quilt backs a few years ago. Since I put my labels on the back, is relevant for this post. You may want to take a look.

What to Include

When I make a quilt label, I start with a Word document and save it to the folder on my computer (Google Drive or similar would work as well) that has all of the notes and images for the project. I include the following:

  • a picture of myself or my avatar
  • the name of the quilt
  • the size of the quilt (this is helpful when entering shows as I don’t have to measure the quilt every time)
  • details about materials and construction, such as if I have embellished the quilt or used special materials. I always put the content of the fabric and thread. Most of my quilts say 100% fabric and thread, but this is the place to put other content information, if relevant
  • my name, address and phone number
  • the name and address of my blog
  • Name and company of the quilter who quilted the quilt for me, starting with “Quilted by” or “Longarm quilted by”. Sometimes my name is in that spot. I feel it is important to differentiate the piecing from the quilting.
  • If this is a gift, I also include “Collection of Jane Doe”
  • If many people worked on the quilt, I include their names. This may help historians build connections between me and my guild mates in the future.
  • Sometimes I will include the pattern name.
  • If I got the pattern from a publication, I will include that and note changes that I made.
  • If the quilt was made for a show or exhibition or in response to a challenge, I put it on the label. Again, it helps make connections.
  • The story, process and inspiration for the the quilt. This is often the same, or similar, information I use on the quilt’s webpage. This information may include why I gave the quilt to this particular person. If I used special fabric or a particular line of fabric, I may include the information in this section. I also include why I made the quilt. It may have been specifically for a person. I may have started it in a class or wanted to try a technique or process
  • washing instructions, especially if the quilt will be a gift

Yes, the above is a LOT of information. My labels are frequently very large – taking up most of an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet. This is the information I would want to know if I came across a quilt in an antique store.

I often write up the label as I go along, so I only have to do some editing when I am ready for it.

How to Make a Quilt Label

There are as many ways to make a quilt label as there are to make a quilt. You can:

  • use my process and print on fabric
  • write with a permanent pen on a plain piece of fabric and sew on to your quilt
  • write directly on the quilt (watch for bleeding!!!!)
  • hand or machine embroider
  • applique’
  • use stitch lettering on your machine to write out label information directly on to the quilt.
  • Get sheets of labels already printed on fabric and fill them in with a permanent marker
  • Use Transfer Artist Paper
  • Write up your label in Word (or another word processing program), then trace on to fabric with a permanent pen
  • Create on Spoonflower
  • Buy personal, pre-cut woven labels (like the ones in your clothes) with your name, blog name, a short message, etc
  • Insert a triangle of fabric into the binding with your information written on it
  • embroider (watch for floss that bleeds)

I love the front of a quilt. Sadly, I am happy for the the fairies and magical animals to finish the rest for me. By the time I get to making the back, I want the quilt to be done. My method for making labels is relatively quick, in the grand scheme. Some tips:

  • print a test page on a piece of paper to check for color and clarity.
  • Make sure you ink cartridges are at your desired level

Sewing and More Information

My mom’s car was broken into and my niece’s quilt, which was coming to me to be bound was stolen. It had been made at a shower for her mom and many people had drawn, colored and written messages for my yet-to-be-born niece. The quilt was a wonderful scrapbook of heartfelt love and was never recovered. It is one of the saddest events in my quilty world.

I sew my quilt labels into the back of the quilt before the quilt is quilted. I do not applique’ labels onto the back after the piece is quilted. Yes, that means piecing the back. Yes, the quilting can make the words look weird, but I want people to know the maker and owner of the quilt. If the quilt is stolen, then the thief will have to destroy the quilt to remove the label. I think this is unlikely, but in a sick kind of way, I would rather have that then someone passing my work off as their own. If they don’t care, then perhaps every time they see the label, they will feel  a little bit ashamed.

Confession Time

I have one quilt that is unlabeled and there are no photos of it. It isn’t a horrible quilt or anything and I do keep meaning to do it. I just don’t seem to get around to it. If I die before I do it, nobody will know anything about it, which is sad.

I really dislike making labels and quilt backs. I do it, because I truly, deep in my heart, believe it is important to document my work. If you don’t feel that labels are important, then you don’t have to make them. The above is not a call to arms, but information on how and why *I* label *my* quilts.

Resources:

This is a small sample of the myriad of information available. For more resources type “quilt labels” into Google and look at the massive amount of resources and images that are retrieved. Everyone has a different process. Find what works for you.

 

Author: Jaye

Quiltmaker who enjoys writing and frozen chocolate covered bananas.

4 thoughts on “Quilt Labels”

  1. Thanks, Jaye, for defining a well thought-out process rather than a how-to article. I’m always in a rush but really like what you said about claiming our work. I think that’s important too.

  2. I was actuallythinking today how to label my quilt I’m currently working on. It will go to my Mom, and I quilted a “to Mom with lots of love 2016”, a heart with a K inside of it in one of the big corner triangles. I was thinking that I should quilt my name and location into one of the borders instead of sewing a label in the back. I have not labeled any of my quilts I made. I have a quilt journal with photos and the details, with a short description of each of them.

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