Documenting Quilts

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You finished your latest quilt. The hand quilting is the best you’ve ever done and the binding lays flat and smooth. You even added a label on the back complete with your name, date finished, where you live, and why you made the quilt. Finally! You’re all done!

Well, not quite. You should still document your quilt. That’s a very official sounding word which just means you should write down all the details about the quilt that you or someone else may want to know in the future. One quilter observed, "I have been documenting and photographing all my quilts, and in doing that, I have realized how little I knew my own quilts. I have seen things on them I had never noticed, or just seen them in a new way that was just wonderful!"

An easy way to organize this information is to use a separate manila folder or large envelope for each quilt. Label the outside with the name of the quilt. Inside, place a documentation form. I have a Quiltmaker’s Documentation Form that you can use to record all of the important information. List the name of the quilt, the name of the maker, date finished and place made. Give the size of the quilt and a detailed, written description. The description might tell the number of blocks used, the names of the blocks, sources you used, the story behind the quilt, and how long it took to make the quilt (a favorite question from non-quilters).

It is nice to include a short biography about the quilter. Then, take several good pictures of the quilt, both the front and back, and put them in too. If the quilt is an original design, this is a good place to archive your sketches and pattern pieces.

Including some leftover scraps of fabric is a good idea. These scraps could serve several purposes. First, they provide a comparison to help you keep track of any fading. This can alert you to the need to move your quilt away from strong lighting or other conditions that can damage it. The scraps could be used to help identify your quilt if that was ever necessary. And, if your scraps are at least a big as your largest piece, you could also use these scraps to repair the hole that your puppy makes when he chews on your quilt.

Take time to record the names and dates of any shows that this quilt was displayed in, along with any awards the quilt wins. I find it easiest to write this information on the outside of each folder as each event occurs. If the show had a program, put that in your folder too, with the name of your quilt bookmarked. I like to take a picture of the quilt as it was displayed at the show, especially if the quilt won a ribbon. A picture of the quilter in front of her quilt is a nice touch.

Finally, be sure to put a copy of your quilt’s appraisal in this folder. The combination of the appraisal and all of your documentation records provide a firm basis for identifying your quilt. In years to come, they will also give historians insight into who you were.

Article originally published May 2000

© 2000, Maria Elkins