Labeling Quilts: How & Why

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There are all kinds of books on precise rotary cutting and perfect quilting stitches but when you have finished your quilt, how do you make a label? The typical label is a small piece of muslin which is appliqu├ęd to the lower right hand corner of the back of the quilt and is then signed and dated. This type of label is definitely better than no label at all, but there are ways to improve it.

First, you need to attach your label so that it can not easily be removed. If your quilt is ever lost or stolen, it would be very easy to remove a label that is just slip-stitched to the backing. One improvement would be to fuse the label onto the quilt before it is sewn on. Press under the seam allowances of your label and cut fusible web a little smaller than the size of your finished label. Attach the fusible web to your label and then fuse it to your quilt backing. Finally, sew the label on as you normally would. This would make it more difficult for someone to remove. Ideally, however, it is much better to attach your label BEFORE you quilt. Then quilt through all layers of fabric including the label. That way, it would be extremely difficult to remove the label without damaging the quilt.

Some quilters like to hide their name at various locations so they can identify their quilt if the situation ever arises. Two good areas are in the seam allowance before the binding is stitched down and under the hanging sleeve. With either location, it would be easy to uncover the name, if needed, without damaging the quilt. Many people like to put their initials on the front of the quilt as well.

What do you put on a label? As a minimum, include the quilt maker’s name and the date it was completed. If you will be shipping your quilt or entering shows, be sure to print your address, phone number and email. Quilt historians will love you if you include the name of the quilt or the quilt block, the city and state where it was made, who the quilt was made for, and reasons for making the quilt. If the quilt is a gift, add washing and care instructions.

The easiest way to make a label is with a permanent, fade-resistant, Pigma pen. They come in several different colors and widths. Other quilters have used typewriters and color printers. In most cases, you can heat set the finished label with a hot, dry iron to ensure permanence. Cross-stitch and embroidery also make beautiful labels, although stitches could potentially be removed.

Remember, your label does not have to be a plain, white rectangle. Be creative! A label can be any shape or size. You can use a scrap of fabric left over from the front of the quilt or you can use an orphan block. There are books that give ideas for beautiful labels and even some with designs you can trace. Recently, printed fabric labels have become available at quilt shops.  But, whether plain or fancy, just be sure to label your quilt!

Article originally published April 2000

© 2000, Maria Elkins