So, your quilt is finished…it’s quilted and it’s bound and maybe you’ve even put a sleeve on it. It’s ready to give away, display, or put on a bed. You’re done. Kaput. Completely finished and ready to start on a new project, right?
Is there a label on it? If there isn’t, then no… you’re not done. Every quilt you make deserves a label.
I’m a stickler about labels. I don’t care if your label is fancy or plain, for heaven’s sake put a label on that thing. Why? Ask yourself where your quilt will be in 10, 20, or even 50 years. I’ve purchased quilts from antique stores, thrift stores, estate sales, etc., that have spoken deeply to me and I have no idea who made them and where they came from. And while they have a caring home with me, I would love to know the history of these beautiful things. I’ve made each of my children several quilts and both of the granddarlings. In 50 years, if the quilts hold up, I really want my future generation to know that I made them, the name of the pattern, who quilted it, why I made it, where I made it, and any other esoteric information that I think would be important.
Quilters that have access to an embroidery machine can make beautiful labels with that equipment. I don’t have an embroidery machine, but I have found that I can create labels that are elaborate or to-the-point with some fabric, freezer paper, and an ink jet printer. The printer needs to be an ink jet due to the fact you’re going to run freezer paper through it. The wax on the freezer paper will melt and make a huge mess in an laser printer. I will walk you through this process, but right now let’s consider what should go on that label.
The name of the quilt – name your quilt just like you name your children or your pet. Sometimes this is simply the name of pattern. Sometimes it’s not. It may be something you derive from the fabric line, a specific time in your life, and idea…it varies. But after spending weeks and weeks with the quilt, please do give the thing a name.
The name of the quilt maker – that would be you and anyone who helped you pieced the top.
The name of the person who quilted the quilt – I’ve always thought this got short shrift with quilters who didn’t quilt their own quilt and it’s not fair to the long arm, mid arm, or domestic machine goddess who performs this art. If you did quilt the quilt, then when you list your name as the quilt maker you can phrase that something like “Pieced and Quilted By______.” If you didn’t quilt your own quilt, add another line to the label and state who quilted it. In the future, I know quilt historians will be tracking quilting as much as they track piecing for individual styles.
The city and state where you made the quilt
The year and month the quilt was completed and what (if any) occasion it made for
That’s the minimal you want on the label. You also may want to add a favorite quote or Bible verse or anything else you think is important concerning this quilt. Several of my quilts are inspired by songs, so I also put the song title, date it was released, and the artists involved. Tula Pink does something really wonderful with her labels. She will add the average cost of an everyday item (such as a loaf of bread) on the label to give some historical perspective. I think this is such a cool idea!
So how do you go about making the ink jet labels? It’s really simple. I use a word processing program (Word) to make my labels. I open a blank document and then set my page size to the size I want my labels. Then I chose my font and the size I want it. It’s good to bold face the type so that it can be easily seen. You may want to get a little fancy and drop in some clip art. I play around with this until I get what I want. Then I print it out on plain paper so I can see how it will look and hold it underneath the fabric I’m using for the label to get an idea of how will it will show up.
Let’s park it here for just a minute and talk about the fabric for the label. I’ve used scraps left over from my quilt, Moda white fabric, Kona white fabric, and other fabric brands. I can honestly say the type of fabric I’ve had the best luck with is quilting quality white muslin. It goes through the printer easier and has had few mishaps. Whatever fabric you do chose to use, be sure to wash it and get the finish out of it. The chemicals that are used to finish the fabric before it’s shipped can impair the ink adhering to the material.
Once you’re satisfied with the way your label looks on paper, then it’s time to get it on the fabric. The freezer paper that works best is the 8 ½-inch by 11 inch kind that can easily go through the ink jet bed. Cut the label fabric a little wider than 8 1/2 inches and then cut it to fit the paper exactly. It doesn’t have to be 11-inches long, but I’ve found that if you cut your fabric smaller than the width of the freezer paper, it may peel slightly off during the process and jam your printer. Press the fabric free of wrinkles and then press it firmly onto the shiny side of your freezer paper. Load the freezer paper into your printer so that it will print on the fabric side.
After the label has printed, it’s very important to heat set the ink. Peel the label off the freezer paper and use a dry, hot iron to press the label. If you think that the quilt will be washed a lot or you’ve used colored ink, you will want to use a product called Bubble Ink Jet Set to prevent the ink from fading and/or running.
Now trim the label to the size you need it and technically you’re finished with the label. You can press the edges under ¼-inch and then slip stitch it to the back of our quilt. However, this is the point where a lot of quilters get creative. The will use an orphan block and insert the label in the middle of that. They will use applique on the label that repeats and idea on the front of the quilt. The sky is the limit here and I’ve seen labels that are just as pretty as the top and the quilting. It can be whatever you want it to be – just let your creativity, imagination, and time schedule be your guide.
My favorite thing to do with labels is to take the left over bias binding I used on my quilt and sew it on the label to frame it.
Do allow me to add this consideration. The above process was outlined with the idea that the label is the last thing you’ve put on your quilt. The quilt is already quilted and the label is hand stitched on the back.
If you want to ensure that the label does not ever come off, add the label to the back and then quilt the quilt. The label will never come off if you handle it this way.
Give this method a try. Just for heaven’s sake…put a label on it!
Love and Stitches,
Sherri and Sam