The quilt label. The very-very-last-last detail to place on a quilt so you can put a fork in it and call it done. When I’ve sewn the last stitch on my binding and spread my quilt out to gush, smile, and smooth—and then realize when I turn it over that I’ve forgotten to add a quilt label—my brow furrows. Dang. I thought I was finished!
Nope. I’m not. Because you gotta add a label. You just gotta.
No matter what your quilt is intended for—everyday use, special-occasion use, heirloom use (which means no use!)—quilts need labels. The next time you’re nearing the end of a project, ask your quilt a question: “Where will you be in 10, 20 … 50 years?” If your quilt doesn’t answer, she doesn’t know. And that’s why you need to make sure a label will link her directly back to you. No matter where you are.
After reading several Martingale authors’ ideas for how to label a quilt, I’m starting to unwrinkle my brow a bit. Their collective advice? You made it. OWN IT! Claim and credit your quilts. Make sure your far-in-the-future heirs know how gifted you really were.
From simple to showy, here are a few ways in which Martingale authors create their quilting labels.
The labels on my small quilts are machine stitched onto the backing fabric before quilting, while the labels on the big quilts are pieced, and then sewn into the backing itself.
As for what should be on the label, the answer is: whatever you want to include. My friend Karen Housner, a certified quilt appraiser, says that anything and everything I can do on the label to personalize it is a good thing. So my labels always include the following:
- The name of the quilt
- The name of the quiltmaker: that would be moi
- The name of the gloriously talented machine quilter who has had to work so hard to make me look better than I am
- Phoenix, Arizona, which is where I live
- The year and sometimes the month that the quilt was completed—especially if it’s for a special occasion, event, or purpose
- Anything else I deem relevant at the time
- A favorite quotation
I’ve tried using many different types of quilt labels: preprinted labels sold on the bolt, packaged muslin label sheets, and traced designs from books. There were times when none of them were what I wanted, and I was usually unhappy with my handwriting! So, I started playing around with freezer paper and using my computer and inkjet printer to make my labels. One thing led to another, and now I look forward to creating a custom label for all of the quilts I make. This is how I do it.
Note: This method is to be used with an inkjet printer only—laser printers could be damaged by the combination of heat and freezer paper.
1. On the computer, center and type the information you want to appear on your label, such as the name of the quilt, the size, who made it, the city, and the date, etc. Choose a font you like, but bold type will show up the best on your label.
2. Iron the fabric you want to use for the label onto the shiny side of an 8 1/2″ x 11″ sheet of freezer paper. (The precut freezer-paper sheets work best.) Place the freezer-paper sheet into your printer so that when it feeds through the printer, the label information will print onto the fabric side. Print the label.
3. Peel back the fabric from the freezer-paper sheet and heat set the ink with a hot, dry iron, or use a commercial solution such as Bubble Jet Set to set the ink into the label. The solution is highly recommended if you use colored ink. It’s available at many quilt shops and online.
4. Trim the label fabric and add borders 1″ to 1 1/2″ wide using leftover fabric from the quilt. If you’ve used fabrics from a specific fabric line, you might want to cut a strip of selvage that shows the name of the fabric designer, the name of the fabric line, and the fabric company, and include that in the border of the label. Another option is to add appliqué that was used in the quilt. You might also insert a 1/4″ flange that frames the label prior to adding a border. These are just a few ideas . . . be creative and add your own personal touches!
5. Turn under the raw edges of the label approximately 1/4″ and press. Position the label near one of the bottom corners on the back of the quilt and pin in place. Hand stitch to the backing fabric around all four sides of the label.
When I’m making a quilt, I keep the leftover fabrics handy until I’m totally done with the project. It’s fun to use leftovers from the front of the quilt to frame the label on the back.
I use a permanent fabric marker to write the information on the label. Then I back the label with another piece of light fabric to prevent the backing fabric from showing through. I sew strips of fabric onto the label to make a simple frame, sides first, and then top and bottom (or the other way around). You can use the same fabric on all four sides, one fabric for the sides and a different fabric for the top and bottom, or four different fabrics.
Press under 1/4″ all the way around the edges of the label, baste it to the back of the quilt, and hand stitch in place, sewing through the backing fabric only.
We find it easiest to attach the label after the binding has been machine stitched to the quilt top but before it’s been hand sewn to the quilt back.
1. Place the label at the lower-left corner of the quilt back, aligning the edges with the side and bottom of the quilt, and pin in place. Machine baste a scant 1/4″ from the edge of the quilt, sewing along the bottom and left edges of the label. Stop sewing at least 1/4″ from the corner of the quilt. The basting stitches should run right alongside the stitching line (in the seam allowance) for the binding.
2. Hand stitch the label to the quilt back along the upper and right sides of the label. Then fold the binding over the raw edges of the quilt and label and hand sew the binding to the back of the quilt.
Kim Diehl, author of the bestselling “Simple” series of quilt books, shares these three easy ideas for making and attaching quilting labels.
1. To easily stabilize the cloth while you write, first iron a piece of freezer paper to the wrong side of the fabric. After the writing is complete, remove the paper. Press the raw edges under 1/4″ and baste or pin them in place. Use a small dot of basting glue in the seam allowance of each corner to anchor the label onto the backing, and then hand stitch it to the back of your quilt.
2. Put any “orphan” block to good use, regardless of its pattern. Simply add a muslin border to each raw edge of the block, and use a fine-tipped permanent fabric marker to record information about your quilt. Use matching thread to appliqué your one-of-a-kind label to the back of your quilt.
3. For quilts that are extra special and destined to become family heirlooms, try this clever approach to attaching your quilt label. Prepare your label as usual, and then use a hot iron to press under the raw edges approximately 1/4″ on all sides. Anchor each pressed seam allowance in place with a small dot or two of liquid fabric glue. Next apply a thin layer of adhesive basting spray to the wrong side of the prepared label, and press it firmly into place onto the back of your layered quilt sandwich. As your quilting stitches are sewn they’ll include your label, and it will become an integral part of your finished quilt for a secure and lasting record of your handiwork.
How do you label your quilts? Do you use the same technique every time, or do you mix it up depending on the quilt? Share your ideas in the comments for other quilters to try!