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Quilt Labels - The Essential Step in Quiltmaking posted: 6/8/2003
by Hallye Bone Printable Page
Category: Tips Method: All
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Picture this--you've just completed a year's hard work. You found the perfect fabric, cut and pieced it, basted and quilted it. The binding goes on and you breathe a sigh of pride, accomplishment, pleasure and relief. But wait! One more step is needed before your heirloom is really finished! A label is necessary to complete any quilted bedcovering, garment, or decorative item.

Labeling a quilt is far more important than announcing that you made a quilt. A quilt label is an important resource for future generations and insures that wherever the quilt goes, its provenance is clear. In my thirty years of quilt restoration, I have often heard, sadly, "I don't know who made this quilt." Don't let that happen to your quilts!

A quilt label should include the following information: The first line should be the full name of the quiltmaker, including maiden name. If someone other than the maker did the quilting, add that. The next line should provide the town, state, and possibly the country where the quilt was made. Finally, include the date (or an approximation) that the quilt was made.

In addition, you can add optional pieces of information. If the quilt was a gift, add the recipient's name and the occasion for which the quilt was made, such as graduation or wedding. Another nice touch is to state the relationship of the owner to the maker, such as grandmother or aunt. You can include a saying like, "When this you see, remember me." Books of quilting quotations are available at your local quilt shop.

Label Making Methods:

Marking Pens:

  • The computer age has revolutionized quilting and label making. But labels can quickly be made with prewashed muslin (or other light colored fabric) and a waterproof, indelible fabric pen, like Pigma® or GellyRoll. I find art supply stores have a huge array of waterproof pens. Quilt shops carry pens that are specifically designed to write on fabric and won't get caught in the fibers.
  • Cut the muslin 1" larger than your desired finished size. To stabilize the fabric you intend to write on, always iron freezer paper to the back.
  • I also made my own "guide"-- a dark black lined sheet of paper that I place underneath the fabric as a guide, to keep my writing straight. Then I write or print the information onto the fabric.
  • Using a hot (use the "cotton" setting) iron, I press the label to set the ink.
  • Finally, I remove the freezer paper and press the edges under and whipstitch the label onto the back of the quilt.

Photo Transfer: As a memorial to her mother, Lefa Moore of Bellaire, Texas, made quilted "throws" for grandchildren, nieces and nephews. On each, she placed a label with a photo of her mother, along with information about her mother and about herself. On vintage quilts, a photo of a great-grandmother enhances the label and brings the quilt alive. Copy centers can do the photo transfers directly on to fabric, but their services are expensive. To do the transfers at home, buy the photo transfer paper at quilt shops, craft stores, fabric stores, or office supply stores. Read and follow the directions carefully as each brand is different.

Computer Generated Labels: Connie Chunn, award-winning quilter of miniatures, made a "Safe Haven" quilt out of Thimbleberries® fabrics. Her label was generated out of her computer. She recommends several methods. First, she tried "Computer Ready" fabric attached to paper, available at quilt shops and fabric stores. Some of them have unique washing instructions, even dry cleaning preferred. So, Connie chose the "Bubble Jet Set 2000®" method, instead.

  • She rinsed the fabric in the Bubble Jet medium mixed with water to stiffen it.
  • After pressing the wrinkles out, she ironed the stiffened, treated paper onto freezer paper and ran it through her printer. Bubble Jet Set 2000® is available in quilt shops and in quilt catalogs.
  • Connie, a computer specialist, recommends printing out the image on the computer screen on to paper before printing it onto your fabric. That way, you'll have no surprises.


  • With a pencil or Pigma® pen the same color as your embroidery floss, write out the information for your label onto freezer paper backed fabric.
  • Remove the freezer paper.
  • Using 2-3 strands of embroidery floss, a size 8, 9 or 10 embroidery or crewel needle (crewel needles have large, long eyes and sharp points), stitch with one of the following stitches: backstitch, stem, or outline stitch, covering the drawn pen or pencil marks.
  • Press the label edges folded over once and whipstitch onto your quilt.

Pieced Labels: A label that matches or coordinates with your quilt's fabric is a nice touch. Carol Williamson of St. Louis uses a three 3" strips.

  • Two strips are dark; one is muslin or light-colored fabric.
  • Beginning and ending with the printed fabric, she pieces the strips together.
  • Turn the pieced section on point, cut to a 5 1/4" square.
  • Press freezer paper to the muslin or light fabric.
  • Ink or embroider the label's information in the blank strip.
You may also piece a block similar to the blocks on the front of the quilt and leave a section with plain fabric so you can write the information on it.

Typewriters are obsolete but if you still have access to an IBM® "Selectric" typewriter, their magnetic ribbon is indelible when heat-set.

  • First, prewash a piece of muslin.
  • Using a hot iron, temporarily fuse the fabric to freezer paper to stabilize it.
  • Open the platen and slip in the fabric/freezer paper sheet. Close the platen, turn and type your information.
  • Heat-set the printing with a hot iron.

Quilt labels make thoughtful gifts for your quilting friends! While you're making one for yourself, make a generic, blank one or two and tuck them away to insert in a birthday card, for your guild's president's retirement, or for that next quilt.

Although you can embroider or ink directly on the back of your quilt, I choose not to do so. I've found that it's much easier to redo a separate label than the back of a quilt in case you make a mistake. Now that you have so many quick, easy methods to choose from, what's stopping you? Get out there and identify those precious quilts!

©2003 Hallye Bone

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