Monday, April 3, 2017

Looking at Labels

Do you make labels for your quilts?  They are required if you enter shows, but even a baby quilt meant to be loved and dragged should have a label.  My gr-gr-grandmother was said to be a renown quilter.  I have some antique quilts that have been in the family, but I have no idea who made them and it makes me sad.  I would like to know if one of them was stitched by her.  I have read in magazines about lovely, old quilts without labels.  Appraisers can tell you a lot about these precious quilts, but they often haven't even a guess as to who made them.  A label with name and place and/or something about the quilt builds a beautiful connection between the quilt and its users or admirers.

There are many ways to label your quilt.  Jenny Lyons of "Quilt Skipper" blog just signs her quilts with permanent marker...on the front!  Most people make a label and stitch it to the back of their quilt.  A friend of mine makes her labels with her signature and the name of the quilt written by hand with permanent marker and sews it on.  My daughter just discovered that her embroidery machine makes unique and beautiful labels for her quilts. A label may be plain or personalized.  As a photoshop freak I like to make labels that relate to the quilt using a photo of the quilt or a fabric that I used in the quilt.

Using the photo from which I made the quilt:
Sometimes I use the graphic version from Illustrator as the basis for my label:

The hole under my name contained my address, often required for a show.
It is fun to photograph a fabric in the quilt and use it as background on the label:


The largest label I have made is about 8 x 10 inches for a very special, meaningful quilt that resides on my bed:


The basic method of making a plain label is to use a piece of fabric that you can write on.  Any fabric will do as long as you can see the writing or printing.    You can buy treated fabric in quilt stores and Joann's.  I don't like these as they are very stiff and a nuisance to sew onto the quilt.  They do hold the color beautifully.

If you want to prepare your own label fabric this is what I do:

1.  Prepare the cut (see #2) fabric with a solution for setting the ink.  I use Bubble Jet.  Using this product I soak the fabric for 5 minutes then let it dry flat on a towel.  Excess solution can be re-used.  A bottle lasts forever!

2.  Cut a piece of freezer paper letter size, and cut the fabric slightly smaller than the paper.  Make sure to remove any stray threads so they don't muck up your printer.   Iron the freezer paper to the treated piece of fabric.

3.  Now you are ready to print.  I find that Bubble Jet doesn't give me quite as much color as I like so I prepare my images with heavy saturation.

4.  Let the ink dry for 30 minutes and wash gently in cold water with a mild detergent for 2 minutes.  Voila!  You have a nice label that you can let dry flat or iron dry.

[5]  I am experimenting with painting the label with diluted "Fabric" Modpodge to see if it will protect it and enhance the color.  You know I have plenty of that stuff around!  It stiffens it a bit, but nothing like the prepared fabric sheets you buy.  If not, it is fine without.

TIP:  You cannot save the treated fabric.  You only prepare as much as you need at that moment.

Sew some happy seams this week.  I wish you the fun of dreaming up creative labels.


  1. Thank you for all your quilt label making tips! I really enjoyed your post! I do make labels for my quilts. They are either hand embroidered or embroidered on my machine. I agree with you - our quilts/afghans and other handmade projects need labels for prosperity's sake! Thank you for sharing!

  2. I've never entered a quilt into a show, so I was unaware of the labeling requirements, but I always label the quilts I make for friends and family. I typically hand embroider my labels for that added handmade touch.

    1. I bet they are beautiful. That is a great way to do them.

  3. Great information on making labels. I used to but have gotten way too lazy recently. Must try again! Thanks for the info. And for sharing your beautiful label.

  4. Labels are not my favorite, nor are hanging sleeves. But I try my best, using different techniques for different intended purposes. Thanks for sharing your label process - I'll have to try it!

  5. Have you liked the Modpodge? I'm always worried that the label won't make it through multiple washings. So no problems with my wall hangings, but I'd hate my baby quilt labels to fade. Love my new inkjet for printing - it doesn't choke on cloth like my old printer.

    I used to take photos of a fabric to add to the label. Never thought of doing one of the quilt. That's a fun idea. I've had problems with color shift when I've tried this in the past, but you've reminded me I should try it again, with the new printer.

    Good stuff, all of this. Thanks!

    1. The Modpodge didn't do a thing for the label except make it a bit stiff. I won't bother with it from now on. The book, "Crafted Appliqué" says that it washes well. I have a new printer too and am still uncertain about printing fabric. The one time I tried, it was fine. I will print again in the next couple of days. My biggest problem has historically been with the color being "washed out." That is why I saturate the dickens out of the image before printing, and so far it has worked well.