Labelling is that last little bit of making a quilt that sometimes gets neglected in the rush of meeting a deadline and giving a gift. It is so important though, and something I try to do when the quilting is nearing an end, before I finish the binding.
Labelling a quilt celebrates the achievement of actually finishing the thing. It celebrates the occasion for which the quilt was made and the person it was made for. It records the year and place the quilt was made, and its really important that your name is on your quilt.
Over the years I have used pigma pens, machine embroidery, free motion embroidery and hand embroidery to make labels. The back of my Christmas quilt represents the evolution of the label as each year I add a new label with information about where and with whom that Christmas was celebrated. I made it the year my third child was born and it now has 24 labels…. a random and eclectic selection. Usually after Christmas I’m exhausted (it is the end of the school year in Australia) and I tend to do something quick to get it done. You can see the early labels are in pen, then some embroidered, some signed by the children or visitors, some pieced, some not, then I discovered printing on fabric and I haven’t gotten over that yet.
Printing on fabric
It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s permanent. You can set up your label on the computer and have the layout looking nice before you print. You can add photos or artwork. I like to add a quote that has meaning for the recipient or for me. Some of my favourites are:
May peace be spread around you
May the ocean glimmer like greenstone
May the shimmer of light ever dance across your pathway (Maori blessing)
A quote from Isaac Newton for my daughter who loves the ocean
“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me” (Isaac Newton)
I spend a lot of time searching for quotes that are just right for the quit and the recipient and printing the label means I’m not stingy with words. If I’ve got to sew it, I’m much more keen to lower the number of letters I’ve got to use.
- Some printers are happier than others to print. Inkjet is permanent on fabric
- Pigment based inks are meant to last the longest, but I’ve not had any trouble with my labels fading.
- Printers where the fabric feeds in from the back and gets shunted out the front are least likely to jam.
- Printers where the fabric feeds from the front, gets turned around a roller and then feeds back out the front are really likely to jam and printing is a bit risky.
- I have a really cheap Epson which uses pigment based ink to print labels.
Printing a label
- You will need a piece of fabric, preferably plain and pale. A piece of freezer paper cut to A4 size (or letter size if that is what you use)
- Place freezer paper on fabric shiny side to fabric.
- Use a dry iron to iron the freezer paper to the fabric. Make sure you adhere the corners and edges well.
- Use your rotary cutter to cut the fabric along the edge of the freezer paper. There should be no stray threads.
- Place freezer paper and fabric sandwich in your printers feed
- Press ‘print’ and hold your breath …..
- There it is.
- I leave my labels for 24 hours for the ink to thoroughly dry. Then I dry heat set it.
- The paper just peels off and can be reused 4 or 5 times.
- You can add a nice border, or simply turn the edge over.
- If you want to get fancy you could even add a QR code with extra information to your label.
- Sew your label to the back right (as the quilt faces you), or back left (when you are looking at the back).
What are your favourite methods for making a quilt label?
Labels on Photos
I’m feeling more and more strongly that we all need to label every photo we put up on the internet. You know how it is, you finish a quilt, it’s exciting, you want to share with you quilty friends. A few shares later and you have no idea where that photo has gone.
A simple way to help people acknowledge your work is to simply add your name into the photo. This can be done by keeping a label handy, and pinning it on the front of your quilt before you snap that shot.
A second way is to download a watermark app onto your phone and make a habit of adding the watermark before uploading your photo. Watermarks can be added in lots of applications and mean your image is labelled as it travels the globe.
Now, some will argue that labels can be removed or covered, and for sure, this is the case. I’m talking about helping well-intentioned people who like an image and pin it or save it for inspiration or share with their friends. Labelling your photo makes it easier for someone who admires your work to acknowledge you as the quiltmaker.
I would like to see quilt shows add larger labels that can be photographed with the quilt to make it easier for everyone. I know I like to look up the work of quiltmakers whose quilts I have admired at shows and while I now take a photo of the description and the quilt (when photos are permitted), I think it would be better to be have the quiltmaker’s name actually on the quilt. What are your thoughts?