When I first started to learn P&Q my teacher at the time, who was not the ‘usual’ P&Q teacher I now realise, did recommend labelling your quilts and I have to say I agree with her. (Thanks, Barbara for getting me started!) ‘Why?’ You may ask.
Firstly, it records who made the quilt. ‘But I know who made the quilt!’ I hear you exclaim. Yes, you do but will, after fifty years, they? The new owners who found this wonderful work in a charity shop or at the back of an antique sale will want to know who made this beautiful quilt. Now, like a lot of makers, you will probably say ‘but it’s not good enough.’ I can assure you it is. Visit a museum where antique quilts are on display. There are many around. You will see quilts that were made for a family to keep warm. They are not always the profound artistic endeavour that can be astounding but, more often than not, a simply worked, utilitarian object that we still admire today. Of course, we’d want to know who made it.
The label can be used to record a special event. If weddings, birthdays or other celebrations are worth making a quilt for then they certainly are worth a label to tell everyone about it. Dating the quilt is also of real importance. Back to those antique quilts; we can usually judge a quilt’s age by the fabric content and design. These days the fabric companies keep better records of their patterns but historically this wasn’t the case. The colours of the fabrics, dyes that were used in their production, are used to help date a quilt, along with the quilt pattern itself. Some are older than others in style but this can be misleading as well. Take the Jane Pizar coverlet I was lucky enough to see last year in Cheltenham. (See British Patchwork and Quilting magazine, issue 302 February 2019) This was made to an older design, which has led some to believe it is older than the fabrics used within it would suggest. Was it made by an older lady who took a while to finish or by a younger one who wanted one just like Grandma’s? We just don’t know because it’s not labelled.
Sometimes, we want to record a feeling that the quilt made is representing. A memory quilt made as a healing process through grief would certainly benefit from a label telling us of the maker and the person lost; the memory. This can be a wonderfully cathartic process. The simple mindfulness (see another of my blogs on this) of sewing can allow time to come to terms with a loss and it is only right that it be recorded on the label.
But how do you label? There are many ways this can be achieved. I like to use a little of the leftover fabrics to make something a little different (if I have the time!) You can use hand embroidery for the lettering which is my main method. My new sewing machine has lettering (that I’ve not tried yet) and I’m guessing/hoping that it’s much quicker. You can use permanent pens to write the information but do check they survive washing first. You can purchase books with iron-on quilt labels and also some fabric companies produce labels that you can appliqué on.
I find the labels to be just as interesting as the fronts of the quilts and they are often forgotten about. Do label your quilts and yes, I’ve about four that I need to label. Do they count as UFOL’s? UnFinished Object Label???