Labels are for Quilts

Even though we know they’re important, lots of us don’t label our quilts. The reasons range from being too busy to already having moved on to the next project. Here’s some labeling inspiration.

No matter what kind of label you put on your quilt, it should contain some basic information. All People Quilt suggests including the name of the quilt maker, the date and place it was made, the quilt pattern name, the name of the recipient if the quilt is a gift, the occasion for which the quilt was given, and care instructions.

Labels don’t have to be masterpieces. Handwritten labels using permanent markers on 100 percent cotton fabric are quick to make. While these labels may seem too slapdash for use on an elegant quilt, I’ve never regretted including them. When I entered my first quilt in our local guild show I was sewing down to the final deadline and the label was an afterthought. I wrote the required information on a bit of muslin in my none-too-elegant script and stitched it to the back, vowing that when the show was over I’d make a “better” label. Twelve years later that label holds strong and every time I flip the corner of the quilt over and see it, I’m so grateful I included it.

Some people use preprinted labels you can buy and fill in. Moda uses Inkjet Cotton Sheets–fabric-backed paper for use with an inkjet printer—to create labels for each of their quilts—they identify them when they’re traveling to trunk shows, providing proof of ownership in case of loss.

Polly Minnick of Minnick and Simpson designed these labels for her hooked rugs and had them made by Embroider ME. She fills them in and attaches them to each of her finished projects.

You can also embroider a label. Janet Clare employs her mad machine embroidery skillz to create labels for her quilts. “I usually write them with my sewing machine, then handstitch them on whilst I’m finishing the binding,” she says.

Albert is the name of Janet’s quilt and she finished it after a Sunday that included eating bacon buttys (better know in the US as bacon sandwiches).
Janet’s label for her Felicity quilt, part of her Wordsmith collection. The “elf” she refers to is her longarm quilter Carolyn Clark (@sussexelf on Instagram). The name came because Carolyn will often sit up half the night to meet Janet’s “crazy” deadlines, and because she has often surprised Janet by doing all the binding, as well. “Everyone needs and elf,” says Janet.

Janet’s quilts are a great example of labels that include “that extra something” —more than just the basics. Carrie Nelson’s are, as well.

Carrie first heard from well-known teacher and quilter Freddy Moran that labels were a way for “artists” to sign their work. Now Carrie’s known for including quotations on her quilt backs—she writes them with Sharpie markers and the Identipen by Sakura.

“I have been saving quotes—snips of paper, fortune cookie fortunes, lines of poetry, anything with quotes—since I was a teenager,” she says. “It was something my Dad did… I seem to have inherited that gene.” She’s not sure when she started putting them on her quilts but it’s become a “Carrie-thing” and she enjoys adding them because they are often the inspiration for the name of the quilt.

(As amazed as I was by the beautiful quilt Carrie made for Quilt Market from my Feed Sacks: True Blue fabric, I was knocked out by the back.)

There are myriad ways to attach a label. The most secure is to include it as part of the back, either by piecing it in (as in the quilt above) or sewing it on before the quilt is quilted. It then becomes an integral part of the whole, firmly attached as it’s quilted over. In addition to being sturdy, Carrie says that appraiser Karen Hauser told her that if a quilt is ever stolen it’s nearly impossible for a thief to remove a label attached this way without damaging the quilt. Labels can also be hand stitched directly onto an already-quilted quilt, with care taken not to let stitches come through to the front.

There’s a time and a place for every kind of quilt label, from the simplest to the most ornate. But the bottom line is, label every quilt. You won’t regret it and neither will the lucky person who inherits your quilt. Think of the hours quilt historians and appraisers spend hunting down information about antique quilts. One hundred years from now, when they’re examining your quilt for clues to life in the good old days—the 2010s—they’ll thank you.



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23 thoughts on “Labels are for Quilts

  1. I never label my quilts. Always afraid someone will look at it and say what a bad job I did.

    1. Kathryn L Casavant, I hope after seeing all the sample labels and reading the comments, you will RE-THINK this whole subject and begin to “document” your quilts with at least your name as the person who made the quilt, hand quilted or machine quilted by “whomever”, the title of the quilt and the date. (Sometimes I even put the date BEGUN if the completion date has taken many years!) 🙂

    2. Kathryn, we quilt because we love it, and because we love. Anyone who quilts with love will not be judging your work. Who can judge love? Not me! If you made your quilts with joy, and they were gifted because you loved, or even kept because you loved, nothing else at all matters! I suspect any true quilter will look at your work, know how much care and time you put into it, and admire it for what it is…a little piece of you! Keep on quilting and label your quilts. I would be honored to come across one with your name on it!

  2. I started my quilting journey 5 years ago, and I have gifted nearly all my quilts to friends and family (bless their hearts for not commenting on my “learning boo-boos”). My label tells them it comes with love, with their names and my name. To a person, they comment on the label and how meaningful it is to them. That’s what it’s all about for me….

  3. I am fairly new to quilting. One of the first things I learned was to label my quilts. I saw an article about various label ideas. I print a label with all the info suggested above plus a cute quote. In the maker slot I sign my name with a permanent pen. I make a border with matching backing material. When I bind the quilt 2 sides are automatically captured. I hand stitch the other sides in place after I finish the binding. I hope these labels will be a history for the future owners especially if they get a first attempt & a later, more skillful quilt I made. Some of my quilts have moved to other states so I think it’s very important there’s a label. 18 years from now the owner of a baby quilt may be very happy to see the info on a quilt made for their birth.

  4. I always label my quilts, who it’s for, name of pattern and dTe, something I was just taught to do.

  5. I am so glad you wrote this blog post, Carrie does set a pretty high bar with her labels, and I love them all. If Carrie wrote this blog post I don’t think we would have seen a single one, thanks so much for sharing Linzee. I’m happy to have graduated from no labels on any of my quilts to using those personalized mfg tags, it’s a start.

  6. love the article and comments and I sometimes label and sometimes I don’t, I am always afraid the permanent markers aren’t that permanent

  7. I add a label to my quilts as well…under my Label Name of Sweet Limonella Quilts…as quilting is my happy zone and sweet time of the day and ‘limonella’ as I love my lemon tree in the front of the house but as with lemons and their lovely sour notes…I am learning…I also have boo-boos along the way. I created a label template on my computer and print onto label fabric then add a pretty sewn contrast border to the edges of each then hand fill with a permanent marker: who it is gifted to and occasion, date, fabric collection, quilt design and that it was hand made and gifted with love. All of my quilts have been given away …perhaps one day I should make one for me to keep…one day….:)

  8. I am not consistent on labeling my quilts and can say I really wish I was. I have quilts I made several years ago that I thought I’d remember the pattern etc. and can’t. Labels also serve as a record of your quilting journey, from the very first quilt to now. Some of them won’t be masterpieces but if you can look at a quilt and see progress as the years go by, it can be rewarding. No one should worry about mistakes, every expert was a beginner at one point. Enjoy the process!

  9. I’m kind of hit and miss in labeling. I will say this, I labeled quilts when I first started quilting in 1992 and used a Sharpie fine point pen, big mistake, as the ink through the years degraded in that it bled this yucky yellow halo around all the letters. I ended up going back and having to re-make the labels because they were so ugly. So be careful of the pen you use!

  10. I make a counted cross stitch label, with just my name and the year I made the quilt. Am thinking I should add more info, now that I see how many quilters make theirs.

  11. If I’m gifting the quilt I will make a personal label that uses bits of the fabric left over and I will write a note. However, if it’s a quilt for me or just for fun, I will use the selvedge piece off of the fabric line I used. I make sure to have the whole strip that has the designer name, fabric line, color markers, and if they have any quote or special addition to the selvedge. I cut the strip with pinking shears and sew the edge to prevent fraying and will add my initials and date to it with a Sakura Micron pen. I attach it to the quilt by sewing it in along while I’m sewing the binding strip. That way it’s sewn securely on and just makes a thin flange on the back of the quilt along an edge.

  12. Mine are usually pretty basic – written on a piece of fabric with permanent marker and sewn in to a corner(usually) before finishing the binding.
    I include: a name for the quilt, who it’s for; the date; my name and location.
    The last quilt I made( finally finished) was for my husband – I used the monogram feature on my machine and machine embroidered the details.

  13. Please label your quilts. I put handwritten labels on all the quilts I make. Last month someone I did not know sent me a picture of a quilt I had made and the label, asking if I was the person who made the quilt. Her father had found a box on the side of the freeway and this was one of the items in the box. It was a quilt I had made for my grand nephew.

    My niece and her family were in the middle of a move and this,box had apparently fallen off the triailer. Because I labeled the quilt the person who found it searched for my name and the quilt and other belongings were returned to my niece.

    1. That’s the most dramatic example of a reason to label your quilts that I’ve ever heard!!! Such a happy ending!

  14. I always write a Bible scripture verse that reminds me of the quilt recipient or I use that person’s favorite verse. Everyone always looks for my label before they look at the quilt. I also use leftover binding to frame the label.

  15. I personalize labels for gift quilts for family and friends, and Quilts of Valor have their own requirements. However, in these difficult times, I’m hesitant to put too much info on donation quilts since I don’t know where they will end up. One hates to feel that way, but it’s a sad fact of life now. So, for those I just include my initials, the quilt name if there is one (I often make them up as I go), the date and a quote or message. Sometimes I make my own labels with printer fabric, sometimes I use pre-printed labels.

  16. Enjoying making labels for historical purposes…..I collect 1930’s and Civil War Time quilts,mini to lap size and a label is priceless because it tells you who,what,why,where and when.I am for labels.

  17. I never used to label my quilts, but then Carrie did several articles about it over the years. In the last year I have begun to label my quilts. It feels silly, but I just tell myself that my kids will appreciate it when I’m gone. 😉

  18. The joy is in the labeling! I’ve always labeled my quilts and the main reason why? For those that come after me. Whether another quilter that buys a quilt of mine or a historian. Love the idea of incorporating quotes. Thank you for another great post. Allison C. Bayer, Plano, Texas USA

  19. I am not good at thinking up names and clever sayings for my labels. I often just sign the binding with name, date, place.

  20. So many great suggestions here! And you don’t have to feel bad about not making a “fancy” label. Including just the facts is SO much better than not labeling at all!

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