Label the Old

October 30, 2011

After enjoying Eileen’s story about her antique quilts last week and having the opportunity to present my antique quilt lecture in Manitowoc, I decided it was a good time to recommend putting labels on our family heirlooms. I’m always encouraging students to label their quilts – and this goes for the vintage ones you own, even if you didn’t make them yourself.

I have some wonderful antique quilts. Some are from my family and others I have collected. No matter how I got them, I always appreciate knowing their story. I truly wish some of them could talk, so I’d know the who, when & where. But alas, very few older quilts are labeled. It’s a shame because it can increase their value immensely. So label them! If you have their entire history – great! If not, put down what you do know, even if it’s just that you own it and how you acquired it.

The easiest way to create the label is to:

1. Cut a piece of freezer paper the size you desire the label to be and draw parallel lines with a Sharpie™ marker,  1/2″ apart,on the dull (paper) side

2.Iron the shiny side of the freezer paper onto a piece of muslin (this view is of the lines showing through to the muslin side).

3. Write the label information on the muslin with a fine line fabric marker (I prefer the Micron Pigma™ marker, size 01), using the freezer paper lines as guides to keep your writing straight.

4. Remove the freezer paper, turn under the edges and appliqué the label to the back of the quilt.

Creating labels on a computer and printing them onto colorfast printer fabric is another good option.

What information should you include? Who made it. When. Where. For whom. Who owns it. When. Where. Anything else you’d like someone to know when you’re no longer around to tell them.

Remember to label your current quilts too. They may not be around 100 years from now, but if they are, someone may want to know about you :-)!

One comment

  1. I use my computer to make labels as I finish my quilts. For info on my quilts, I also include dimensions, pattern source ,etc. Get the message ready on your ‘word’ program, center on the sheet, and print one copy. Tape a light colored fabric (I pick one from the quilt) over the printed label, using scotch-type tape, covering all fabric edges. The fabric should be a few inches bigger than the label in all directions. As I print this, I have my hand on the paper going into the computer printer, ready to help feed it in, in-case it balks at the thicker sheet (and yes, it occasionally jams, but do another). When printed, cut, or peel the paper away ( the printed paper underneath is a good record for your quilt files). Because printer ink sometimes runs, I put the label in a jar with a few drops of Synthrapol and hot water, shake for a minute or so, rinse and lay on a papertowel to dry. Press with a cloth covering the label to further set the ink. At this point, I tape it to graph paper, and use it as the center of a paper pieced label,, adding borders, corners, etc. Sew the size you want, press all edges under well and tear the paper away. I machine baste (really big stitches!) the edges, then hand applique the label to the quilt. I try to use the backing fabric of the quilt as the last round on the label, so I have an inconspicuous outer edge. The labels can be very elaborate, or very simple..you pick!

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