The Importance of Quilting Labels

Congratulations! You finished a quilt. You have pressed the last seam, quilted your final stitch, and clipped your last thread. Guess what, you are not done. A quilt is not considered finished until a label is added. Quilt labels can tell future generations the quilt's story. They can also recognize and honor our loved ones and may include a special prayer, a poem, or words of wisdom.

Every quilter and every quilt have a story, and therefore every quilt should have a label that conveys those stories. Quilters are artists, and an artist must sign their work. Fortunately, like signatures, most labels are easy to produce, and there are no hard and fast rules for making them. Quilt labels can be as simple as a signature or as elaborate as a two-page story.

Here are some things you may wish to include on the label.

  • Date
  • Quilt maker's name
  • Name of quilt
  • Location made
  • Name of recipient
  • The reason behind making the quilt (birth of a child, graduation, retirement, etc.)
  • Care instructions
  • Name of quilter
  • Personal message

There are numerous methods for making quilt labels. The most common is using scraps leftover from the quilt project. Some quilters will use muslin for their label, and many will frame the label with leftover fabric. Some may use a leftover quilt block from the quilt. Many quilters make their own labels, either handwriting the inscription or printing it on the fabric with their home computer printer. Others purchase theirs from their favorite quilt shop!

If you decide to handwrite your label, there are many pens and markers available on the market to choose from. Some quilters favorites, to name a few, are Sakura pens, Pigma Micron pens, or Fine Point Sharpie Markers. Whatever pen you purchase, make sure that it is a fabric pen or marker. Fine and Extra Fine Point Ink pens (less than 1.25 mm) allow you to write carefully and are less likely to bleed. You should always test the pen you choose on a scrap piece of fabric and set the ink before you attempt to write on your label. If you are not comfortable with handwriting the label, you can always type what you want on your label on the computer. You can then print the label text directly onto the fabric or, alternatively, you can print it on paper and then trace it onto the fabric.

To make it easier to write on fabric, you may want to stabilize the fabric using freezer paper before you write on the fabric. To do this, iron the shiny side of the freezer paper to the back of the fabric.

Where you place your label on your quilt is up to you. There are no strict guidelines unless you are entering the quilt into a quilt show. If that is the case, check with the quilt show organizers for their rules. Many quilters hand stitch the label directly onto their already finished quilt, typically in the bottom right corner on the back of the quilt with two sides of the label under the binding. Others include the label as part of the quilt back, either piecing it in or sewing it on before the quilt is quilted, so it becomes an integral part of the final design.

However, you decide to label your quilt, have fun, and make it unique. You might even consider hand embroidering or cross-stitching your labels. You should probably consider making the label before you finish the quilt, so all you need to do is attach it to the quilt.

One tip I learned from a dear friend is to tuck some leftover fabric behind the label, just in case the quilt gets damaged and needs to be repaired in the future; the fabric will be readily available. Others have said you should write the quilt information directly on the quilt, under the label, just in case the label should come off and is lost.

Even though most quilters agree that it is important to affix a label to all of our quilt projects, many still don’t do so. They might feel that they are too busy or simply that they are anxious to move on to another project. Resist the temptation to skip that last final step. Do yourself a favor and add a label to preserve the heritage of your quilts for future generations, you and they will be grateful.