Making Labels

Making Great Labels for your Quilt

After all the time and work you have put into your quilt,  be sure to label it so future generations will know its history. Here are a few methods of making labels with suggestions to make the labels water and light fade resistant so they will last as long as your quilt.

There are a number of options, from simple to complex, but you can easily find one that will fit your time, expertise and the character of your quilt. See what you can do to bring the colors, style, shapes and character of your quilt into the label on the back.

The simplest label to make is a hand written label. Choose a fabric that complements your quilt and will show the writing clearly.

Iron a piece of freezer paper onto the back of the fabric. This will make the label stiff while you are writing and help keep the pen from catching on the fabric.

Use a Pilot Brand Frixion pen to draw lines and draft the lettering. This is a special brand of pen whose ink disappears when it is hit with an iron (heat). Draw lines and write the text with the Frixion pen. If you make a mistake, hit that section carefully with an iron and it will disappear.

Once your are happy with the lettering, use a fine point permanent pen like a Pigma pen in the color of your choice and carefully go over your writing. Now hit the label with the iron and the lines and the draft lettering will disappear, leaving only the permanent lettering.

In this same way you can add a border, a drawing, or some other element that echoes the theme of your quilt. Don’t feel tied to a rectangle – if your quilt has a sea shell theme, use a scallop shape or a sailboat. And use several color pens to tie in with the color scheme of the quilt.

Once you are finished writing on and embellishing the label, pull off the freezer paper and fold under the edges of the label and blind stitch it on.

You can also buy fabric with labels preprinted on them to match many styles of quilts. This adds a bit of color and design to your label the easy way.

Another option would be to use the embroidery functions of your sewing machine to do the lettering. Many machines have simple lettering and more complex machines have a multitude of beautiful images which can be stitched with a variety of colored threads. You can also use some of the specialized stitches to add a border around the lettering.

It is possible to use some home printers to print a label, but only Epson makes a colorfast ink for printers (Durabrite). Other brands like HP might blur or wash away, so be sure to do a test print and wash it before you commit to sewing it on the back of your quilt. There are two issues which are important, water resistance (will not blur or fade when washed) and light resistance (will not fade in the light). I would suggest reading reviews of Epson printers before purchasing one, since there are issues with replacement cost and frequency of ink cartridges which might make it uneconomical to use just to print labels!

Another option would be to print on the fabric with your non permanent ink printer (you can iron freezer paper on the back of fabric to run it through your printer) and then go over this writing with a permanent pen. Once again, a test is advisable. Try this, then wash it (by hand is fine), dry it, iron it, and even leave it out in the sun for a while to see how fast the colors will remain.

Another option is iron on transfer. You make a label on your computer, print it on iron-on transfer paper and iron it onto fabric. Read the instructions carefully for printing (you might need to flip the image) and ironing (usually high heat with a dry iron for a specified amount of time). Here is a helpful article outlining the different transfer products available. (This is not a link, please copy and paste into your browser address bar).

Finally, it is possible to sew the label on the back before quilting, so that when you quilt the label gets quilted in as well. This is a security feature in case the quilt is lost – it is more difficult to remove the label.