An Easy Way to Label Your Quilt (And Some Useful Pens)

Season of Mists….

Hi Everybody,

We are into autumn proper now here in Scotland and we have had smattering of mist, rain, wind and glorious sunshine this week And although October began with a cold snap, it is surprising mild today, warm enough for gnats to be hovering about in clouds outside and my ducks to be enjoying a prolonged pond party

Our firewood all stacked and ready for winter

Today I want to talk a little about labels and ask, do you add a label to what you make? It seems to me that a surprising amount of people don’t. I have to confess that I don’t. Or haven’t until now. Why? I think it is because I am so relieved to have finally finished my project that the last thing I want to think about is yet another stage in the process. Does that sound like you, too? Or is a label not something you think about at all. Why is that?

An English Paper Pieced quilt (or any other hand stitched or embroidered project) takes takes many painstaking hours to complete, so why would we not want to add our name to our work? I love to think that in decades to come, someone will come across something that we are making now and love it. How much more wonderful would it be if they could turn it over and see an attached label that tells them the name of the maker; you, perhaps? And where it was made, and when.

I wonder if another reason (beside adding one more stage to the making) is that we are not sure how best to do it. There are several ways, some more fancy than others but this post is about just one way, an easy way as a starting point, with a few pointers as to what to look out for and perhaps avoid.

Ok, so all you need is a square, rectangle (or even a triangle), of plain white (or softly coloured) cotton fabric, large enough to hold a decent amount of information and small enough to fit discreetly into one corner of the back of your project.

NB: If you want to use a dark cotton fabric for your label, this chalk pen

made by Bohin makes clear lines on dark fabric and is worth adding to your EPP pen collection.

You can also buy labels from quilt sites and on eBay. I find that many of them, if pre-cut can be a little ragged and those printed onto fabric often have very little seam allowance between each of them. I used to worry about that. Take this one that I bought pre cut with a bunch of others of different sizes:

It’s quite large, much larger than I would use for my mini quilts (4 1/2″ x 3″) but will serve us fine as an example. There is also very little fold over space between the dotted line and the outside edge. But that’s ok in this particular case because the pattern will allow you to go in closer to the centre with your fold.

Now take a piece of iron on fusible interfacing – one that is suitable for stabilising lightweight cottons and is washable (like Vilene H250) – and cut it to a size slightly smaller than your label. Don’t panic if your stabiliser is creased for has a fold line on it like this piece. Lay the shiny side down on the back of your label and iron it on with a dry iron (no steam!). I ironed it on from the front of the label because the label was creased but if you want to iron it on from the back, to see what you are doing more clearly, place a piece of greaseproof paper over it to protect your iron.

It will now look like this:

The worrying fold in the centre has gone. Now turn each edge towards the centre around the stabiliser, like this:

You can use a glue pen to glue them down temporarily if you like this one:

A Sewline Glue PEN – Refills are available

There are several brands of glue pen on the market with different coloured glue ‘nibs’ (so you can see where you have glued) but they are much the same as each other, and all dry white.

Most of us are nervous about writing straight onto a label but there are ways to help with this. If your label is fairly see-through, you can draw lines on a piece of paper and slot it in behind your label. They may show through.

NB: If you are using thin cotton and want to embroider your words on, you can print out your words in a suitable size font, place the printout under your label, trace the words onto it and embroider over them. This is another option if you want fancier handwriting than your own.

If your label is not thin enough to see through, use a water erasable pen to draw lines across your label, like this:

To write, or trace words onto your label choose a permanent fine line ink pen, like one of these:

The numbers on these pens vary from 0.05 (very fine) upwards to about 0.8 (much thicker) I used 0.3 – I think you can also get them with coloured inks.

and the result will be something like this:

I favour the Pigma micron for writing on fabric but used the Staedtler pigment liner for this particular experiment.

When the ink is dry you can spritz the fabric with water to remove the lines.

Derwent spritzers are available from most art departments

Spritzers are invaluable for spraying erasable lines away in an instant. Remove the cap, fill the barrel with water and press down on button on top to release a fine spray. Dab with kitchen paper to absorb as much of the wetness as possible. Alternatively, spray water onto a corner of the kitchen paper and dab your fabric with that for small areas, or if it’s important not to wet your fabric too much.

The ink is permanent, washable, ink but you MUST wait a short while for it to dry completely. Let me show you what happens if you spritz it when it is not quite dry. The ink on the line that crossed the ‘t’ of Scotland was not quite dry and dabbing it with the paper towel smudged it..

When your label is finished, you can stitch it invisibly into the (usually) bottom left hand corner of your quilt, runner or other project. Some quilters believe that sewing the label into the corner before adding the binding makes the label close to impossible to remove.

I have decided it’s time I added labels to all the (dozens of!) quilts I have stored away (yikes), though I would normally choose something smaller and less obtrusive. I would probably add erasable marks at the top and bottom to help centre my writing, which I haven’t done here. And I like the idea of a triangular label that fits right into the corner. Why not join me and experiment a little with making some labels, until you find one that suits you. Practice on scrap pieces of paper and then fabric and next time you make something special, remember it deserves a label!

Till next time…..

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