When you think about it, quilt labels really are like postcards from the past. A quilt label connects us directly to the person, sometimes across the span of 150 years, who selected, cut, pieced, and quilted something so enduring that we can still appreciate it today. Quilts, like postcards, are something personal that lasts beyond the life of the originator: everything material from a person’s life might be gone but the quilts she made and the postcards she wrote remain lovingly tucked away in chests and desk drawers.
All of us have had the moment where we find a beautiful quilt in an attic trunk, an antique shop, or a thrift store and wonder where the quilt came form. Occasionally we luck out and the person who made the quilt also labeled it. We peer at the faded writing, trying to read the person’s name and the date just like we do with postcards. Wow! This quilt was made in 1883 by Eliza Smith. Immediately we want to know more about Eliza and we are connected to a woman who died long ago.
And now we realize why it is so important to label every quilt we make: it connects us to the future in ways we can’t even imagine today. I always tell quilts that in 200 years their quilt could be on a distant planet And the owner will want to know where the quilt came from just like we want to know more about Eliza.
If you are giving a quilt as a gift, wait until the person receives the quilt and snap a picture of them with it and add their picture along with who made the quilt, the city it was made in, the date and any other details that are pertinent. Or if you are finishing a quilt that someone else started (like the one in the photo), include a picture and some history about that person. We always wait to snap the photo of the baby for baby quilts we make and then we include the baby’s picture on the label along with the baby’s stats. When a quilt isn’t labeled like this, both the maker and the recipient risk becoming lost to history.
With today’s technology, it’s so easy to buy printable fabric from your local fabric store and create labels on your computer that can be transferred on to the fabric via your printer. Basically , when you are using printable fabric, the sky is the limit when it comes to the details you can add to the label. We usually use the standard Avery postcard template (no irony here!) in Word for our labels.
In the example label on this page, we included a picture of Nellie who created the original embroidered squares that her granddaughter Mary then had made into a completed heirloom quilt 60+ years later. Biographical information about the project are an important addition to the finished label.
So now when one of Nellie’s great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren on Mars inherits this quilt, s/he will be connected across time and space to both Nellie and her granddaughter Mary. Just like a postcard from the past.