Making any piece of art can be a long process. I know I have some quilts from 15 years ago that still need to be finished and I’m sure you have UFOs (UnFinished Objects) and WIPs (Works In Progress) too! It’s so satisfying to finish the that last step and feel the excitement of a completed project. But it is important to remember that a project isn’t really done until you label it!
Why are labels important? It’s your one chance to tell the story of your quilt (or any piece of art that you make) the way you want it to be remembered. Remember that quilts are often passed down through generations and without a written label to refer to, the story of your quilt will be subject to a game of generational telephone.
So what needs to be on a label? As a quilt historian I’m always hoping for that detailed label that really tells you a lot about the quilt, but here are the bare minimum elements to help future generations and historians connect your art to you!
1) Maker name
We want to know who you are! I encourage you to include your full name so that you can be easily identified in the future. J.E. Frisch could be a lot of people, but Janice E. Frisch is much more identifiable.
2) Where maker lived
This is important for helping future generations to track down the right public records to identify you. It’s much easier to find a person when you know the exact town where they were living than if you just have a state or a province.
3) Date quilt was completed
Include month and year at the least and day if you remember. Also be sure to label this date clearly. Often old quilts contain dates but we don’t know if that was the date the quilt was made or another important date in the maker or recipient’s life.
4) Who quilt was made for/why it was made/what inspired the quilt
This can be a simple sentence and if you made it for yourself note that too. If you made it for someone else include their full name and where they lived just like you did for the maker.
5) Who quilted the quilt (if not the maker)
Today lots of people enjoy making quilt tops but not doing the quilting and vice-a-versa. It’s nice to acknowledge the work of other individuals who helped you to make the quilt so include that person’s name (or names if you made something with a group) and where they lived as well.
This doesn’t have to be complicated and a few words or lines will suffice to cover all of this information.
If you have old quilts that you purchased or inherited it is never too late to label them as well. Just include as much information as you know about them and note down that you were the one to record that information and that date (at least month and year) that you recorded it.
I’d love to see your labeling methods and to help you inspire your friends to label their art as well. I started a hashtag on instragram which is #ItsNotDoneUntilYouSignIt and I encourage everyone to use it for any signature method on your art!
If you aren’t certain where or how to start here is a basic template for you to follow:
Made for [Name of recipient] of [town and state, town and province, town and country, etc. where they are currently living] by [Your name as maker] of [town and state where you are currently living].
Made [as a birthday gift, just because, out of the recipient's high school t-shirts, etc. Basically this is the why it was made].
Started: [Date you started the quilt]
Quilted: [Date quilting was finished] by [name of quilter if it wasn't you]
Finished: [Date quilt was finally done, label included!]
Gifted: [Date you gave the quilt to the person receiving it]
Are you interested in learning more about the importance of labeling your art? I offer a lecture on the topic as well as a class and would love to come speak to and teach members of your organization. While the lecture focuses on what I’ve learned about labeling from studying historical quilts, the information on documenting your work is applicable to any arts group.
Photo Credit: All photos by author.