Labeling Quilts and Keeping Records

How often we quilters talk about labeling your quilts!  We say that labeling is not only to remind you when you made a quilt, but to tell others that you made it and when, but it also has another purpose – one I hope you never need. I think most of us wait until after the binding is done, then add a label. Some use preprinted labels, some use hand printed with pens….

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

and some do embroidered labels.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Recently I realized that I needed labels for several quilts that have never been shown. Sometimes I forget to do it once a quilt is done, unless it is going in a show or the fair. So I got out the pigma pens and made some quick labels and pinned them on for some Sunday hand stitching.  Then I got to thinking about this in a different light because of an email conversation with Rich Richey.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

We often don’t realize that a label is more than just identification, it may be needed to protect our work.  A hand whipped label to the backside is perfectly fine for documenting who made the quilt, along with when and where, but consider this.  Someone stealing your quilt can easily take that off.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Certainly having good photographs of the front will be essential to recovering your quilt if it was stolen, but you might need to go further.  A good starting point would be to have a label that cannot be removed.  Here are two ideas. First, use a pigma pen to write your information directly on the backing after the quilt is quilted.  Certainly this is a label that cannot be removed.  Using a complementary pen color is nice.  If you like the look of a pretty embroidered label, just place the pretty one over the written one.  You are protected against the label being removed.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

I have also been experimenting with embroidering the information on the back prior to quilting.  I began with marking the position I needed to have the information on the backing, using pins and chalk.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Ironing on tear away stabilizer gives the embroidery area some heft, and aids in keeping the fabric flat while the letters are embroidered.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Then, position the fabric under the needle, check again to make sure it is going the right way, take a deep breath, and punch the button. My machine will embroider two ways, one is continuous lettering and the other uses a hoop.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

It is a bit hard to read, but it says Scrap Dance Waltz with my name, date and location in red thread. I wanted it to blend with the backing and not be noticeable unless you are looking for it.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Flipping it over, I tore away the stabilizer, leaving only the stitching and a tiny bit of stabilizer under the thicker sections of letters. I’ll let you know how the quilting goes over this area.  I anticipate that I won’t be able to tell where it is as I am quilting.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Recently, on another blog (and I cannot find the post now to link it) I saw a quilter had sewn her label onto the back then quilted over it.  That would also make it difficult to remove.  Beyond that, some other suggestions for proving you made the quilt is to write your name on the edge under the binding.  A thief wouldn’t take the time to undo a binding to make sure there isn’t a name somewhere.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Another idea is to photograph the backside, particularly if the back is pieced.  Major works of art have the edges of a canvas usually covered by the frame photographed as a method to identify the genuine from the forgery.  The same idea could be applied to quilts, by taking close up shots of the quilting in the corners for whole cloth backings, or the piecing design for a pieced backing.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Certainly we all hope that your quilt would never be stolen, but in that case, how would you prove that the quilt is yours?  Such a situation occurred in Houston just this past November when Jamie Wallen’s trailer was stolen at Quilt Festival in Houston in November from the parking lot of the hotel. It was recovered a day or two later, wrecked and abandoned, with all the quilts missing.  Some were customer quilts.  A few days later, a lady walking found a trash bag full of some of the missing quilts, and more were recovered later, but four customer quilts are still missing.  Those quilts might end up at a flea market, beautiful and seemingly a bargain, likely with the label removed.  How would you know it was stolen?  You wouldn’t.  Would you even think to look around on the internet to find out?  Likely not.  But, what if you were the person who made the quilt, publicizing it around might help it be found.  Maybe some other quilter would recognize your missing quilt at a flea market or resale shop.  Great, now, prove it is yours.  This is a horrible situation, and I hope that no one ever has a quilt stolen, but it points out the need for as much documentation as you can do.  Rich Richey, Jamie’s partner, and I were emailing recently and I got an update from him.  He only had one photo of this quilt, and no pictures of the others stolen from Jamie’s private collection.  This beautiful green quilt called Rhapsody in Green is still missing.


This class example quilt is also still missing, along with three others that Jamie used to demonstrate some of his techniques.  I took this picture when I took his class, and Rich was happy to see a picture of one of the still missing quilts.  Likely it is in a landfill at this point as I am sure someone with no knowledge of quilting would not see its value.  I am happy to report that according to Rich, the criminal responsible was caught, has already been prosecuted and is serving a 25 year sentence.


Sadly, four of Jamie’s customer quilts are still missing, but Rich didn’t have any of photographs of those quilts to share.  I have not yet found any mention of who the last four stolen customer quilts belong to, what they look like or any pictures of them. This totally baffles me, why wouldn’t you publicize a custom quilted quilt that was stolen?  There is a site for listing lost and stolen quilts called Lost Quilts ( but there are no listings referencing the theft.  Even if the maker didn’t have pictures of the finished quilt (because Jamie did the quilting and was to deliver them back at the show), they should still have pictures of the flimsy. By now, those quilts and the Rhapsody In Green quilt could be anywhere.  Without any publicity on the last four missing quilts from Jamie’s customers, it is not likely they will ever be recovered.

If you ever decide to enter a national or local show, be sure you do as much as you can to make sure your identifying information on the quilt is permanent.  Quilts have been lost in shipping, stolen presumably because the address indicated it was going to a quilt show.  I remember when I shipped a quilt to the AQS show, they were very careful to tell me how to label the box so it wouldn’t be obvious that it was going to a quilt show, and if I insured it, to call it a blanket not a quilt.  Sad, but you just never know.

Labeling Quilts and Documenting ~ From My Carolina Home

Those of us with blogs tend to take a lot of photos of our finished work, but how many of you that don’t blog take the time to document your quilting?  Will you look at labeling the same way now?

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47 thoughts on “Labeling Quilts and Keeping Records

  1. Diane S. Kelley

    How could the quilts be stolen in November, and the criminal has already been caught and sentenced? Perhaps I wasn’t following the timeline correctly?

  2. Great information….from a historical standpoint I always do a label and sew it to the back of my quilt…often in a right-triangular shape and placed in the corner before binding…..with the binding hand-sewn to the back of the quilt. A few months ago I read that Sandra Walker, of menopausalmelon quilts, has been making a label, basting it to the quilt backing fabric and then quilting the quilt. The label is then much more difficult to remove. I really like your idea of embroidering the information and plan to start doing that. At the moment I’m having a “senior moment” and just can’t remember which nationally-known quiltmaker/teacher embroiders her information to the binding before it’s sewn on. That looks pretty nifty, as well. I’d read that Jamie had suffered at the hands of a thief….I’m glad there’s been some relief, at least. Have a wonderful week….temps are much warmer here….near 60….but a chance of rain for the next 6 days. I only hope the ground isn’t too saturated from the melting snow to handle more moisture. Blessings from southern WV.

    1. Sharon Pederson in her book “Reversible Quilts” gives instruction on monogramming the label information on the back of the binding which does work great.

  3. So sad that you have to consider theft in almost every aspect of life these days. I have a couple of quilts from my grandmothers that I wish they had signed and labeled but then they were making them for everyday use and not as a family collectible.

  4. Great post, much to think about. My quilts are not valuable, only to me, but I try to sew the label attached on the seam allowance under the binding, leaving 2 sides to stitch to the quilt, of course, this too could be removed. and the pigma pens fade, embroidery would last longer, quilting thru it would be a great choice, i like your comment of writing the info right onto the backing.

  5. Robby

    I’ve made these rather permanent labels for all the quilts I gift to my nieces and nephew going to college. I like to create the label and attach it before the quilting is done, but I have also done the machine embroidery on a block and included that in a corner of the front. Making it obviously identifiable seemed likely to deter a dorm thief. It’s amazing and disappointing to discover what someone will steal. Thanks for the reminder of how important documenting our quilts is, especially since it isn’t the most exciting part of the process.

  6. Maureen

    Some time back, I began to add my label before quilting. It’s added protection but also means I am more likely to label each quilt. It’s too easy to finish the binding, plan to add a label and the forget. I know people who have trailers or RVs often put a lock on the hitch so it can’t just be hooked up by anyone and driven away. How sad for Jamie and his customers.

  7. Rosemaryflower

    I am trying to label all of my quilts.
    I spend many days embroidering a label for Sarah’s first quilt…. it took forever
    So, I just marked it right on the quilt backing.
    It would be great to find a very very permanent ink that could withstand a zillion spills, and washings.
    I used the ever faithful Sharpie. I can be really neat and tidy when I want to be haha
    Happy Wednesday.
    I am going to enjoy the sun today.
    I have so many projects going, I need my own caregiver, and perhaps a secretary, a cook, and a maid, etc etc

  8. Sharon Schipper

    Along with much too informal labels (my name, date, recipient) I have been taking pictures of all my quilts the past few years for my “album” which I desperately need to remove from my phone and get on to something more permanent! I like to take a picture of the recipient, and two of my gentlemen who received quilts for their first child brought me back adorable pictures of the little ladies on the quilt, which I treasure. I suppose another thing is that even if we don’t make art quality or show quality quilts, they do represent a substantial investment in time and care and even if just the 300-+ spent on the supplies and professional quilting (and more for king size!) they have value. We insured one king size we sent as a gift by mail for 500 bucks, and that wouldn’t cover the countless hours spent. Do you know if any of your “casual” quilters like me have documented how much they’ve spent including manhours on a quilt? somewhere I downloaded an invoice sample from a lady that she gives with every quilt, those commissioned AND those gifted, so the recipient has an appreciation for the effort. Maybe it was from your blog? She used an invoice listing supplies, including thread and batting, man hours spent in piecing, her own long arm quilt time (or the cost of quilting with plastic, as Eleanor Burns puts it). It all adds up. She tells the recipients that even if this is not what she charges them, it is documentation for insurance purposes! Good idea.

    SO, to expand on photo documentation, how about an album with not only photos, but a sheet with details of dates, recipient, costs? someone smarter and more experienced than I probably has more tips. Sure wish I had photos of my earliest quilts!

  9. So sorry to hear about the theft of the quilts and the fact that a number of them are still missing.

    I have sewn a name tag inside the binding in the past (when I still had same left from my kiddos), often put a written or printed label on the back partially under one corner of the binding, sometimes write directly on the back. I do find that labels printed on fabric prepared to go through the inkjet printer hold up better, as far as fading goes, than those where I used a Pigma pen. Another excellent idea, which I don’t usually think of too late, is to actually piece the label into the backing – it is pretty easy to do with a pieced back.

    I do have photos of most of my quilts, but rarely of the backs. My weakness is not having a storage/record keeping system for same. Of course, nowadays, a lot of them show up on my Instagram and Flickr feeds!

  10. I’ve recently starting applying the tag you secure within the binding at a corner. But, for ones I haven’t, like you said, to use a permanent pen to label/sign them is easy to make up for the ones I haven’t labeled. A very informative, good read. THANK YOU Carole.

  11. I think a lot of quilters feel that their quilts are only of value to a few people – sadly most people do not think of quilts as being high value. Most times quilts are not seen as a piece of art like a painting. One time fairly recently a sister in law was looking at one of my quilts and exclaimed at all the work put into it – she called it a piece of art whereas the quilts she makes she calls “just nana quilts” meaning it wasn’t worth anything – I told her we quilt differently but her quilt was worth something too. She feels it isn’t and doesn’t bother with a label as she just “whipped” it together for the little one. I don’t always label my quilts – sometimes forgetting to for months on end, I normally sew my label to the back after it is done and yes it could be taken off – I supposed I should think to add it to the back before completion.

    1. Your SIL needs to see that her work has so much value that is more than the cost of fabric and the hours of work, it is priceless to family because she made it. Someday, a grandchild will grow up and pass that quilt along to the next generation, and no one will remember who made it or when. At least use a pigma pen or sharpie and sign/date it. Tell her I said so, LOL!!

  12. Like any works of art, quilts should be signed. I free motion quilt “Made by Tami” and then the year. I also photograph the front and the back but mainly for me to be able to look back and see what I have created
    That Rhapsody Green quilt is the quilting bomb!

  13. Mary Jean Cunningham

    Oh, my! I had no idea of any of this! I think all quilts should be documented just as a historical point and to establish “provenance” and am sad that something as seemingly innocent as a hand-made quilt can be trafficked but guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Regarding the hours and hours of work on a quilt, it is something to consider – I read an article once where someone made a quilt for a friend and was later shocked to find the friend was using it as a dog bed – you want to make sure your quilt goes where it will be appreciated considering all the work that goes into one! Sometimes people see cheap machine-made quilts for sale and don’t realize the amount of time and effort that goes into making one. Thank you for an unfortunately eye-opening article and if I ever see a quilt for sale at a flea market or similar venue I would think twice about buying it without checking to make sure it wasn’t stolen/missing.

    1. It’s awful to think of a quilt being used as a dog bed, or any number of other ways that don’t honor the work and the maker. But it happens all the time. And for other reasons it can turn out that a gift of a quilt goes badly, like with a broken relationship. But I think we just have to think of that as we should think of all other gifts. We did our part in giving. And then our part is done. How the receiver uses it or not is not something we can control, and should try not to worry about. (I’ve had a little experience with having to “let go” on this. It’s hard, but better that than the continuing bitterness or disappointment.)

  14. Definitely food for thought in this post, Carole. My sewing and quilting group have an open day twice a year to encourage new people to join us and we display examples of our work. The danger of projects being stolen while on display is mentioned every year.

  15. JoanG

    I use thin strips of fusible under my label, usually under the lines giving my name and the name of the recipient. I also put it under the seam lines on the edging of the label. This way I can hand stitch the edges of the label and still be reasonably sure that the label can’t be easily removed.

  16. Pam Jay

    Carole, thank you so much for sharing about the importance of labeling and photographing our quilts! I am so sorry to hear about the theft of Jamie’s and his customer’s quilts! I am so hoping they are all eventually found!

  17. smassena2014

    Your article and these comments have been very eye opening! Thank you.
    Most of my quilts are for charity and I don’t label them. However, if it is one for a family member, I now embroidery my name ion the binding so it only shows on the back side and sew the label into the binding when I attach it.

  18. auntiepatch69

    This is too sad. From now on, I’m going to sew my name into my quilts to look like decoration. I never considered someone stealing my hard work. Enjoyable, but still hard work. Thanks for the reminder.

  19. Hi-Carole.-Sorry-to-have-to-type-with-all-the-slashes-but-my-spacebar-does-not-work-anymore.

  20. I have labelled all my quilts, with the exception of the first one, which was given to my youngest son. I keep meaning to add one. I usually just hand sew one, but once I used the binding to attach two sides. I do like the idea of writing under the binding.

  21. Sheila, Johannesbyrg South Africa

    Thanks for the very interesting post. It is shocking that people would even think of stealing a quilt. I am very discerning as to who I make and gift a quilt to these days as I have also had the experience of my handiwork work being used for dogs to lie all over! I think that it is a very good idea to do an “invoice” of the cost of the quilt so that people can insure their quilts. I also always put a care letter in with the quilt so that the recipient knows exactly how to wash the quilt!

  22. Phyllis Smith

    Good Morning Carole,

    Thank you so much for this valuable information on labeling our quilts.

    I remember as a young teenage my mother having a quilt cleaned and when we went to pick it up they said it couldn’t be found. We knew it had been stolen right then. It was made by one of my

    Aunts and I’m sure she did not put any identifying info on it. I still have a couple of my mothers quilts and will be checking them out for any identification on them. I have a cat appliqued throw that

    I made and need to get quilted so I will definately be labeling mine with the pen method and embroidery over it. Again thank you for this important info.


  23. Carole,
    And excellent and necessary article! My quilts are nearly always gifts, and I have done a poor job of documenting…partly because I’m not that good, so they are of sentimental value more than actual dollars, but your point is a good one, and I resolve to do a better job.

    I see in your first quilt photo that wonderful angel fabric. I had some of that fabric, and loved it so much, I wish I had purchased more! How fun to see a piece of it clear across the country!

  24. Very good point! I do my best to label my quilts after I’ve finished them, with a hand-applique label, but I have often wondered about adding the label before the quilting stage instead – as you say, much more secure! Will try and do so in future. 🙂

  25. Great post Carole – I have started using my embroidery machine to make labels for the back of my quilts. I use a non-woven fusible mesh stabilizer on the back of the already stitched label and “turn the label” so no raw edges show; then IRON it to the back of the quilt. I also catch 2 edges under the binding. Then I only have 2 edges to hand stitch down. I figure the fusing helps prevent easy removal.

  26. What a lot to think about, and so necessary. I label my quilts, but mostly thinking what would someone see in like 100 years. ‘Never thought about theft. How degenerate can people be? It is truly horrible what happened to that quilter. Yes, quilts are works of art and should be treated as such. I may start quilting over my labels from now on. Writing quilter’s name under the binding is also a great idea. Thank goodness, I have made many photos of most of my quilts, though they are not show-quality (lol). Embroidery seems to be a great idea, but I do not have an embroidery machine. Hand-embroidery would work as well hopefully. Fusing sounds helpful also. Thank you for this post, and getting us all to think.

  27. Thanks for a timely, informative article, Carole. It’s amazing to me that it is necessary now to have a lost quilt website.
    While reading your post, I thought of creating a label that could be placed under the backing next to the batting. That label could hold all of the identifying information for the quilt: owner name, address, and any other info that you would normally not want others to have access to. Another label could be added to the back of the quilt, but the hidden label would be quilted in and not easily seen by the theif. Of course, proving ownership would mean removing some of the quilting, but that can be replaced and most quilters would be will to suffer a little damage to get their quilt back.
    Of course, I haven’t been doing this, and likely won’t for my ordinary quilts, but those that are especially valuable or of sentimental value will get the extra labeling. And I will begin writing directly on the backings and hiding that with the label. For me the label is the last step of the quilt, so they are always sewn on by hand and could easily be removed. This at least gives the quilt a chance should it be stolen.
    Thanks so much for the article…obviously it has many of us quilters thinking. 🙂

  28. Judy

    I made a quilt for my mother-in-law. It had a block for each family member (child, in-law and grandchild). Since she was in the nursing home, I thought that labeling it with a Pigma pen would be better than a label that might come off with repeated washings. That was not correct. After she died, my brother-in-law gave it back to me and the hand written information had been washed off. I don’t know if this would have happened, had I used a Sharpie.

  29. This is a very useful post. I piece my labels into my backing. I figure that’ll stand up to hard wear and time, as well as potential thieves. Thank you!

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  31. Elle

    Two things to do if you are sending show quality quilts anywhere; as you make it put a label inside attached to the wadding, close to a corner. It can’t be seen by anyone, but is there as identification if a quilt does go missing, and later has to be proved to be yours, secondly embroider your name along the edge of the top underneath the binding. Don’t forget to take a photo of where you put these (or you won’t know where to look for the proof of ownership either!). Perhaps not necessary to do this where the quilts are “family quality” and gifts for friends etc, but an information label is always interesting on the back. I always hand embroider them and so far they haven’t even faded.

  32. I agree that doing something more permanent like even piecing a label into the backing (Julie from Jaybird Quilts custom prints her logo on fabric using and uses this method). I kind of like your “write it on the back and cover with a label” idea as I have this perverse sense of the person being frustrated to find the label re-written underneath. Thank you for sharing and linking up.

  33. The guild I belong to incorporates a guild label as part of the back of many of the charity quilts we give away. Personally I like to machine embroidery my labels. Perhaps I’ll start putting them into the back since most of mine end up being pieced anyway. If it goes in a corner near the edge, the quilting shouldn’t interfere too much. Thanks for the great post

  34. Sarah Leigh Cureton

    Great information. Thank you Carole. I was so please to find your site and I’m enjoying your tutorials. You teaching is excellent for me. Only been quilting a few years. Thank you again. Sincerely, Sarah C. Gastonia, NC

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