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….
and some do embroidered labels.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ironing on tear away stabilizer gives the embroidery area some heft, and aids in keeping the fabric flat while the letters are embroidered.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 (lostquilt.com) 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.
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?