Monday, January 04, 2016

Labels for Quilts

At Quilt Camp in November, one of my main objectives was to actually FINISH a pile of quilts by finally affixing labels to them.  This is always the last thing to do, and because it involves a bit of hand-sewing, I tend to put it off and procrastinate.  All these years, those quilts have had an index card pinned to the back with the label info.  Tacky, but it preserved the info -- until they get ripped off (which happened to at least one of them, proving that hack is not ideal).

A year ago, I acquired a color printer  (the pigment ink type) that would allow me to print to fabric for things like Quilt Labels.   Previously, I always wrote them by hand.   And although my penmanship is not bad, they just didn't look "professional."  But that leads to the next question : What fabric to print on?

Quilt Rat's Recipe for DIY Printing to Fabric

Jill Buckley over at The Quilt Rat blog offered a recipe to prepare your own fabric for printing.  

2 T alum
2 T Soda Ash (the kind dyers use, not washing soda)
2 cups hot water

Let your fabric soak in this for 20 minutes.  Save the "brine" and reuse it again at a later date.

See Jill's excellent instructions for the full explanation / tutorial. 

This would be great for printing quilt labels and perhaps someday even some of my own texture photography.   It's expensive to purchase the printer sheets (averaging about $3 per page).   And I normally have the fabric and soda ash and alum on hand for hand-dying anyway.    There are other recipes out there for DIY Bubble Jet Set, but I trust Jill when she says this works.  So far, so good!

I printed out several labels on several types of fabric with the idea to test and see what fabric would become the standard.  I thought it would be Dharma's sandwashed cotton (which is no longer available), however, once it washed up, it no longer had that nice finish, nor the sizing.  In truth, the nicest fabrics for printed quilt labels were the most easily available :

     Dharma's Mercerized Cotton Print Cloth
     Joann's Muslin

Read more about the making of this quilt at : Taking it Lightly Flying Geese.

I realized that I could add some of the fabric from the quilt top as a frame around the label and hold it down with some fancy stitches as a hem.  I also discovered that I didn't need to hand stitch all four sides of the label, where just two sides would do the trick.  That saved me some time!

Here are a few other labels from the productive weekend :

 Just simple text with this one, finished way back in 2011.

Usually when I do quilt labels, I include the following info (at the very least) :
1) Quilt Name
2) Date it was completed
 3) My name as the maker
4) Place it was completed

I've also heard that it's a good idea to write this info directly on the quilt, or even sew it into the quilt.  A label can be ripped out, and credit to the maker is lost.   

I got a little fancier with this one, adding additional info about the inspiration for the quilt, including song lyrics and referencing the blog post where you can read more about the making of this particular quilt :

For this one, I suddenly remembered, my printer can do color, and I wanted to further test the fabric sheets.   This one uses a purchased fabric printer sheet :
Because this one was heat set (not rinsed in water), it retained whatever stabilizer was in it. 

Read more about the making of this quilt at Mama Let You Lick the Spoon.

This one used one of the sheets I made with Quilt Rat's recipe above.  The colors are reasonably bright, but the fabric lost the nice finish it had before it was rinsed.  Still a success, in my mind, but I don't think I'll be using Dharma's sand-washed cotton sateen for this purpose.

 Read more about the making of this quilt at :  Spark in the Back of My Mind.

How do you do your quilt labels?
Do you write them by hand?
Do you embroider them?
Do you stitch them?

There are many options ...


The Idaho Beauty said...

I've not actually tested my fabric printing for washability I guess, but my impression was that if you are using a pigment based ink (non-soluble), it will have the same properties on fabric as it does on paper - i.e. longer archival light-fastness and resistance to bleeding or running if it gets wet. In other words, unlike dye-based inks which are water soluble, you don't need to treat the fabric to make the ink bind to the fabric. I really do think this extra step you are taking is unnecessary if your ink really is pigment. I should note that I do always heat set what I print out before incorporating it in a piece.

The pigment ink is more vulnerable to rubbing off since it is sort of sitting on top of the thread however. You may be familiar with "crocking" in some fabrics - it's the same thing.

Here's a good article explaining the difference in pigment and dye inks:

I found this reference to printing on fabric at the C Jenkins site - it addresses the washability issue as well as "post treatment" - not sure what that is:

And THEN, in poking around the internet, I found this post that tells the experience of someone using the same printer I do, and she has had some problems I haven't run into yet. Her solution is so different from any I've run across, I thought I should share:

Well, enough research - your labels are lovely! I especially like the ones that incorporate fabric from the front or continue a motif. I've created a standard template label in a software program where all I do is change the name and date of the quilt before printing - all the other stays the same info is already there and formatted - and print it out on fabric. This is primarily for my art quilts. If the backing is light enough, I'll often just hand print the info because like you, I'm not crazy about sitting down to handstitch labels. On the rare occasion I get lazy and fuse a label on, but no matter how "permanent" a fusible says it may be, I've found they can be prone to lifting over time. I should try that decorative embroidery stitching rather than whipstitching. Much more interesting and fun to do!

Michele Matucheski said...

I see I need to do some more testing. It would save a lot of time and effort if I did NOT have to do the pre-processing on the printer fabric. Thanks for the suggestion, Sheila.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Frankly I think I need to do some testing myself. I may have made assumptions that don't hold true. But I did so much research before selecting my printer & want to believe that one of the things I ran across was that the pigment inks eliminated the need for treating the fabric.

As an aside, eons ago Canon developed technology for printing on fabric - perhaps one of the first. My friend Judi bought the printer after seeing a demo of scanning her multicolor stocking hat and printing it out. Rather than pretreating fabric, you sprinkled a powder over the printed fabric to set the ink. She used it successfully for years. Don't even know if that's available anymore.