Why Label Your Quilts?

It’s important to sign your artwork, and for quilts, that means making a label and sewing it on.  My family has a wealth of quilts made by Grandma, and it’s already hard to remember, when did she make this one?  Which kid was it given to originally?  In this post, I’ll list 7 ways to make your own quality, long lasting labels to add to your quilt.

Given the amount of time, effort and money involved in making a quilt, we should sign our name to our work!  And keep a record for future family members and art historians.

I used to be able to print on fabric quickly and easily with my Riso Print Gocco, but the company that makes them, in Japan, stopped making the needed supplies.  A related method is Thermofax.

I don’t know what Thermofax machines were for, way back when, in offices, (something to do with fax machines?) but quilters started buying them up by the 90s at least, to print custom labels. The machines “burn” a screen in much the same way a Riso Print Gocco does, only by using a reusable bulb.

These have now gone way up in price in the used market, the machines. But folks who have one will make you a screen for a fee. See Etsy, etc.

Here’s a link to a tutorial on how to use a Thermofax screen to print a quilt label.

The Riso Print Gocco is an amazing, if defunct machine that could also burn screens and serve as a mini printing press. I still have mine, in case of a miracle.

Regular silk screens are also reusable though you’d have to do a really good job of washing it between uses – the usual process is to clean it with is a power washer. You could hire someone to burn the screen for you or do it at home. I’ve burned screens at home and at a group print making studio. It’s not hard, it’s just a lot of steps, learning a new process, and buying chemicals that expire.

That makes it be worth it to pay someone for a custom, re-useable screen. I’d ask for the smallest one they make (see Blick) and fill it with as many labels as possible, then I’d print up yardage of fabric with my labels and cut them apart, iron the ink to make it permanent, and then have a stack of labels ready to go at any time.

You could also have your local T-shirt shop do this for you as well. Design a “page” of labels that would fit on their t-shirt screening set up, and then provide the fabric. You’d have to pay the set up charge, but then you could buy enough to last you a lifetime.

What additional methods could be used to make quilt labels?

• Design your labels and print them at Spoonflower or other digital print on demand places. If you design this to be an 8″ x 8″ sample, you could buy it as a sample. Or fill a fat quarter or yard.

Sample Quilt Label by Becky Campbell

Quilt label by Becky Campbell and the product she used to print it, from her Instagram. Find Becky at https://sewforever.com

• Print directly using your home printer and properly prepared fabric.  (Jacquard makes specially fabric, ready to put through an ink jet printer.)

• Have professional labels printed.

• Hire a printmaker to carve a block for you, then print it using something like the Pookie Press, or a baren, or the back of a large wooden spoon.

• Have a custom stencil laser cut and then ink it with silkscreen ink or textile paint. There are online places that will cut stencils for you, or join your local Maker Lab.

• Make a transparency and print fabric using Jacquard Solar Fast light reactive dye. (If you can use the sun to expose your print, this is the cheapest, easiest idea on this list.)

• Use a Cricut or other electronic cutter to cut out letters in vinyl and iron them on. Your library may have a machine.

How to make it look good, and intentional, that some parts of the label would be hand written?

Perhaps you could add a printed border, then your name as the maker and any additional info., like where you live, generally, for the historians, then lines or spaces for your signature and the date and who it was made for and what life event, if any.

Which of these methods will last the longest?

I feel pretty good about the permanence of silkscreen ink. I’m feeling iffy about the home printing idea and if using an outside digital printing company, I’d want to read up on their method and the permanence of it.


I had long heard of some kind of “digital Print Gocco” existing in Japan, but not in the U.S.  I finally found it!  Now available in the U.S. and elsewhere.  It’s called MiScreen and it’s the modern alternative to either Thermofax or Print Gocco.  It looks clean, fast and easy to use!  It costs $2,500.00, which is more than I can justify for myself, but wow!  Looks terrific.

P.S. Here’s what wikipedia says about Thermofax:

Thermo-Fax (very often Thermo fax) is 3M’s trademarked name for a photocopying technology which was introduced in 1950. It was a form of thermographic printing and an example of a dry silver process. It was a significant advance as no chemicals were required, other than those contained in the copy paper itself.

P.P.S.  Someone shared in a group I’m in – a test that someone did of various permanent markers.  I don’t have a link back to the original maker, so I won’t share it here, but the surprising result was that laundry marker pens work the best.  Well, I was surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.  It makes sense that laundry pens would work the best at surviving being washed!  But I’d never thought of it.