Quilt Labels: Whimsical Lettering

Not everyone can draw but almost everyone can write—and that’s what piqued my interest in The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe for Interweave/F+W.

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The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe retails for $24.99.

At first glance you may think the book isn’t related to quiltmaking, but wait! It is! I could hardly contain my excitement when I realized that whimsical lettering is perfect for quilt labels.

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I used just one easy technique for starters.

The Art of Whimsical Lettering is for anyone who can physically write.

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Another easy technique from The Art of Whimsical Lettering by Joanne Sharpe

If you can make the alphabet, you can create interesting, artistic and totally unique letters that can be used however you like. For quilters, the first thing that comes to mind is quilt labels, but there are other applications, too.

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You can do this! Imagine how creative all your quilt labels can become with whimsical lettering.

You don’t have to be a serious artist to do this, although serious artists will find it fascinating. And everyone will find Joanne’s relaxed teaching style engaging and easy to follow.

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My first attempt on paper

I tried one of the simplest ideas in the book, first on paper. This was done with no practice at all—think how great it could look if I practiced! You can see that I was working in a sketchbook but just about anything with substantial paper will do.

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My first attempt on fabric, ironed to freezer paper

From there I decided to try it some lettering on fabric. I ironed solid white cotton to freezer paper and worked on a hard surface. I used dual-tip Tulip fabric markers I purchased on Amazon (because I live in a rural area). The word “Ryann” on fabric above is quite large, about 3″ tall.

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My first doodle label for a quilt is about 3″ x 3.5″.

I decided to work smaller, more like an actual quilt label would be. I learned some things on this one that’s about 3″ x 3.5″. I’d make the word “great” smaller and make the word “aunt” larger, because it’s more important.

I’m going to reread some of the sections in The Art of Whimsical Lettering to learn how to make a greater variety of letters. And I’m going to practice, practice, practice.

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I added fabric strips around the label edges.

I wanted to see how it would look made into a label. I added fabric strips around the edges and made it into a label using my Quick Quilt Label method. If it was for real, it would be ready to add to my quilt.

I have just scratched the surface of what is possible with artistic writing on quilts. I think it would be fun to make a bunch of quilt blocks that are just my whimsically lettered thoughts, or quotes, or favorite verses, filled in and around with artful doodles and decoration.

The piecing between the blocks could accent them or add additional color or be wonky and improvisational or…the  possibilities are endless.

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One other important thing about the book: It’s wonderfully affirming for anyone who wants to learn a new art or craft. There’s no room for self-deprecation—take this statement as an example:

“Know that each brave attempt in any stage of a creative learning process is a perfect result in your learning curve.”

Isn’t that empowering?!

I recommend Joanne Sharpe’s The Art of Whimsical Lettering from Interweave/F+W. You’ll find ways to use it for quiltmaking and you’ll stretch your creative boundaries as you explore making beautiful, whimsical letters of all sorts.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email: editor@quiltmaker.com.
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4 Responses to Quilt Labels: Whimsical Lettering

  1. Karlene says:

    This looks like it would be fun to play with. Thanks for sharing the information.

  2. Barb Johnson says:

    I’ve never liked my handwriting. The nuns that taught me in grade school didn’t either; I never got above a ‘C” in penmanship ;-> So I’ve never been comfortable writing quilt labels. My printing is better, but not much. This book sounds like it is just what I need to encourage me and teach me to develop a new style!

  3. Cathy Koester says:

    I also think there is scope for appliqueing letters!

  4. Anne says:

    Great resource for another great idea. I love calligraphy and I also have fun with fancy computer fonts, but I never thought of creating quilt labels. I use MS Word’s Word Art tool to embellish decorative letters and specialty dingbat fonts in a similar way.

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