Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Inking and Signing on Fabric - Continued

To follow up on a previous blog post about Inking and Signing on Fabric,

Fabrics best for inking:
•Choose a densely woven fabric – a tight weave. A loose weave or course threads will be more difficult to write on smoothly.
•Use light color solid or very subtle prints that will not compete with the inking.
•White-on-white printed fabrics can be challenging to ink because of the uneven raised surface. Sometimes the printed white designs wear away. Avoid those fabrics if you can, or accept that they will have limitations.

Prewash to remove sizing, avoid products that may leave a residue, and iron flat.
Test a sample of inking on the fabric and launder the sample.

Use inks that a safe for fabrics. Sakura Pigma® Micron® pens are permanent on fabric. Size 005 is best for very small, fine writing, but it must be used with a very light touch.

Inks used on antique quilts were formulated in various ways that were damaging to the fabrics. In her scholarly article about Ink Damage on Nineteenth-Century Cotton Signature Quilts, Margaret T. Ordonez also offers advice for those of us making new signature quilts: “Do not heat set ink in signatures with an iron unless directed to do so for a specific formulation” and “Plan quilting stitch patterns so that you do not quilt through signatures.” Uncoverings 1992, Volume 13 of the Research Papers of the American Quilt Study Group.

Here are more examples of how I have used inking on quilts.

See how the downstrokes of letters can be carefully thickened for emphasis?

With MS Word (and lots of fiddling) I made these words go around in a circle.

Larger size Pigma® pens are available. For these tall letters, I first outlined each letter on the banner fabric (before it was appliqu├ęd), then filled in the letters with a larger pen. (Other options for big letters = applique , reverse applique, or use ultrasuede.)

Always label your quilts for future generations!

Find more information about inking in books by Elly Sienkiewicz, including alphabets, phrases and fancy Victorian words to trace. I love this image from Baltimore Beauties and Beyond Volume II, “Sign Thy Quilts!”

Search for calligraphy books, engravings, and graphics to trace. Antique quilts with inkings are wonderful inspiration! (More on antique inkings in another post).

Years ago, I learned inking techniques in classes with Susan McKelvey. Her books are out of print, but you can still find them. I am SO honored to have an original inking by Susan McKelvey on my friendship quilt. A treasure indeed!

‘Til next time, Keep Stitching!
©2013 Barbara M. Burnham

(c) 2013 Barbara M. Burnham. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any kind is expressly prohibited without prior written authorization.


  1. Thanks for sharing these tips. This advice works for inking labels also.

  2. Susan McKelvey is the reason I write on all my quilts. Her work is amazing and inspiring as is yours. Thanks for reminding me why I do it.


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