|Baltimore Album quilt by Carolyn Babcock which has both traditional and newly-designed blocks and is inked|
The ink used for writing on old quilt often contained iron gall. The iron would literally eat through the fabric, leaving holes. In today's world, we do not have to worry about that problem as there are pens that have been found to be useful for the task. These are called Micron Pigma Pens and they are sold in various size nibs. Art supply stores are more likely than quilt shops to have the full selection of pens available from the smallest nib .005 to the usual .01, and the larger ones in sizes .03, .05, and .08. They come in a selection of colors ranging from red to green, blue, black, and brown.
With proper use, the ink will not readily fade but fading IS a big issue when fabric is not pre-washed to remove the sizing. I found that out the hard way. When I searched for information on a quilt label recently, I found that the words had all but disappeared even though I had heat set the ink by pressing for 20-30 seconds on each side of the fabric before appliquéing the label to the quilt.
A light box comes in very handy for tracing letters onto the fabric. One can create the label in a document, changing the font to one that is attractive and easy to trace. I like Lucida Calligraphy the best as it is close to the Italian Calligraphy I usually do free-hand.
My heart always beats a little faster whenever I see a Baltimore Album quilt, old or new. They are certainly works of art that require fine appliqué skills and special techniques such as layering. Many thanks to Carolyn Babcock for demonstrating the art of inking at the Common Threads Quilt Show in Morristown, Vermont (October 2015). We enjoyed seeing all of her quilts in the show and marveled at the fact that she works completely by hand.