Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project

Documenting Quilts: Instructions for Using the Quilt Documentation Forms

By Susan Roach

Documentation of quilts provides a written and photographic record of individual quilts and the artists who made them. The documentation process involves completing a form and photographing the quilt (and the maker if possible). Quilts with a known history have more value to families and museums than those with unknown provenance; therefore, collecting all the information possible on a quilt will add to the quilt's value and meaning for the families, owners, and potential buyers. These paper records of individual quilts and their makers can be archived in projects such as this one, which provides a back-up document of the quilt in the event the quilt is lost. Also, owners can pass the documentation along with the quilts to heirs. Retaining documentation of a quilt is a means of making sure future generations will not simply discard a family heirloom because they do not know its significance. Since most paper has acid in it, the completed documentation forms should not be stored directly touching the quilt. If photos are attached to the form for identification purposes, the forms can be kept separately from the quilt.

Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project Form

To document quilts for your family or community to have a record of the quilts and their stories, choose the Louisiana Quilt Documentation Form format that is most convenient: Adobe PDF (fill out online and print, or print and fill out) or Microsoft Word (print and fill out or save and fill out). Instructions for conducting a quilt documentation clinic in your community are also provided in How to Do Your Own Quilt Documentation Workshop.

*NOTE: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the PDF version of the form. To download the reader, visit: Click here to get Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Completing the Documentation Form

Documenting each quilt and its maker takes time and patience, since the quilt forms request extensive information. Actually, some state documentation projects have used more detailed forms than our Louisiana project, and some have collected less information. When completed as fully as possible, the Louisiana forms provide a good picture of the quilt and its maker. Please fill out as much of the form as possible, giving the facts as you know them. Forms may be submitted with blanks on unknown items. Below are some tips to help with items that might be confusing.

Page 1: Information on the owner, the quilt, and maker(s)

Quilt/Photo Identification: If documenting more than one quilt, put a number on the form to be photographed with the quilt, so that quilts do not get confused.

Owner's name and contact information are not made available on this website, but are kept by the archive in the database.

Quilt Description and History

Quilt name or pattern: This does not have to be a formal pattern name; simply, what does your family call this quilt? "Grammy's pink quilt," "My mother's old Nine Patch," "the picnic quilt."

Source of Pattern: Tell where the maker got the pattern for the quilt; for example, a neighbor had a quilt like this, or a Farm and Ranch magazine had this pattern, etc. Date made: A specific date is not necessary; if known, a decade will suffice. Stories, customs, or interesting information: This is one of the most important sections of the form. Here one can tell exactly how and why the quilt was made and acquired by the owner, by whom and how the quilt was used and regarded in the home, any mishaps or controversies over the quilt, special or sentimental fabrics in the quilt, etc. These accounts place the quilt in its home context and bring it to life. This information will be displayed on the website.

Quiltmaker's Information

Quilts may be made by one person or by several; for example, the top may be made by one woman (or more), and the quilting may be done by someone else or a quilting group. Be as specific as possible when giving this information, and if you need more space than the blanks provide, just continue on back of the page. Birthdates, and in some cases death dates, of both the top maker and the quilter may also be given. If the specific dates are not known, please give the year if possible. Any information can be clarified or expanded on the back of the sheet.

Page 2: Specifics about the quilt

Measurements, construction techniques, colors, fabric, and condition. Quilters themselves are usually familiar with the terminology used, so it will be helpful to have assistance from them. For explanations and illustrations of the quilting terms used on the documentation form, see Quilt Terms and Techniques.

Page 3: Information and Photograph Release Form

The release form gives permission for the information on the form to be archived and used by researchers. It is important for the owner to check the appropriate release categories and sign and date the release. The information cannot be used in the Louisiana Quilt Documentation Project unless the release is signed. Even if the owner is not planning to include the quilt in this project, a release might be needed in the future by a museum or other archive.

Quilt Photography

Ideally, the full quilt should be photographed so that all the edges show. The back of the quilt can also be photographed if it is special. More detailed photographs can also be taken of special blocks or signatures or unique features of the quilt. If you don't have space or adequate lighting, the quilt can be hung outside on a clothesline. It is important to have the color accurate. Using a flash is fine, but the lighting should be evenly distributed and the photograph should represent the true appearance of the quilt as closely as possible. High-resolution digital photography is best, but consider also printing the photo to keep with the form.