Thursday, June 12, 2014

Travel bags for art quilts

Tonight I had to deliver a quilt for a show and in several weeks I will have two more to deliver for another show, so I spent the afternoon making custom bags for them. Over years of shows for our High Fiber Diet group we have come up with some pretty good ideas about these travel bags.  Used to be we would wrap the quilts in an old pillowcase, or make a simple slip bag out of muslin and call it good. But years of schlepping quilts from venue to venue have brought refinements that are such good improvements I decided to share what I have learned.

Today I made three bags. 

First—the fabric. Muslin is cheap and utilitarian, but it gets dirty, it doesn't protect the piece from (god forbid) water or even worse, and it is a pain to stuff a rolled quilt into and out of a muslin bag—kind of like shoving your flannel-shirted arm into the sleeve of a fleece jacket. A couple years ago one of our members suggested we use a slick fabric of some kind, that the quilts could easily slide into and out of. Brilliant. I found a bolt of slick, waterproof nylon on the sale table at a fabric store and bought several yards, which will keep me in bags for the foreseeable future. 

It's kind of an odd blue-gray color (probably why it was on sale), but very sturdy, nice stuff. I actually like the color and I can easily identify my packaged quilt in a crowd. 

For the ones I made today I measured the rolled quilts and cut, for each, a rectangle that was wide enough to fit loosely around the rolled quilt, including a seam allowance, by the length + 8 inches. I hemmed one end, creating a channel I could run a cord through, then, before sewing up the side seam I stitched an acrylic photo pocket to the outside of the bag.  Into this I will put a small photo of the quilt that will go inside. You can imagine how helpful that becomes to the people organizing and hanging the shows. 

Then I sewed down the side and across the bottom. I always finish those inside seams by zigzagging the edges because, otherwise, that nylon really frays. A note about the photo pocket—some of the artists sew a ziplock bag on for the pocket and that works fine, but, in my opinion, gets a little ratty looking over time. I like the nice clear acrylic. I bought a pad of it at the art supply store. 

To close the bag, some artists use Velcro, some a tie around the top. I like to run a nylon cord through the hemmed edge, then use one of those spring-loaded, pinchy fastener things like are used to tighten up the hood and bottom of your rain jacket. (Cheap at the fabric store or save them off discarded clothing) If you light a match, you can seal the cut ends of the nylon cord so it doesn't fray, then slip the ends through the fastener gizmo and tie a knot. 

Here it is, with my quilt inside, ready for delivery. I printed a photo of the quilt and slipped it into the outer pocket, wrote my name and phone number on the bag with a permanent marker and tightened up the closure.  I am confident it is sufficiently protected to endure rides in car trunks, stints in storage closets and most kinds of careless handling and/or minor mishaps.  

My quilts get to go to more places than I do. I like to see them travel in style. 


  1. These bags are wonderful. I don't show my quilts, but transporting is something I occasionally do, and since I pretty much stick to a constant size 2 or 3 will do fine. I wonder how duck cloth would do? I have bunch of it left over from SCA camping days.

  2. What a wonderful idea!
    Can I share it by putting a link to your post on our Fibre Content 2014 facebook page? We are having a show this fall and others may want to see your wonderful idea for packaging. It sure would make our hanging committee work easier.

  3. Great idea--thanks for sharing!

  4. I like the idea of using the slippery fabric and the pocket on the outside. Just out of curiosity do you make them for each quilt? Or do you just make several in multiple sizes to have for whatever quilts need to go?

    1. Depends. Sometimes I have one that will work and I can just swap out the photo. Sometimes not and I make a new one. I like them to fit pretty pretty well, so I most often make a new one. I have sold quilts with the bag if the buyer wants it. Some do, some don't.

  5. This is genius! I thought it was very difficult getting the rolled quilts in the muslin bags I made, but waterproof nylon? sweet! Do you roll them around a pool noodle before placing in the bag?

  6. I buy tyvek by the yard to make my bags. This method calls for minimal sewing and I use a fold over top with velcro closure. I like your plastic pocket with pic. I have a large collection of white bags which I have to sort through and read written labels. The pic would help to identify contents at a glance. Thanks for this helpful post.

  7. I've been thinking I need to make some bags to have ready so I don't have to always make one at the last minute. I also like the pocket with picture idea. Why didn't I think of that? I usually put the cloth bag in a plastic bag when shipping, but the nylon would save an extra step. I might have to look into that, although I probably won't be so lucky as to find it on sale.

  8. I also make mine with the pull cord and spring loaded fasteners. Do you think if you "cut" the nylon with a soldering iron it would not fray and save the step of zigzagging? I also zigzag the cloth so little pieces of thread don't stick to the piece.

  9. thanks for the window and photo idea. Wish I'd had it for a recent exhibit where my quilt was sent to the wrong person and it took a week to find it. I'm still waiting for it to come home. I will use your idea in the future.

  10. I am just about to make bags for a couple of new pieces, and I love the slippery nylon; my pieces often have (intentionally) hanging threads, frayed edges etc, and muslin is a nightmare, because everything sticks to it. My bags are an ugly electric blue - also a sale find - but easy to find in a pile of quilts!