How to ship your quilt
Every time I pack up a box to send a quilt to an out-of-state friend, my Pennsylvania relatives, my long-armer in Ohio, or a magazine in Indiana, Colorado, or New Jersey, I get the cold shivers, sister! You know why? Because I am putting my baby into a box and handing it over to someone in some company or some government agency who couldn’t care less about its getting there in one piece, if at all! Maybe it’s a loss of control. Maybe it’s a reaction to all the lost-mail horror stories I’ve heard over the years. Maybe I’m just, well, an idiot who should throw caution to the wind and worry about really serious things like the war in Iraq or global warming. Anyway, while surfing the Internet and talking with quilting friends about this shipping stuff, I came to ask my friend Maria Elkins, the woman who’s the reigning Queen of Quilt-Shipping Know-How, for advice and guidance. Here’s what she told me about shipping your quilt.
1. Photograph and document your quilt.
Use a large envelope or reclosable plastic bag to keep the receipts from supplies and fabrics purchased for your quilt, sketches made during the
design process, notes from your journal, fabric swatches, and photos of you and your quilt while it is being made. BEFORE you ship your baby, be sure you have pictures that are a true representation of your completed quilt.
2. Securely attach return-shipping instructions to your quilt.
Be sure your name and address are on your quilt label. In addition, use a safety pin to securely attach to your quilt an index card or your business card with your name, address, phone number, and return-shipping instructions.
3. Put your quilt into a CLEAR plastic bag.
This will protect the quilt in case the box gets wet. Never use a garbage bag that is opaque! Someone could easily throw your quilt away without
looking inside. One dear lady put her precious crazy quilt into a garbage bag during a move, and a well-meaning friend took out the “trash.” Another woman brought three quilts to a quilt show in brown plastic bags, and they were never seen again. (Note: do not keep a quilt in a plastic bag for long-term storage.)
4. Use a permanent waterproof marker to label the clear plastic bag.
Don’t leave anything to chance. Mark the clear plastic bag with
5. Include an addressed return label.
If your quilt is to be returned to you, write your address on the label so there is no question as to where your quilt is to be sent. Use a shipping
label that has a tracking number, and write down the number before you send it off. With many shippers, you can use that number to track the
shipment on the Internet. Be sure your label is taped securely to your quilt inside the package.
6. Use a strong, new box.
These boxes are put through a lot of stress during shipping. Purchase a box that will not be crushed or broken open. You can buy extrastrong
boxes that are made for shipping china and crystal glasses. Or you can use two boxes, one inside the other. Be sure there are NO stray addresses, barcodes, or tracking numbers from prior shipments on the outside of the box. If there are any old markings on a previously used box, your package could easily be misdirected and lost.
7. Use your creativity to make
your box stand out. To maximize your chances of finding a lost package, use a distinctive-colored box. One quilter marks her boxes
with stripes of bright yellow and black tape. Another always covers her boxes with pastel-colored contact paper. A shipping employee is more likely to remember handling a box that is marked in an unusual way.
8. Before you close the box, put a piece of cardboard over your quilt.
This will help protect the quilt if a knife is used to open the box.
9. Tape every flap and seam, and do not use string or rope on your box.
Use packing tape to secure any edges that could get caught in machinery or conveyor belts. Do not use masking tape, as it is not strong enough to withstand the stress of shipping. String is another no-no as this, too, can get caught in machinery.
10. If you must list the contents of the box on the label, do not use the word “quilt.”
The words “bedding” or “textiles” are sufficient description without attracting undue attention to your package.
11. Write the shipping address and the return address directly on the outside of the box, using a permanent, waterproof marker.
Shipping labels can be damaged or torn off, so writing on the box itself is in addition to the label you have already used. If you do use a paper or adhesive label, do not place it over the seam where the flaps come together, and be sure to cover the label with clear tape. Do not put a paper label over any kind of plastic tape. The adhesive on labels does not stick well to slick surfaces like plastic tape, and your label could fall off.
12. Insure your quilt.
Never ship your quilt uninsured! If you do not insure your quilt, the courier service has no obligation to pay you more than the minimum amount, usually about $100. Two wonderful, prizewinning quilts were lost in a UPS truck fire, but they were not insured. The quilter received only
$100 compensation for the loss. The cost of insuring your quilt is relatively small compared to the trauma of a lost quilt. Be sure you have an
appraisal to verify the quilt’s value.
13. Get a receipt.
Always get some kind of receipt for your quilt. Choose the “signature required” option for delivery, if available. This means the courier cannot just leave the package on a doorstep but must actually hand your quilt to a person.
14. Tracking numbers are great, but they are not foolproof.
Definitely make use of tracking numbers when available, but do not lull yourself into believing your quilt is automatically safe just because it is assigned a tracking number when you ship it. No system is foolproof, and if the box is damaged during shipping, the tracking label is likely to become damaged too and may be unreadable.
15. Follow these tips if you ship your quilt in a tube.
Some people prefer shipping their quilts in tubes. Tubes are nice because your quilt can arrive at that important show without fold marks and wrinkles. Before you close up the tube, stuff crinkled tissue paper into each end so your quilt doesn’t shift back and forth. Then be sure to securely tape each end. First use two long pieces of tape to make an X over the cap, extending the tape along the tube itself. Then
wrap more tape around the tube to secure the ends of the X. So what do you do if, after following all these tips, your baby does
not arrive at its destination? Check out www.lostquilt.com and register your quilt on the Internet. This free service is dedicated not only to displaying lost and stolen quilts in the hopes that they will be recovered but also lists quilts that have been found and need to be reunited with their owners.
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