Shipping Quilts – Part I


Our quilts are like our children. We create them, watch them develop and then need to share them with the world. David and I have seven grown children. Each time one of them got their first apartment, went off to college, got on their first airplane or got married, I had trouble cutting their apron strings. Would they survive in the real world or would they get lost? When I ship a quilt to a show or as a gift, I have those same fearful thoughts. Will it arrive at its destination, all in one piece or will it get lost and I’ll never see it again? Here are some helpful hints for quilt makers who need to ship their quilts.

Label Your Quilts: Each time you make a quilt, it needs a cloth label. It can be plain or decorative. The label documents the name of the quilt, the maker, the date made, where it was made and why. It can also have a photo of the maker or recipient, cleaning instructions and the name, address and telephone number of the owner. This information, sewn directly to the quilt, helps if the quilt is lost or stolen. It is also good information for future generations. The label can be hand written, embroidered or created on your computer and printed on cloth. The label is sewn to the back of a quilt, in the lower right corner. The label is usually added after the quilting is completed. Machine or hand quilting into the label can distract from its information, however it does make it difficult for someone to remove the label if the quilt is stolen. Quilt makers are also adding their name to the front of the quilt as part of the quilting to prove ownership and as a decorative element in the quilting. I also know of quilters who write their name with permanent ink in the seam allowance of the binding in case they need to prove they are the owner of the quilt. Before shipping, take full-view and close-up photos of your quilt. These will help to identify the quilt if it is lost.

Choosing a Shipping Container: Your quilt needs to be packed into a strong container so it will be protected during the shipping process. If using a box, it should be corrugated and of shipping quality. Double boxing (one box inside a slightly larger box) gives additional strength. Cardboard shipping boxes can be purchased from shipping companies, office supply stores and the post office. Using a new box is best but if you have a used box that is in good condition, make sure to remove or scribble over old addresses or bar codes so the box isn’t accidently delivered to the wrong place. Damage claims for items packed in a used box are less likely to be approved by shipping companies because they consider a used box to be weaker than a new box.

Rectangle cardboard shipping boxes that are designed for golf clubs are a good option because your quilt can be rolled rather than folded inside the box. A long shipping tube or 6” wide PVC pipe are other options for shipping rolled quilts. Shipping companies will take tubes or boxes up to 108” in length but they will charge an extra handling fee for the odd size.

Another option for shipping quilts is to use a Rubbermaid Roughneck® Storage Box. They are strong, can be re-used and they stand out in a warehouse of lost boxes. Shipping employees are more likely to remember handling one of these containers rather than a cardboard box. The cover needs to be secured with nylon zip ties. Drill ¼” aligning holes on the ends and side edges of the top and the box to thread the zip ties in place. Two on each edge is sufficient. If the quilt and container are to be returned to you, place new zip ties in a plastic bag and tape it to the inside of the box. Use a black permanent marker to write your name and telephone number on the outside of the box and inside of the top. Don’t add your address as it might get confused as the shipping address. The actual shipping address label is taped to the top of the box. Shipping companies may charge an additional charge for a Rubbermaid Roughneck® Storage Box because they are “not encased in cardboard.”

Packaging Tips: Always put your quilt in a clear plastic bag before putting it in the shipping container. This will protect it in case the box gets wet during shipping. Make sure to use a clear bag, not a black trash bag. If the box becomes damaged, or the quilt is removed from the box, your bagged quilt could be mistaken for trash and thrown away.

I once received a quilt back from a major show and thankfully they had put the quilt in a plastic bag inside the box. The entire outside of my box was covered with black oil. There was another box in the delivery truck that contained the oil and it had leaked on the surrounding boxes. The UPS driver stayed while I opened my box and thankfully, my quilt was fine.

Do not put more than two large quilts in a box. If you have ever seen a delivery man struggle with a heavy box, you know it doesn’t make them happy. It will cause them to want to throw the box rather than gently handle it. You will also be charged extra for an overweight box. It is often less expensive to ship two lightweight boxes rather than one overweight box. The box should be sized for the quilt. If the quilt doesn’t fill the box, the box will likely to crush during shipping. Most quilt shows do not allow packing peanuts to be sent with a quilt because they can add up fast and create quite a mess in their receiving room.

Include a copy of the mailing address and telephone number, the return address and your telephone number inside the box. Do not just put this paper inside the box because if the box becomes damaged or is opened, the information can easily be separated from the quilt. Use a safety pin to attach this to the quilt so it is inside the plastic bag. It should on the top side and visible. For shows, you may be required to include a copy of your entry form and self-addressed return label in with the quilt. These can be placed in an envelope and with the quilt in the bag. Securely closing the plastic bag with a twist tie and place the quilt in the box. Before closing the box, place a strong piece of cardboard on top of the quilt. This will help prevent another box from crushing the top of the box. It will also protect the quilt in case someone uses a knife or razor blade cutter to open the box.

Use 2” wide, clear or reinforced tape to securely seal the box closed. Use this tape on all edges and seams of the box. Make sure the bottom of the box is also securely sealed. The bottom, edges and corners of boxes can become caught in conveyor belts in the shipping warehouse or they can be weakened when other boxes are stacked on top. The tape will help to keep the box intact. Do not use masking tape because it isn’t strong enough. Shipping companies do not allow boxes tied with string or twine because this can get caught in the conveyor belts in their warehouses. For a fee, shipping stores offer a service of packing your box for you. They sell boxes and have all of the necessary materials for proper packaging. If your box is packed by a UPS Store and shipped with UPS, they guarantee that if the contents are damaged, your claim will be approved.

Do not write the word QUILT on the outside of the box or on the label. It’s a signal to a thief. They know quilts can be valuable. When you are required to declare the contents of the box for shipping or insurance purposes, use the word BEDDING.

Shipping Labels: UPS and FedEx require a physical address, not a post office box for their deliveries. The USPS will allow parcels shipped to a post office box. The package is kept in their office and a notification card is put in the P.O. box. Make sure that you have the correct mailing address, zip code and telephone number for where the quilt is being shipped and for your return address. Jefferson Street is different from Jefferson Blvd. and Jefferson Avenue. Streets with N., S., E. or W. before the street name also make a different. Apartment numbers are also necessary. Although these small details in an address don’t seem important, they are. They can cause a package to be shipped to the wrong address, returned to the sender or cause extra time for the carrier to find the correct address. FedEx charges an address-correction fee of $11 and UPS charges $19.

Shipping companies have their own triplicate shipping labels that is put in a sealed plastic bag. It self-adheres to the top of the box. As the sender, you get one copy as proof of shipping. For double assurance, I also create two copies of my own shipping label and print them onto white paper. They are each 5” x 8 ½”. I put one copy with the quilt and tape the other to the top of the box. Do not put a label over the top box seam because that seam can become broken and the label might detach from the box. Completely cover the label with clear tape. If you are shipping two box to the same location, put Box 1 of 2 and Box 2 of 2 on the lower left corner of the box tops or label. This may help to keep your boxes together.

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