pile of cardboard boxes taped for shipping

Showing Your Work: shipping your artwork

March 10, 2014

I’ve worked for a number of shows, curating, hanging, organizing – climbing right up on that ladder and hanging the things on the wall. I’ve hung shows in public art galleries,  cafes, local and national quilt shows. I’ve worked with local guild shows, the International Quilt Festival (in chicago), and group shows that traveled around the country.

The part I like the least is the packing and unpacking of the quilts. I’m grateful that there have always been others to make the checklists and make sure that everyone has sent all the stuff. Let me talk just a bit about ways that you can make things easier for the show organizers and for yourself.

You know how to roll your quilt right? Swim noodles are a textile artists best friend. Lay down a sheet or cloth, lay the quilt face down, then roll the whole thing onto the noodle, tie it up and throw on a plastic sleeve. Or -use the grey pipe insulating tubes from the hardware store – they are a bit thinner than a noodle and might let you wrap more quilt into your box. I have to say that I prefer square long boxes to tubes for ease of handling. We can stack them on top of each other or against the wall without their rolling away.

If your quilt is too long for the box, lengthen the box.

I have heard of instances of pieces being accidentally thrown away, mistaken for garbage. If you have no other choice a garbage bag will protect your work from moisture. Just label it in great big letters. It’s much better that the bag be clear.

Please don’t use packing peanuts. They come out of the boxes all over the place and are a major mess to clean up. Bubble wrap is better if you need to fill some space in the box.

(I’ve blurred out all names and addresses by the way – these are all well labeled!)

Here is one of the best packaged pieces I’ve seen. Multiple pieces were packaged in one box. Each was placed in a clear plastic bag. One quilt was wrapped on a swim noodle, wrapped in cloth. A smaller piece was creatively sandwiched between two pieces of foam core. Every last piece was labeled with the artists name, address, contact information, and the name of the quilt. Noodle, cloth, bag, box, hanging apparatus – every piece labeled!!! And (I thought this was clever) they all had a visual so that you could take a glance and know that they all belong together.

This was wonderful. A smaller piece that needed to be shipped flat was pinned to a thick piece of foam board then protected with another piece of foam board. They were held together by stick on velcro straps. It was simple for us to undo the velcro unpin the artwork and keep everything in it’s box so we could find it later.

Some other tips – include a self addressed stamped postcard for the show to send so you know your work got there safely.

Any other tips for packing quilts?

Here are some of the nightmares for any show organizers:

  • A quilt pinned to insulation board. Pinned every inch. I got stuck a million times. And it wouldn’t fit back into the super tight box it came in. (That said – the quilt itself was my favorite piece in the exhibition.)
  • Peanuts, peanuts, peanuts. A very large box for a small piece… peanuts, peanuts, peanuts.
  • No labels anywhere. No hanging stuff. I could go on. I’m sure you could go on.

Tell me what you think. If you’ve been involved in the packing and unpacking process what was your best and worst? How do you pack your pieces? Did I leave anything out? Let me know.

Other essays in this series

Showing Your Work

Showing Your Work: motivation

Showing Your Work: choose your audience

Showing Your Work: choosing venues

Showing Your Work: fine craft shows

Showing Your Work: traveling trunk show

Showing Your Work: a museum experience

Showing Your Work: local venues

Showing Your Work: photographing your art

Showing Your Work: organizing entries

Showing Your Work: judged vs. juried

Showing Your Work: the jury process

Showing Your Work: rejection

Showing Your Work: more about rejection

Showing Your Work: shipping your artwork


  • Reply
    March 11, 2014 at 9:27 pm


    Another great article! I especially liked the part about the smaller piece sandwiched between the foam core, with easily removable Velcro fasteners.

  • Reply
    April 26, 2013 at 9:15 pm

    Thanks Lyric,
    This is very helpful!

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    If I remember right – I order 8″ square long boxes from Uline.com. Then I can cut it to length.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Sandy – for garments I put the piece in a garment bag (IKEA has inexpensive plastic ones) then sort of roll/fold them with some sort of padding in the folds so there aren’t any hard creases. Usually bubble wrap is used.

    I pin a picture of the garment on a dress form to the neck/tag area. Still – the people who hang the show have to work with what they’ve got for mannequins or hangars, etc. I don’t get too upset if it isn’t like I expected. It is what it is.

    That said – it’s been years since I’ve put a wearable piece in a competition. Ah well.

  • Reply
    October 17, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    This is very helpful. I really liked the sandwiched foam board for small pieces. Thanks.

  • Reply
    Sandy Snowden
    October 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for explaining the bit about lay it on a sheet and wrap it upside down. I know people say wrap it with the quilt face to the outside, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I generally have something on the front that I want protected, so I would rather roll it with the face in. Your suggestion to roll the whole thing with the sheet as part of it is a way I could have the face out but protected. I guess I will have to hit the charity shop to get some old sheets and duvets to use.

    Have you sent garments? have you got any clues on the best way to do this?
    Have you got any clue on how to get the unpackers/hangers to actually look at the photo you include of how a garment should hang/be worn?
    Sandy in the UK

    • Reply
      Sheila Barnes
      March 13, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      I still don’t buy wrapping with right side out, even with another fabric layer on top. Worse case scenario based on some of the packages I’ve received, if the box and plastic were breached, I’d prefer any damage happen to the back of a quilt, the likelihood of it going all the way through to the front possible but less likely.

      Otherwise, this article has some great tips, especially the foam board sandwich for the smaller quilts. I’m mostly working small these days and always feel compelled to at least add some kind of card stock or cardboard on either side. The foam board is a better option, especially with that velcro!

  • Reply
    Fibra Artysta
    April 29, 2010 at 3:14 am

    Thanks for this post Lyric. I've curated several shows and you hit on some of the biggest things that make keeping organized more difficult.

    And peanuts are evil, can't stand the little buggers!

  • Reply
    April 26, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    This is helpful to me as a new artist who recently had her first piece accepted into the Chicago IQA show. I was unhappy with having over-packed the quilt I sent. One problem I had with packing was that the local Fed Ex I used (I actually went to 2 of them) had very limited choice of boxes – no tubes or long, flat boxes, and they no longer re-cut boxes to size. So I ended up with a gigantic box filled with paper. Where do people go to get these great long, thin tube-like boxes?

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