I had to take a break from my holiday recovery to repackage the Stars In My Hand quilt for shipment to the Road to California Quilt Show in January. When I received the quilt back from the IQA show in Houston, it was packaged in a long skinny box, rolled around a water noodle wrapped in acid free tissue paper. Very creative, that water noodle thing (and if you have no idea what a water noodle is, look here. We have a couple of the single noodles that the kids use in the pool at Garmisch when we go, but I had no idea what they were called. Google to the rescue.). Yes, you could roll the quilt around a cardboard tube from wrapping paper or something, but the water noodle is more stable, and won’t bend from the weight of the quilt when you pick up the roll to put it in the box.
I use the post office and have never had a problem. If I used UPS or FedEx, it would cost a small fortune to ship a box of this size and value internationally
This is one of those things that’s a bit scary, trusting the post office with an heirloom. I say “post office” because even though most folks ship things like this with FedEx or UPS since their tracking system is better (and maybe they have a better record of not losing things, though I’ve not seen solid stats on that), I use the post office because of where I live, and have never had a problem. If I used UPS or FedEx, it would cost a small fortune to ship a box of this size and value internationally, and if I declared it’s true value on the label, customs fees might be incurred either coming or going. Not cool to have to pay customs on your own quilt when it comes back from a show.
So the US Postal Service is the best option really, and it’s all in how you send the package. Let’s say I was going to ship the Stars In My Hand quilt via Priority Mail Insured. If you calculate the postage from here to California and add the insurance fee for it’s full replacement value, the total fees are $58.25. If you ship with this method, it could take two to three weeks to get from here to California, which doesn’t work anyway, really, since quilt show organizers want it to arrive during a certain time frame, and with Priority Mail service, there’s just no guarantee.
So what about Express Mail? It’s good for the delivery part since you have a much better idea of when it will arrive, but it’ll cost a whopping $75.20. Showing quilts is not cheap, but that’s ridiculous! But wait, there is another option: Priority Mail with Registered Mail service added is the only way to go here. Packing the quilt is a little more effort, but it’s quite worth it when you go to the counter to pay. When you ship something registered mail, all the seams on the box must be covered with paper tape (and here, the military mail office even demands that the whole box be wrapped in brown paper first) so that the seams can be stamped at the counter. This way, no one can tamper with the box in transit. Then the box is assigned a number, and the number is recorded at the office when you mail it. As the box travels to it’s destination, every person who touches that box must record the number in their book, and sign off that they sent it on. And all of this extra care of my quilt is provided for the bargain price of $33.20.
Now, even though the Post Office says that delivery can take up to two weeks, I’ve never had a box take more than 4 days getting from here to anywhere in the States. The folks in the office here are amazed when I tell them that, and I really think they suspect me of truth embellishment at the very least. Here’s my theory though: I think that nobody wants to hang on to a package that’s worth that much for very long, so they pass it off to the next guy ASAP, and so it moves really fast through the system. I try to get quilt shows to return ship to me by the same method as well, since it’s cheaper for them and more secure for my quilts. One of my quilts was shipped on a Friday from Paducah, Kentucky and arrived here on Monday! The guys at the Post Office really don’t believe that one.