There are so many nice label shops out there, especially on Etsy. I've been wanting to get some custom sewing labels for myself for some time now, but for wanting so many different styles, it would cost me a fortune. Now that I know how to make them for next to nothing, I can make them more personal like “Made for Paige by Nana”, “Made Specially for You”, or “Love Mom”. You get the idea.
I've tried this a couple of ways to see what would work best and quite honestly, I like them all.
Let's get started.
What you will need:
- Sewing machine
- Ink Jet printer
- A word processing program, or design program
- Scissors or a rotary cutter, ruler, and mat (preferred)
- Thread to match label
- Sewing machine needle
- Sewing machine foot you can see through (I LOVE my open toe foot for this job!)
- Sewing stiletto (optional but helpful)
If using the iron-on transfer method:
- Good quality transfer paper (I used Avery T-Shirt Transfer Paper)
- Parchment Paper
- Pillowcase (white or light colored, or four layers of cotton muslin)
- 7/8″ wide ribbon (light color), or 100% cotton muslin
- A hard smooth surface that is heat resistant, not an ironing board. I used a piece oak on my kitchen counter (large cutting board would work)
If using the printable fabric sheet method:
- Good quality printable fabric sheet (I used June Tailor Sew-In Colorfast)
Note: The instructions I'm giving for this tutorial are for the brand of printable fabric and iron-on transfer paper that I'm using. If you are using another brand, follow that manufacturer's instructions.
7/8″ GROSGRAIN OR SATIN RIBBON WITH IRON-ON TRANSFER PAPER
I love, love, love this one! It's my top favorite of them all. I like that there are three different ways to apply it. You can stitch all the way around, or just down each side. You can also put your words or logo on half the ribbon (you can even use both sides of the fold), then fold it in half and stitch it in a seam. This is my preferred method. It looks so professional, and I love the bright, crisp image on the white satin ribbon!
The first thing you are going to do is design your labels in a word processing or design program. You can also use Word, Publisher, Photoshop, anyone will do. If you don't have one, you can download one free from the Internet. I would recommend “Open Office” because it's free and pretty easy to learn. Very similar to Microsoft Office. More recently, sites like Canva have made this 10x's easier.
When making the custom sewing labels for the iron-on method, you want them to be as close together as you can get them, but they must be even rows and columns. You are going to need enough room between each label to cut between them without cutting into them. You can see about how far apart mine are. You might also notice that I've mixed mine up. I am making personal labels for gifts I make, and professional labels for the items I make for my pattern design business, and for items the items I donate to my favorite animal rescue fundraisers. That is the nice thing about making them yourself, you can make them for absolutely anything you need!
Something to keep in mind when using the iron-on transfer paper on ribbon. First, your ribbon is only 7/8″ wide. I keep the label height of mine at a little under 3/4.” You don't want your information or transfer paper to extend beyond the finished edges of the ribbon. This is why it is important to keep them close together. What you can do is print out one label after you complete your design to make sure it will be a nice fit on your ribbon. If there are no adjustments, it's time to tile them and print them out!
Very Important: When using iron-on transfer paper, you must either flip the entire image in your program, or you can print out the page as a mirror image in your printer settings. Do not do both. When your labels come out, they will be backward, but that's OK because they will be correct after you iron them to the ribbon.
When I printed mine, I used the standard ink setting. They came out perfect! Using photo quality could cause too much ink to distort your image or text. Allow the ink to dry completely before handling. I set mine aside for about 10 or 15 minutes.
Now carefully cut the labels out. This is where a rotary cutter, ruler, and mat are so helpful. If you don't have one, it will take you longer, but the results will be the same because you don't see the adhesive, you'll only see the images you created.
Prepare your ironing surface. Avery recommends that you do not use an ironing board. I don't know why, but that's what the directions said. You do need a heat resistant, hard surface. For the ribbon, I used the ironing surface I made for my studio a few years ago because it's exactly what I needed, but when transferring to the fabric I chose my kitchen counter, but I did not iron directly on that. I have a nice sized piece of oak that my husband made for me to use as a lap desk. I took that to the kitchen counter and flipped it to the underside so I wouldn't chance ruining the pretty side, then I placed a while pillowcase (folded in half) on top of that. If you don't have a white or light colored pillowcase, four layers of 100% cotton fabric will work just as well. Iron it to make sure there are no wrinkles. Create an ironing space, following the guidelines above, that will work best for you.
Preheat your iron to the cotton setting. Do not use steam. With the right side up, place your ribbon in the center of your ironing surface. You can do a few at a time. Place the iron-on transfer paper with the design face down (your paper backing will be facing up) on your ribbon, and iron. Hold the iron there, moving around a little, for at least 30 to 60 seconds. Use a firm amount of pressure, but don't kill it. Let it sit there for a few minutes until it's completely cool.
Note: When cutting the ribbon, leave enough length on both ends. I'd say at least 3/4″ each side. You'll either trim them down later or tuck the ends into a seam, depending on which way you want to place your label.
Unless you are folding them in half and stitching them into a seam, turn the ends to the wrong side and iron. When you do this, you will use parchment paper to protect the image. Don't put the iron directly on the image. The image should only be touching the parchment paper. Once it is good and ironed, lift the iron and let it sit on the ironing surface until completely cool. I found that by doing this, my crease was so much crisper and held their fold well. Once it has cooled, you can trim the ends down to 1/4″ if you like.
I think the stitching is as important as the label. It also helps to set your machine to stop with the needle in the fabric rather than above it. I just find that method works best for me when I have to pivot at corners.
Start stitching! As you can see (second photo from the top), I've stitched mine three different ways. I stitched across each side, (not my preference) as well as all the way around. I also folded my label in half, ironed the crease, (between parchment paper) and stitched it in a seam. I really like that one, it's my favorite. I might start using that method in my purses and other bags. It just looks so neat and tidy!
I also might want to mention not to use pins when placing your labels on your items. I found that they left holes in the ribbon. The labels are so small that you really don't need to use them anyway.
100% COTTON MUSLIN WITH IRON-ON TRANSFER PAPER
These were my least favorite of all. The image wasn't as crisp as it is on the other labels, and it was a little more difficult to stitch around while keeping the label perfectly straight. I do however like the soft look of the fabric. If you had a design or logo that had simple lines without a lot of tiny detail, I think this method would look amazing! You would be able to use up all the fabric space for your image. That is why I included it in this article. It wasn't my preference for my logo, but it would still work well for other styles. You would have to experiment.
For these labels you are going to be following the same basic instructions for the ribbon, with just a few changes:
Instead of ironing the transfer onto the ribbon, you will be ironing it on the fabric. I just cut nice sized pieces and placed my iron-on transfer pieces with the transfer film toward the fabric, but I did several labels on a piece of fabric then cut them down later. I left plenty of room around them to cut them out. I also ran the iron over them about three times as long because I had more area to cover. If you plan to iron the labels again, just be sure to use your parchment paper between the iron and the label. You can also make your labels bigger if you prefer because you don't have a 7/8″ ribbon to limit you to the size.
Also, when stitching these to the fabric, you'll prepare them a little differently. I cut around mine about 1/4″ on all sides. I ironed all four edges to the back, then stitched it down. Be sure to use your parchment paper for these too and follow the same guidelines as for the ribbon.
USING COLORFAST PRINTABLE FABRIC SHEETS FOR INK JET PRINTERS
These are probably the easiest of all. They are also the most expensive of the bunch to make, but not so bad if you use your JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby coupons. Normally it will run you about $12.00 for a package of three fabric sheets, but you can pay half that with a coupon. Avery iron-on transfer paper, on the other hand, will cost you about $15.00 for a package of twelve sheets. Either way, it's still a lot less expensive than purchasing them already made. One sheet made me 27 labels for the colorfast fabric sheet method, and 49 labels for the ribbon or muslin method. When you do the math, it's a bargain either way, plus you can have as many different styles as you want!
When designing these in your computer program you should place them 1/2″ apart so that each label has a 1/4″ border. For my sample, I made mine a little further apart and had to do a lot of extra trimming. Won't do that again, too much wasted time. But I will remember for next time.
When printing these labels out, print them at normal quality ink setting, plain paper setting, and do not flip the image. Do not use steam. These will print out exactly as seen. Be sure to load your printer so the image will print on the fabric side of the sheet.
After your sheet has been sitting to dry for at least 10 minutes, remove the paper backing from the fabric. Iron for about 2 minutes.
For your colorfast treatment, rinse gently in cold water. Lay flat to dry. You can dab excess water off with a clean paper towel. Do not rub.
Once dry, iron but don't apply too much pressure because you could distort your fabric. Cut labels apart. A rotary cutter helps tremendously with this part. If you don't have one, just be super neat with a nice pair of super sharp scissors.
Before you stitch them to your item, you are going want to secure the edges. I used a little Fray Check along each edge. It will dry clear. If you don't have Fray Check available, use a craft glue that will dry clear but water it down a little bit. Test it on a scrap first.
Once the glue has dried, you can stitch them at all 4 edges using a zig-zag stitch or a straight stitch. I personally like the look of the straight stitch. It is also helpful to set your machine so the needle ends in the down position (into the fabric, not above it). I find this helpful since I will be pivoting around corners.
So there you have it! Several different options for you, and they all work quite well. A label on your projects just says that you care enough to put that extra effort and personal touch to your item. If you are in a sewing related business, it adds that professional finish as well!
I'd also like to add for the labels made from the T-Shirt transfer sheets, that you really don't have to spend the entire day cutting and making the labels. Once you have them printed, you can always cut them apart as you need them.
So which is your favorite look for a label? Do you like the folded ones made from ribbon, or do you prefer the rectangles? Do you like them stitched all the way around, or just along the sides? Maybe you prefer the printable fabric sheets. Do tell! I'd love to hear your opinions on this.