Are you one of those crafters who goes “oh, I want those too!!” whenever you see a pretty label on a handmade item? I know I am, especially cute for our stuffed animals. But ordering them must be expensive, right? Actually ordering pre-fab labels isn’t extremely expensive (do a Google search for what’s available in your region). However, using your own design or logo is often not possible or limited to certain sizes you might not be interested in. And of course Google is your friend when looking for DIY solutions. Grab yourself something warm to drink (especially if you’re anywhere near my area.. all this depressing rain and cold) and enjoy this tutorial on the DIY solution my mom and I tried last Mother’s Day.
An easy solution: iron-on transfer paper
I remember using transfer paper an odd 9 or 10 years ago, when I was trying to listen to every new Britpop song and visiting as many cool and hip concerts as possible. My outfits needed to match so I created my own band shirts! Therefore I still had some transfer paper stocked away in my old room at my mom’s house. If you never were a wannabe-hipster (I still am, sssh) or have even never heard of transfer paper: it is easily available. For the Dutchies amongst you: you can buy it at Hema! I do need to mention the quality for larger surfaces, like a band shirt, is OK-ish. After a few washing cycles, cracks occur in large designs. For smaller surfaces, like fabric labels, the risk of cracking is a whole lot smaller and they stay prettier for a much longer time.
What do you need?
Graphics design – your logo, text or whatever you want on your label
Graphics program – I used Photoshop
Inkjet printer – most ‘simple’ printers are suitable, as long as they don’t need heat for printing
Regular printer paper
Iron-on transfer paper
Cotton ribbon – *will get back to the material choice at the end of the tutorial
Iron and ironing board
Step 1 – Creating your print image
For this step, you need to decide what kind of label you want. We decided to make a loop tag, with our logo and name on each side of the loop. This requires a basic printing design with twice our logo and name and the correct distances between this. If you want to sew in a label like in clothes, you will only need your name/logo once and creating your printing document is a little more straightforward. Just remember to reserve some extra space for sewing.
We created a design for a 1.5 cm (approximately ½ inch) ribbon loop tag as follows. First 1 cm blank for sewing room, our logo and name constitute approximately 3 cm, then 1 cm to create the loop, another 3 cm for logo/name and finally another 1 cm for sewing it in. The height should of course be smaller than the width of your ribbon, so we opted for 1 cm. If you are not sure about the sizes/distances, make sure you print your design on regular paper first and just lay it over your ribbon to get an idea of what it looks like and whether you have enough fabric to work with when sewing.
Step 2 – Creating you printing document
Once you’ve created your print image, you need to reverse it in order to get the correct image when ironing it on. You then need to create a document repeating the images in rows. I did this step in Photoshop by defining a pattern and using the fill option (if you want to know more about this, please let me know). But you could of course also use e.g. Microsoft Word to create a printable document by copying and pasting your design until you are happy with the layout of the printing document. Unfortunately we were not able to use the complete transfer paper, because the design for a loop tag is fairly big. If you only use your logo/name once, you should be able to get even more tags from one transfer paper. Test your printing document by printing it on regular paper and cutting them to size and see how they fit on your ribbon. Again, make sure your image is reversed!
Step 3 – Printing on transfer paper
Now you just need to follow the instructions that came with the transfer paper to set your printer for the right paper. My mom’s printer did not need any adjustments (ok, honestly we forgot this step ourselves, but it turned out just fine ;) ). Print your sheet of labels on the transfer label.
Step 4 – Cut out the labels
The smart thing to do here, is to leave the rows intact. This is much more practical when you start ironing and will prevent you from burning your fingers. ;)
Step 5 – Iron the transfer labels onto the ribbon
Make sure you lay down your ribbon flat. You could iron it flat before this step, but make sure it’s cooled down when you put on the transfer paper strip with its printed side down (otherwise it could distort your image). Press the strip down with iron and slide the iron across several times. My mom set the iron to ‘cotton’ and ironed for approximately 20-30 seconds. This will take some practice though: if you set your iron too hot or if you iron too long, you will smudge/melt your image. Try several tactics to find out what looks best.
Step 6 – Remove the backing paper
Once your labels have completely cooled down, you can remove the backing paper and behold the wonderful result!
Step 7 – Optimize feel using bakery paper
After removing the backing paper, you should iron the ribbon again but now with bakery paper in between and the image turned up. This will remove most of the plastic feel of the transfer paper!
Step 8 – Start sewing
Title of this step says it all. :)
Now go try it all yourself. You can now also make instruction labels for washing, size tags for clothing, name labels, quilt labels and more!
We also did a small test. The transfer paper instructions say washing at max 40 degrees Celsius, so we tried our labels in hot tap water (probably more than 60 degrees Celsius) and detergent. We left them to soak for about 45 minutes. They came out just fine!
Let me know how it works out for you, if you have any questions or feel I left out some details in this tutorial.
Next blog post:
Our work on customizing the monster bag (also made by my mom!) below to a hippo bag. We also have plans to turn this shoulder bag into a diaper bag :) The design of this monster bag is from a magazine. Will try to add the pattern/tutorial as well, if I can find it online.
* choice of material: the transfer paper instructions state you can only use 100% cotton materials. However, the white/beige label we made is not 100% cotton but the results are still good. This also probably takes some experimentating. Unfortunately my mom does not remember what material the white ribbon actually is, but it is probably satin (she has soooo many ribbons in several boxes, so you can’t really blame her for not remembering :D ). Using nylon fabrics is probably not a wise choice, since this is not heat resistant.