For years, decades actually, I've been trying to come up with an idea for personalized clothing labels. After all, I put a lot of effort into making and sometimes designing clothing for myself or my family and I should give myself some sort of credit, right? I was once given a gift of some of those pre-woven labels that had my name printed on them. That was at least 15 years ago and I used them in some of the things I made for my kids but they weren't really my style. I have always been drawn to the idea of using my initials (KC) but every time I played around with the letters I ended up with something too close to Calvin Klein's CK logo.
I kept seeing ads for label companies and I just couldn't bring myself to commit to a logo for 100 or more custom labels. What if I hated them? What if I changed my mind before I could use them all? I couldn't make up my mind but I never stopped playing around with my initials in my head wondering how I could make a logo out of them.
One day I was looking in my closet, wondering just how many years a certain shirt had been hanging there without being worn, and I had a eureka moment. My initials plus the year, and I would have a label that both identifies and dates my work. Form and function, that's my style!
Fortunately there are either more DIY label options now, or at least I'm more aware of them. I briefly toyed around with inkjet printing on fabric, iron-on transfers and even screen printing, but I finally settled (for now) on rubber stamps. There are lots of tutorials online for making these labels so this is far from an original idea, but here's how I do it:
1. Decide on the label material. I think it should be all-cotton but I haven't tested that myself. It could be fabric cut into rectangles with all edges turned under, but I decided on cotton tape. I ordered a 36-yard roll of 5/8 inch "fine cotton edge tape" from Wawak and that's what works for me. I'm also trying some cotton twill tape that's a little wider.
2. Prewash and dry the fabric or tape. Get all the sizing and shrinkage out. I cut sections of the tape a couple feet long and washed them in a lingerie bag so they wouldn't strangle the rest of my laundry. Here's what it looked like after washing:
I guess I should add "iron the tape" as part of this step, but I think it's pretty obvious.
3. You'll need a stamp or stamps. I found a set of lower-case alphabet stamps, picked out the letters I needed, and stuck them together on the block from a rubber stamp I already had. I had to cut around the letters so they fit close together. For the year I used a date stamp from the office supply store. The numbers were spread a little too far apart so I just nudged them closer together.
4. I tried a lot of ink and most of it washed out. Finally I found Tsukineko brand Versa Magic multi-surface chalk ink at Joann's, and it was perfect. I got a variety pack so I can change colors when I'm bored with one.
5. Now stamp whatever you want on the cotton tape or fabric. Every time I do it I need a lot of practice to get it right so plan on doing a lot of stamping at once. Or maybe I'm just lacking stamping talent. I put paper on my work surface so I don't get ink all over everything. Only about half of my stamped letters look really good, then only about half of those look good after I add the date. Maybe someday I'll get the hang of it.
6. Now WAIT!! Set your labels aside for at least 24 hours to let the ink set. Ok, I haven't actually tested it but I'm going to follow that rule anyway. I wouldn't want to mess up my good labels. After 24 hours you need to heat-set the ink with an iron. I always use a press cloth and press from both the front and back. The ink has never transferred to the press cloth but I always use it anyway.
7. Now wait again. Nope, I haven't tested this either, but I always wait at least 24 hours between pressing and washing. I don't think it's necessary to wash the heat-set labels before using them but it's my way to make sure they still look good after washing and before I sew them in my clothes.
Now I have some cute, simple labels in all the clothes I make. I can't believe it took me this long to decide on labels but now that I've done it I'm more excited to make things to put them on!