Make your own clothing labels using stamps

One of my favorite finishing touches to a handmade garment is a personalized tag. I've seen all kinds of beautiful DIY versions, like overstitched fabric scraps, screenprinted bits, and even just special ribbon loops. I've also recently come across lots of label producers who are offering small minimum orders for professional looking woven labels.

Since I love a good DIY fix (and find most woven labels very itchy) I thought I would share my favorite tag making method, using ribbon or fabric and stamps!

The process is very straightforward. Get stamps, stamp on ribbon or fabric. Set with iron and sew in!

Here's what you'll need:

Something to stamp on

1. Use a flat, plain weave ribbon. The smoother, the better. This helps get a nice, clean stamp. Any ribbon that is tightly woven and made from natural fiber should work well.

My favorite ribbon for tags (pictured above) is a chambray ribbon made in France, which I buy locally. Your local fabric shop might carry something similar. I had a bit of a hard time tracking down an online source for it, but came across this Etsy seller that offers the same ribbon.

2. If you can't track down the right ribbon (or you just want to start your project right away) the selvedge from your favorite light hued fabric works well in a pinch! You can also use bias tape.

3. You can also use any plain woven fabric. Light colors and tight weaves (like poplin, voile, or shirting) work best. Trim the edges with pinking shears, cut on the grain and pull away some threads to create a fringe, or finish the edges with a serger. Press your fabric to get it nice and smooth before stamping.

2. Twill tape, which is a bit easier to find in shops, works okay but the texture prevents you from getting a really clean, clear line. Pressing it with a hot iron first will help smooth the texture a bit. This guy should be a last resort.

Stamps

Text

My favorite way to get clear, consistent text on tags is to use alphabet stamps or kits that include stamps and letters. Kits are great because they include multiples of each letter, upper and lower case, and symbols. You can arrange the type and stamp them over and over.

Each type has their pros and cons. I have a few vintage kits I've collected over the years and I love them. Kits make stamping easier, but leave you a bit limited in terms of font. Loose letter sets come in a wider variety of size and font, but you have to stamp each letter individually and line them up.

Your local craft store will have a variety of alphabet stamp sets and Etsy is a great place to track down old stamp kits. You can also find new stamp kits at office supply stores. Martha Stewart makes a kit that comes with round pieces to set letters in a circle. If you know of any other brands that make these stamp kits, please share!

Images & Decorative elements

Your local craft or stationary store will likely have a nice variety of fun stamps. Keep in mind the size if you want it to fit on ribbon of a certain width. Sets of small stamps are a great way to add decorative elements to your text.

You can also create your own stamps! I wrote a holiday tutorial a few years back that covers the basics. Remember, your image will stamp in reverse, so be sure to draw it backwards.

Ink

You can use any stamp pad that is formulated to work on fabric. Be sure to check, because many of them are not. My favorites are Yellow Owl Workshop's large stamp pads (note that their smaller ink pads are not formulated for fabric!). Tags I've made using this ink have withstood years of machine washing with little to no fading or bleeding. They'll also last at least a couple years without drying out (as long as you keep the lid shut). Mine are about 5 years old and still work brilliantly.

Remember, most fabric stamping inks must be heat set using your iron! Be sure to review the instructions for heat setting that come with your ink.

You may also want to run a stamped piece of fabric through the wash if testing out a new ink to make sure it doesn't run or fade.

Tips

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+ Test your design on paper first! I can't tell you how many times I've flipped something upside down printed the wrong thing. Do a test first.

+ Plan your spacing. To keep stamps in an even line, use masking tape to create a guideline on your fabric or ribbon.

+ Ink evenly and press firmly on your stamp!

+ Mind your P's and Q's! Remember, certain letters look the same backwards and forwards. Always do a test print to make sure you've got the right letters.

+ Heat set your tags! Iron on the cotton setting for 5-10 seconds and let cool.

+ If you want to print only part of a stamp, or break up lines of text, use a piece of scrap paper to catch the ink and only stamp the part of the text or image you want on your fabric.

Do you have a favorite technique for making your own tags? Please share!

A last minute gift DIY: Stamp Kit & gift tags

It's no secret...I love stamps. As a bit of a paper-media champion, stamps are such an awesome way to personalize stationary, decorate fabric, or create art.

I mentioned I'd create a DIY gift tutorial and this is what I came up with. I'm surprised I didn't think of this earlier...I make stamps for myself all the time!

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Materials

  • A speedy cut stamp block, available at most art/craft stores. Usually about $5.
  • A linoleum cutting tool. Mine are on extended loan from the woodshop where I did my undergrad, but you can pick one up ( made by Speedball ) from your local art store or online. They usually come with a set of tips...the one you'll mostly use is the V-gouge or U-gouge
  • Scrap paper
  • A pencil and marker (sharpie works fine)
  • An ink pad of your choice. I like the ink from Yellow Owl Workshop, since you can use it on fabric. (They also have lots of awesome DIY kits, though I have never used them)
  • A box to put the final stamps in

First, decide how many stamps you would like to carve, and what size. I chose to create a group of stamps that would fit, along with an ink pad, into a box.

Look for inspiration! Creating groups of themed stamps are nice, and you can theme them for whomever is set to receive them. I chose to create stamps of architectural details pulled from one of my favorite books.

Once you've decided on your designs, draw them onto your block in pencil first, then copy in pen. *You'll want to draw your designs on the stamp in reverse, so they will print the correct way, especially text!*  Most of my designs were symmetrical, so it wasn't necessary to reverse the image. If you need to do this, draw your design on tracing paper, then flip the paper over and copy the design onto the block.

When making stamps, simple shape with thick lines are easiest to cut. Drawing your design in pen will help to create thicker lines. You'll be cutting away the negative space.

After drawing in your designs with marker, you will want to cut apart your stamps if you have not already. An exacto knife (or sharp kitchen knife) works best for this purpose. Be careful and place some cardboard or a cutting mat underneath while you work!

Once your blocks are ready, begin cutting away the negative space with your cutting tool. If you have scrap cutting block, try some practice cuts until you get the hang of it. Luckily, with stamps, the more 'hand-cut' they look the better. Don't get hung up on nicks or small mistakes.

Once you've carved your design, ink it and stamp onto scrap paper. You'll be able to see any parts that you've missed cutting out or negative space that aren't cut deep enough. Go back and fix these spots and test print again.

**A note: If you've drawn your designs in sharpie, you'll want to take a swab with alcohol and remove the sharpie before printing using lighter color ink, otherwise you'll get black sharpie ink in your print and possibly on your stamp pad. You can see this in the picture below where the black sharpie shows through the blue ink.**

Once all of your stamps are complete, cut a sheet of paper that fits in the inside of your box. Layout your stamps where they will sit in the box, then stamp each one in its place, so they can be put back nicely after use.

Add a stamp pad and any other drawing accessories to the box and you're ready to go!

Once you've created your stamp kit, wrap up your box with some ribbon and a gift tag!

When writing up this tutorial, I felt compelled to make some Cabin inspired gift tags for you all to use and enjoy, especially if you plan on giving Cabin as a gift!

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I printed my tags on kraft paper card stock, which looks particularly nice. Keep in mind, if you have a laser printer, sometimes the toner doesn't stick well to heavier paper, so be sure to test first. The printout includes a few different sizes and a few blank tags for you to draw your own cabins if you like!

You can download the Cabin inspired gift tags here!