When you only want a few labels or want a one-off custom printed label for a specific project, then here is how you can cheaply make your own clothing labels with a few readily available items. I tested the method I used to make these labels over a quite a few washes and they still looked great with minimal fading. Handmade items take time and effort so be proud and add your name!
Supplies to Make your own Clothing Labels
- Freezer Paper
- Inkjet Printer (see the disclaimer in step 2 before you print)
- Fabric – This must be 100% cotton to absorb the ink. I used an unbleached calico but white or pale colors look nice too. Obviously, the black printing will show up more on white labels. If your fabric has any finishing chemicals in it to make it stiffer, then give it a wash first for maximum absorbency.
- White vinegar
- Fusible Interfacing. I prefer double-sided interfacing, but single-sided will work as well.
What is Freezer Paper and Where can I Get it?
Freezer paper is a household paper product that has a wax coating on one side only. It is thicker than wax paper or baking paper. It is commonly used in quilting and fabric printing as when you press fabric on to the waxed side, the wax melts holding the fabric temporarily in place.
Reynolds is the most common brand in the US. Outside of the US, you may find a generic brand marketed as quilter’s freezer paper. A lot of people think it is the same as baking paper but it much thicker and waxier. I did try baking paper thinking that since it was waxed both sides, I should be able to sandwich it between a regular sheet of paper and the fabric. Needless to say, it didn’t work. It just didn’t stick to the fabric.
If you are not in the US, try getting some Reynold’s freezer paper on your local Ebay or Amazon. If you are doing labels and crafting regularly it is probably worth paying the shipping. I used the same A4 sized piece of freezer paper 4 times before the wax was gone so you will get several uses out of each sheet you cut.
The only other alternative I could think of if you can’t get freezer paper is to use a temporary spray adhesive like Dritz quilting spray to bond the fabric to regular paper. Some brands call it a repositionable adhesive spray. I haven’t tried it yet so let me know in the comments if you try this and it works. Like anything untested, proceed with caution.
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Step 1: Attach the Fabric to the Freezer Paper
All ready to make your own clothing labels? Let’s get started.
Cut a piece of freezer paper the same size as your printer paper. This is generally either A4 or letter size.
Cut a piece of your fabric about 1/2 inch (12mm) larger than this. It is important you cut the fabric larger as you will need to trim it accurately to print without getting jammed.
Plan ahead – if you don’t plan on attaching fusible interfacing in the last step, you can cut your fabric on the bias (diagonal) to prevent some fraying.
Place the freezer paper on your ironing board with wax side facing up and then place your fabric on top and press with your iron on a cotton setting. The wax on the paper will soften and fuse to the fabric temporarily.
Make sure the corners of the freezer paper are not lifting before you feed it through the printer. You don’t want a paper jam. If your printer has a cardboard or thick paper setting then change it to that. Also, make sure there are no bubbles under the fabric.
Cut the fabric to the size of the freezer paper with sharp scissors. Don’t pull any loose threads with your fingers as you need nice clean edges.
Step 2: Printing with your Inkjet
Disclaimer: Put fabric through your printer at your own risk. I have done this countless times with no problems but you have to be aware that printers are not designed for printing fabric or inserting freezer paper. In testing how to make your own clothing labels, I recommend using on an old, cheap printer. Proceed at your own risk!
So now I have the disclaimer out of the way so you don’t blame me if something goes wrong, I’ll let you know all the things I do to print lovely custom labels as well as some of the experiments I tried which didn’t work.
How to Set up your DIY Fabric Labels: Artwork
You can use Word, Photoshop, Illustrator, Exel or any program with which you can set up your text or images. I used Illustrator this time but I have also previously used Word by inserting a table and then putting text in each cell.
It is up to you whether you want to put a box around each label to use as a cutting guide. I like to put a cutting guide around each label in a light grey color. I left a space between the larger labels so I can use pinking shears around the outside of the boxes but you may like to leave no gaps like my smaller tags. Note the long shape of the smaller tags at the bottom. This is so I can fold them in half.
In all my experiments I found that black ink washed much better than colors so it is best to stick to a monotone black label. You can add some artwork to make it really stand out. Make sure your labels do not have any heavy black images or text. As well as using a lot more ink, there is an increased chance of the ink bleeding.
Don’t forget you are going to need to cut between the labels so leave enough space for them to breath. Most printers won’t print all the way to the edge so leave a wide margin all the way around.
Print Settings for DIY Fabric Labels
Test printing the labels on a regular piece of paper to check you are happy with the size and placement of your artwork. While it is printing, take note of which side of the paper the printer prints on. Do you need to insert it into the paper tray up or down? My HP printer prints on the underside of the paper. All printers are different so this is an important test.
Now you are ready to insert your fabric bonded paper. Don’t forget to insert it the correct way. I put mine in with the fabric facing down. If you get this wrong you will print on the freezer paper instead of the fabric.
For your printer settings, you will need to do some experimenting but this is what I found:
- On my first attempt, I put the ink settings on photo print thinking that the best quality print would result in a darker and more permanent result. While it did look better after the initial print, the ink bled when I put it in the vinegar bath. I think you have to find a balance between too much and too little ink in the print process.
- On my second attempt, I changed the settings to a regular print and it did not bleed in the vinegar bath.
- Genuine inks generally stay better than aftermarket refills. My initial attempts were with the cheap replacement inks I usually use (I print a lot of sewing patterns!). When I switched to a genuine HP ink the labels lasted much better.
After you have printed, peel off the freezer paper and press the fabric with a hot iron to partially set the ink. Make sure the ink is totally dry before you press it or fix it in the next step. Don’t be impatient!
Step 3: Fixing the Ink after Printing
After you have done your printing, you will need to fix the ink with a setting bath. Regular printer ink is not washable and will quickly wash away and bleed when wet. There are numerous commercial fixative products which do an amazing job but instead, I tried several old-fashioned methods.
Regardless of your method, you will need a container slightly larger than your fabric piece. Try a baking tray or otherwise cut your piece of fabric in half if you don’t have anything large enough. Don’t cut up all the labels yet as the edges will fray slightly in the washing process.
Cheap Home Fixatives to Make your own Clothing Labels
Basically, when you need to fix dye you do everything opposite to what you do when you get a stain in your best dress! The best ink fixing results can be obtained by simple, undiluted white vinegar. I bought a bottle for $1.20 so it doesn’t get much cheaper than that.
These are the home fixatives I tried and the results I received:
- Salt dissolved in hot water. You just need enough liquid to cover your fabric. Make sure you dissolve the salt before putting in the fabric. This was better than nothing but not as good as the next couple of options. It gave the label a vintage, faded, shabby-chic look which could actually work for some brands.
- Vinegar – Fill your bowl or tray with enough vinegar to cover your fabric and soak for 5-10 minutes. There was no bleeding on black inks and the result was still strong after I’d thrown my sample in normal washes a couple of times afterwards.
- Salt and Vinegar together – This combination has been traditionally used to set dyes and to stop colors running. I actually found little difference between the combination and the plain vinegar. The black ink didn’t bleed and it looked great after drying. All the details of my heart were still visible.
After you have fixed your printed fabric, rinse it with plain water to get rid of the vinegar smell. Don’t let it soak but rather just put it under the tap for a few seconds. Your rinsing water should be cold.
Then hang it out to dry.
Commercial Alternatives to Make your own Clothing Labels
I got great results with black ink and fixing it with vinegar but if you want color printing on your labels or need labels of a more commercial quality then these products can help you get great results.
- PFD (Prepared for Dyeing) Fabric – This fabric is pre-treated with chemicals to help the dyes set. This would eliminate the need for the vinegar bath. It is generally not that expensive but is not available everywhere.
- Inkjet Fabric Sheets – There are a few brands available on the market. These are A4 sheets of pre-treated fabric backed onto paper. They are generally good quality and give consistently good results and once again you don’t need to fix the ink after printing. The only negative is that they tend to be a little expensive if you are not in the US.
- Permanent Inks – Some brands of printers have permanent inks that produce washable results. You can put your fabric on the freezer paper and then just print without worrying about fixing the ink.
- Fixatives – You can buy fixatives to pretreat the fabric and to set the ink afterward. After the initial outlay, this doesn’t work out to be too expensive. Popular brands are Bubble Jet Set, Bubble Jet Rinse and Rit.
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Finishing the DIY Fabric Tags
Once the tags are dry, they are ready for backing and cutting. I like to add a fusible interfacing to the back of my fabric before I cut the labels up. I generally use a double-sided fusible facing but single-sided works just as well.
You can cut the labels with straight scissors or a rotary cutter or pinking shears. The addition of the fusible interfacing stops the edges from fraying so the pinking shears are purely for looks.
Now they are ready to attach to your project by sewing around the edge.
Alternative methods: Make your own Clothing Labels
If you are worried about using your printer to print fabric, there are several alternatives to make your own clothing labels.
- Custom print fabric at Spoonflower or Zazzle – Print your logos on a yard of fabric, back it with interfacing and then cut them up.
- Etsy has lots of sellers producing small runs of labels
- T-shirt transfer sheets- These are designed for printing artwork for clothing and t-shirts and are readily available at most stationery stores. Most brands require you need to print a mirror image of your artwork. If you only have limited graphics skills this might put you off. I used this method when sewing for craft markets years ago. I found the labels didn’t wash as well as the freezer paper method but perhaps the transfer sheets have improved since. It also gave a shiny appearance to the labels which I didn’t personally like. I may try this method again at some point and will let you know how it goes.
Make your own Clothing Labels: In Conclusion
So now you know how to make your own clothing labels for your home sewing projects. I can’t wait to hear what you are going to attach them to. Get sewing, knitting, and crafting! It is more fun than the housework I have to do now I’ve finished this long article.
Make your own clothing labels and attach them to some of these free sewing projects: