Friday, September 11, 2009

Make you own Clothing Labels: Investigation

I recently finished making the shell of a pop tab purse and I need to sew a liner for it. I've been thinking how cool it would be to have my own label inside. So I've been doing a little bit of research into this subject. I've discovered that there are a few ways to make your own labels for clothing and items. One way is to print directly onto fabric which is sewn into the article and another is to print an iron on transfer and apply the image to either fabric or ribbon. I'll be trying out a couple different ways to make a label and of course I like to make things cheap but look nice, which is why I'm not going to try to paint my own label and will use my trusty printer. I'm sure there are many other ways too, but I'm trying just two: printer fabric and iron-on transfers. If you want to skip all the ramblings of how I determined the cost per sheet you can scroll down to the the info below the dotted line. :)

Yes, people you can now print on fabric right from your desk! To do this you will need fabric printer sheets which you will cut into labels. These fabric sheets can also be used to create any kind of fabric panel that you want to sew or fuse into say a tote bag with a picture of your kids on it. I've sunk myself deep into discovery on the subject that I'm thinking that making your own sheets may not be worth it price and time unless you skip a vital step which makes the ink composing your smiling kid's face permanent.  One such blog boasting the affordability, ease, and even legal jumbo can be found at which is has a lot of great information about labels and label making.

The cost associated with making your own fabric paper is not in the cost of the fabric, but in setting the ink on the fabric. There is really only one product that I've read about that does this; it is Bubble Jet Set 2000. A 32oz bottle of the stuff, which will treat 50-60 sheets depending on thickness of the fabric, costs $15.95 which if at the bare minimum of treating 50 sheets is only $.32 per sheet. However, in addition to this chemical you'll need another chemical called Bubble Jet Rinse, which I have to assume will treat the same number of sheets. The cost of the rinse is $6.95. But wait. There is shipping because of course this cannot be found in a brick and mortar store rather online like at C. Jenkins. The cheapest shipping option was $5.75. So to do the math the chemicals alone will cost $28.65 so now it will cost you 57 cents just to chemically treat one sheet of fabric that you bought yourself (see for info on fabric choices). Now add the in the cost of the fabric and freezer paper and the total cost to make one sheet of printable, washable, fabric paper has gone up dramatically and you have to put all this together, cut your sheets to fit your printer and you have a huge supply of chemicals that (according to one website) has a shelf life of one year which of course is a consideration. Hmm. But, there is a first-time shopper coupon at the C Jenkins site for 20% off your first order which brings the cost down a bit.

Another option through C Jenkins is to purchase PreTreated fabric by the yard. Cost: 10.98 per yard + $1.99 manager's special on shipping under a $20 order = $12.97 per yard and you didn't have to buy fabric, treat it, and store chemicals. You do still have to cut the fabric and iron it to freezer paper though. With this option your "get started fee" is only $12.97 plus the cost of the freezer paper. One yard can be cut to make fifteen 8 1/2 x 11" printer sheets at a price of  86 cents per sheet... SWEET! I didn't even calculate the 20% off for first time orders either; now we're talking big savings. If you're going to make your own I'd say this is the way to go especially since you can choose whatever fabric and color you want.

And finally there is one more option I'm exploring to get fabric printer sheets. You can buy pre-cut, packaged, printable fabric sheets saving you lots of time. But there is a downfall... the price. At JoAnn's, you can get 6 sheets of "Crafter's Images" PhotoFabric for $13. Sure that is $2 per sheet, but when you use a 40% off coupon it's 8.27 with tax so that brings the price down to $1.38 per sheet. And if you're super thrifty you wait for a 50% off coupon for a total of $6.89 (inc tax) which brings the price per sheet down to just $1.15 per sheet. This same rule applies to Michael's too, but their fabric printer sheets were like $17 for 10. Michael's do have coupons in the Sunday paper but hardly ever a 50% off one and they will accept Joann coupons through the mail or newspaper ad but not from the internet. You can sign up to be on Joann's email and snail mail list and get coupons right to your door and in your email! This my friends has the balance of relatively cheap and fast all wrapped up together in a package that doesn't waste your entire weekend and is easy on your wallet too.

Not all labels have to be made using fabric sheets that you print right in your own printer though. Another way that I've read about to make labels is to use transfer paper and iron it to strips of ribbon. This can create a very cute way to make a label, but the cost factor per sheet turned out to be much higher now that I figured it out. It involves iron-on transfers and ribbon. The cheapest iron-on transfer packets I've found were at Michael's for $10 for 10 sheets. Of course I used a 40% off coupon (told you I was thrifty) and walked out the door paying $6.35. That's less than 64 cents per sheet. A double faced spool of ribbon at Joann's was $2.97 full price which is has enough length to do a lot of labels at a minimal price. Ribbon costs vary depending on width and style. I was looking at a double faced ribbon I think the yardage was 18' which is enough to make 86- 2.5" labels. This type of ribbon with a 40% off coupon of course would cost less than 3 cents per label and since you can get 30 labels on one 81/2 x 11" sheet the cost per sheet would be 90 cents. You would have to use some fray stop type stuff to keep the ribbon from fraying too. The iron on transfer would create a stiffer label and I wouldn't have to worry about bleeding though. Obviously a stiffer label for non-wearables is fine, but I don't know about putting it in the collar of a dress.

Here's a breakdown of the costs based on producing one 8 1/2 x 11" sheet of labels. The first two listed are purchasing the materials from C. Jenkins as described above. The third is buying the pre-packaged sheets from Joanns. And the last is the transfer on ribbon method.
My final opinion is that the Pre-Treated fabric is the best way to go. You still have to cut the fabric and iron it to the freezer paper and I definitely would not go with the first option which includes buying the chemicals. The other two options aren't really that awfully expensive considering you don't have to do a lot of cutting and you're supplies are easily stored.
For the experiments I'll be exploring making my own fabric sheets without buying chemicals, using the pre-packaged printer fabric sheets and using the iron on transfers on ribbon and cotton. Stay tuned!

Great Resources for treating with Bubble Jet Set. And printer ink information.

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