Adding labels to your handmade dolls or clothes brings them to the next level. It makes your handmade items look more professional and polished – plus it’s an important branding element that you shouldn’t leave out. But buying pre-made labels are expensive, especially if you are a small business owner or just starting out.
In this tutorial, I’m sharing the step-by-step process I use to make my own cotton labels for my crochet dolls. The process takes a bit of time, but I make a TON of labels at once so I don’t need to make them very frequently and it saves so much money!
Cotton Twill Ribbon – I used this 3/8 inch cotton twill tape
Iron-on Transfer Paper – You can choose matte or glossy iron-on transfer paper. I prefer the matte look.
Publishing program (I used Microsoft Word)
Hard heat proof surface – I use a baking sheet with a pillowcase over it
LET’S GET STARTED!
Before you begin, you’ll need a logo or design on a white or transparent background. You’ll also want an idea of what you want your label to look like – will it be folded down the middle? Horizontal or vertical? Big or small? After you’ve decided what you want your label to look like and where you’ll be using them, you can move on to step 1!
My top tip for your design would be to keep it as simple as possible with only one color and bold lines.
STEP 1 – Prepare your label design file
This step will differ based on the size of your label and the orientation of your design. For the purpose of this tutorial, I’ll describe my process. I use a 3/8” cotton twill ribbon and a horizontal orientation. I fold my labels in half so “TINY” is on the front and “CURL” is on the back.
Open a new file in Word and change the orientation to landscape by going to File and selecting Page Setup.
Create a table – each cell will represent 1 label. My table is 5 x 14 cells.
Edit the table cells by selecting the entire table and right clicking. Select table properties from the drop down menu.
For a 3/8″ ribbon, make your row height 0.5” to give you enough space around your design to cut later.
I want my tags to be 1.75” in length, so I’ve set my column width to 2”.
Now that your table cells are the right size, copy your tag design into each cell. Because I want to fold my label in half, I’ve added more space between “TINY” and “CURL” in my design.
Center your designs in each cell by selecting the table, right clicking, selecting cell alignment and align center.
Remove the table borders by selecting the entire table, going to the Table tab, selecting borders, and clicking “none”.
STEP 2 – Print the labels
Now you’re ready to do a test print! Select print from the file menu and select layout in the drop-down menu. You need to select “Flip horizontally” so that your design will be mirrored on the iron-on transfer paper. This is super important so that your labels aren’t backwards when you iron them onto the cotton ribbon.
For your test print, you’ll want to know how your printer feeds paper because it’s important when printing on the iron-on transfer paper. To do this, make a mark on one side of paper and print your test print on this piece of paper. My mark ended up on the back of the printed paper – I’ll use this info when printing the iron-on transfer paper.
I like to cut out a label from my test print to make sure the spacing and size is right after I fold the label in half. If it’s not right, make edits to your design file in Word until you like the spacing and size.
Now we’re ready to print on the iron-on transfer paper! Because I know my printer prints on the back of the page, I insert my iron-on transfer paper with the wrong side facing up.
STEP 3 – Iron onto the cotton ribbon
After printing the labels on the iron-on transfer paper, I cut them into strips. Instead of ironing each label one at a time, the strips let me do 5 at a time! In cutting your strips, you want to make them as close to the width of your ribbon without being too thin. I cut my strips to be slightly wider than the ribbon so that I’m sure the transfer paper covers the ribbon’s entire surface.
Now gather your hard surface, fabric cover, iron, cotton twill ribbon, and iron-on label strips.
Make sure there is fabric between the iron and hard surface. I am using a baking sheet and pillow case. With your iron set to high with no water in the tank (you don’t want steam in this process), iron your ribbon until it is flat and straight.
Line up your iron-on transfer strip with the cotton ribbon and cut the ribbon to the length of the strip. You want the iron-on transfer paper to cover the entire ribbon to avoid an uneven and imperfect finished product. You also want to make sure your design is centered on the ribbon.
Starting from the right end, slowly work the iron down the transfer paper and ribbon, pausing for 5 seconds in one spot. Make sure the design is centered on the ribbon before continuing down the strip with the iron. When you get to the end, hold the iron for another 10 seconds along the entire strip before removing.
Wait until the ribbon has completely cooled before removing the transfer paper backing. If you remove the backing while it’s still hot, the transfer will come with and ruin your labels.
Now with the design facing down, pass the iron over the ribbon one last time to really fuse the transfer paper and ribbon. I just do a quick pass, not leaving it in one place at any time, like ironing a shirt.
Voila! A strip of beautiful labels!
STEP 4 – Finishing the labels
You’ve reached the home stretch! Now comes the fun part – a label assembly line!
First, cut the labels to size. You’ll have to do some trimming to get it perfect.
Trim any excess transfer paper that is hanging off the ribbon.
To prevent the ends from fraying, use a small amount of Fray Check or clear nail polish on both ends of the label.
STEP 5 – Attaching the labels
This step is going to vary based on your label style and product, but I thought it would be helpful to show you how I attach labels to my crochet dolls. The video below shows step by step how I do it!
I hope you found this tutorial helpful and that it gives you the confidence to make and attach your own labels. As always, if you have any questions, leave a comment below!