Tuesday, 19 June 2012

How to Make Your Own Sewing Labels For Just a Few Pence Each!

As promised here is my tutorial for how to make your own sew-in sewing labels cheaply at home.  There is an initial cost but the price per label is just a few pence each (I have added a cost break-down at the end of this tutorial)...

A bit of background info first.

As some of you may know I occasionally make my own items to sell in Folksy and at the Made it Market.  One of the reasons I love selling fabric is, of course, because I love making things with it, and I have so many scraps I have to do something constructive with them!  I've been looking into getting some of my own labels to make my handmade things look a bit more professional.  There are some great shops on Etsy that will print your design for you.  They can work out quite pricey however, especially as most of the makers are in the US and shipping tax etc bumps up the price per unit (the ones I was looking at working out at about 25p each).  So then I came across a great tutorial for getting your own labels printed using Spoonflower  Again, although cheaper than the first option, it is still a little pricey when you add postage/shipping tax plus it's limiting.  What if they arrive and it hasn't worked?  What if you want different sizes, colours, types for different projects?  So then I stumbled across a product online - printable fabric!  I never even knew you could print fabric using a regular printer!  I still thought I could do it cheaper though and looking into it further I found a product called Bubble Jet Set.  This is a chemical that preps any fabric making it suitable to take and keep the ink on the fabric, making it permanent and washable!  Aha!  After several very exciting experiments I've made my very own labels and here's how I did it.  My tutorial comes in two parts: Creating a label for printing and Printing a label.  I'm sure many of you will know how to design a label in photoshop but I wanted to show the whole process.

Part One: Creating a Sheet of Labels for printing...

You will need: 

A version of Photoshop/ a graphics package.  I use Photoshop Elements 6 (a cheap and basic one)


I can only describe how I do this and only using the programmes I have available, there may well be better, cleverer, quicker ways of doing this!

First I open up Photoshop Elements using the 'Edit' option.  In the top left corner I click File>new>blank file.

In the box I call it Sewing labels and give my dimensions (I am making labels 5cm x 2cm but you can choose any size you like).  I choose 300 dpi and a white background.

I then design my label.  I use a simple downloaded font with a heart, pick my colours for the font and it's done!

I then save it as a PSD.  This is important as it saves the image in layers so if it's not right or you want to change colours etc you can go back and edit.  One I have saved it as a PSD I click File>Duplicate.  I now have another copy I can save as a jpeg for my project.  Before I do this I want to give it an outline so I click Layer>flatten image.  This flattens all the layers together meaning you can no longer edit it.  I double click the box on the right to unlock the image then click Edit>stroke.  A stroke is basically an outline.  I chose a thin, centred line the same colour as my writing.

 I then save this image as a jpeg and close Photoshop.

Now it's time to make the sheet.  For this I use Power Point.

In Power point I click File>new and choose Blank Presentation from the right hand menu.  Then I click File>Page Set Up and choose A4 paper from the drop down menu.  I clear the screen and click Insert>Picture and choose the saved jpeg file I just made.  It will now pop up on the screen.  I click on it then right click copy and then right click paste.  I now have two images.

I line them up next to each other like in the picture above.  I click somewhere near the top left of the images and hold the button down, dragging the icon to the bottom right of the images.  This should create a box around the two images.  Let go of the button then right click and choose Grouping>Group.  This will permanently join the images together.  Right click copy, right click paste and you now have four labels.  Line them up at the top of your page, insert one more image of your label and you have a rown of five.  Now repeat the process of grouping your images together and you have a permanent line of five.  Right click copy then right click paste and you have another row of five.  Do this five more times and you have seven rows.  Line then up until you have a nice tidy page of 45 x labels.

Save this page, it is your finished label printing sheet!

Part Two Printing on Fabric Using a Home Printer.

You will need: 

A home printer

1 x bottle of Bubble Jet Set (explained below)

Freezer paper or A4 sized stickers

A tray (roughly A4 size)

Rubber gloves

Some plain white cotton fabric

First of all an introduction to Bubble Jet Set.  Yes it's expensive and not widely stocked in the UK, with p&p it cost me £21.80 but a little goes a LONG way.  It says there is enough to prep 40-50 sheets of A4 fabric.  I found an A4 sized tray, used it very sparingly and estimate I'll get at least 60 sheets out of it.  I must say that this chemical isn't essential.  You can print without it but your printing may or may not be permanent.  It really depends on your printer.  Your printer can be laser or ink jet.  With experiments I found that my laser printer gave a faded, fuzzy image that washed clean away without Bubble Jet.  My ink jet printer gave beautiful clear results but without the Bubble Jet they washed to a faded yellowy-brown and almost disappeared.  After I prepped the fabric with Bubble Jet Set and washed the fabric it washed perfectly and hasn't faded in the slightest, brilliant!

So, to prep the fabric you need to cut it into A4 pieces.  I used plain white Kona Cotton and cut ten sheets.  Only cut as many as you'll print that day.  Find a tray as close to A4 size as possible to avoid wasting the liquid.  Pour some of the liquid in the bottom and put in your first sheet of fabric.  Make sure it soaks up the liquid then add the next sheet on top.  Wait for it to soak up the liquid as well (or prod it impatiently with your rubber gloves on as I did!) then add another and so on until all the fabric has sucked up the liquid.  It doesn't need to be sitting in a pool of it, use it sparingly.

Leave for five minutes then hang out on the line to dry.  Once it's dry, iron it nice and flat and it's ready to print on.  Now you need to fool your printer into thinking it's printing regular paper.  You can either use freezer paper (buy in fabric/craft shops - it irons onto fabric sticking to it without leaving residue and peels off after use) cut to size and iron it onto the fabric, as recommended, or you could use an A4 size sticker, which I happened to have to hand.  So, add either the freezer paper or the sticker to your fabric and place in the tray as you would paper.  Open up your saved Powerpoint labels and now you can print.  I chose a high quality print option.  Have a play around with your printer and choose a setting you think will work (my printer is an Epson Stylus Photo PX810FW).  I didn't change the paper setting so my printer treated it like normal A4 paper.  Click print and voila - hopefully, fingers crossed, your labels will come out like this...

I should say, it's a case of trial and error.  Occasionally I get ink splodges on the fabric but I find if I make sure there are no air bubbles that helps.  Now all you have to do is cut them up and store them in a cute sweetie jar - OK, not essential but I do love these jars!

Of course these labels will fray and so aren't suitable for all uses.  You could make them a little wider and fold the edges by turning them like bias tape but I use them as sew-in labels, stitching the edges with a zig-zag stitch (setting width: 3 length: 1) like this...

And finally, for those who gulped at the price of Bubble Jet Set here's a cost break down for you (assuming my rusty maths is correct)...

1 x metre of Kona white solid costs £8
1 x metre of Kona white solid will give you 12 x A4 sheets of fabric.
12 x A4 sheets of fabric gives you 540 labels.
Therefore fabric cost = 0.014/label

1 x bottle Bubble Jet Set plus shipping cost me: £21.80
1 x bottle Bubble Jet Set will give you 50 x A4 sheets of fabric (I'm sure I can get more)
50 x sheets of fabric gives you 2250 labels
Therefore preparation cost = 0.009/label

Freezer paper £4.59 for a pack of 50 A4 sheets (it is much cheaper on a roll)
0.09p per sheet
45 labels per sheet.
Therefore freezer paper cost = 0.002 per label

Total cost (not inc.printing ink and room for errors in printing) = 0.025 per label (2.5p)

*Revised after missing a decimal point - oops - do let me know if you spot an error!*


Give it a go and have fun experimenting!

Sarah x

Monday, 7 May 2012

Zakka Style: Book Review & Kindle Cover Make

I keep noticing projects that have a similar look; cute and modern yet kept natural and informal by mixing linen with print fabric and often embroidery too.  It's a style I've been drawn to and something I've tried with a few of my own projects but I never realised, until last week, that it was a style with a name: Zakka.  Japanese for 'many things' apparently, if you've not heard of it before either (I may be the last one to this particular party!)

Googling some more I kept coming across projects from a book called Zakka Style by Rasida Coleman-Hale and, of course, I had to get it.  Almost as soon as it arrived it became my new favourite sewing project book.

There are 24 projects, all fairly simple, varying in size from a quilt top to mini quilt block fridge magnets.  All of them have mixtures of linen or textured cotton with print fabric and other details like embroidery, buttons and fabric stamping.  Each project is written by a different 'Zakka' artist and includes details about them and their websites.  The instructions aren't especially detailed so may not work for a beginner but this book works equally as well as a 'style' book, hence the name perhaps.  When you see these projects put together as a collection it become clearer what Zakka style is and how to incorporate it into your own projects for that unique look.     

Flicking through it again this morning I spotted a project for a really cute pencil case made with linen and pieced strips of patterned fabric on the front and featuring a closure with a flap and elastic.  This was just the sort of thing I'd been wanting to make but as a Kindle cover.  I'd been hesitating because I couldn't decide on the closure I wanted and this seemed perfect.  So, using the picture in the book as inspiration I designed my own pattern for a Kindle cover and put it together this morning.

Like in the book I used a mixture of linen (available in the shop - more colours coming soon!) and some fabric scraps (one of the great things about Zakka is there's lots of opportunity for using up scraps).  I embroidered my name in a strip of white fabric by writing my name in a word document in a font called 'Quirky Girl'.  I printed it out, traced it onto the fabric and embroidered using backstitch with French Knots for the curls on the ends.  It's a little bit wonky and needs some tweaking but I'm now hooked on Zakka Style and can't wait to try out some of the projects in the book!    


Saturday, 12 November 2011

A Coin Purse Tutorial

So, some of you who read my tweets might have seen that I've been sewing like mad for an up-coming craft fair.  It's the first one where I'm selling mainly handmade items and I'm panicking slightly about what to sew amongst (many) other things.  As it's at a school there should be plenty of children so I wanted to make some small, affordable items that children might like.  I had a feeling coin purses could be popular but much as I wanted to make them they have been something of a problem for me over the years.  I know they should be simple but it seems every time I try I get ugly, bulky corners that drive me mad.  See!

I've tried all kinds of different methods but still have the same problem and it only seems to occur on purses.  Purses, I had decided, don't like me!  But with a craft fair looming and things for children urgently needed I decided that I was going to spend all week if I had to trying to solve the problem.

I listed my main criteria...

Tidy corners,
a lining in a different fabric from the outer,
a zip,
no raw edges showing inside.

then I set about making up my own patterns until finally (and yes it did take a whole week) I managed to tweak my method until all my boxes were ticked.  This was no easy task.  As someone with limited visual-spatial ability it was quite a challenge for me with many failed attempts and mistakes that prompted more than a few loud and gutteral 'GARGH!'s (apologies to the window cleaner).  I have had a sewing journey and to make sure I never have to go through that again I wanted to record my method as a tutorial.  I also hope that if there's anyone else out there with a dislike of bulky coin purse corners it might prove useful to them too!

The finished purses!
You will need...

1 x outer fabric 8" x 6"
1 x lining fabric 8" x 6"
2 x lightweight, iron-on interlining (I used Vilene H180)
1 x zip 8" minimum
1 x length of coordinating ribbon 21cm (optional)

You will also need...

A zipper foot
A size 16 needle (for heavy weight fabrics)


1.  Iron the interfacing onto the wrong side of the outer and the lining fabric.

2.  Pin the outer fabric and the lining fabric with their right sides together and sew ONLY down the longest sides.  Trim any excess fabric to reduce bulk and make sure the shorter edges of the layers are lined up nicely together (if not trim slightly).  It should look like this...

3.  Turn your fabric right sides out and then press the side seams.

4.  Zigzag stitch the short sides ~ I used the settings width: 3.5 and length: 1.  The needle should just miss the fabric when it falls to the right then catch and bind the fabric when it comes down on the left.  When you're done your short edges should look like this...  

NOTE: The reason for this is because it reduces bulk.  If the fabric were turned in and hemmed like the long sides the extra layers of fabric would cause problems when sewing on the zip.

5.  Pin your zipper face down to the top of the right side of your fabric sandwich as shown in the photo below.

6.  Reset your machine to its regular stitch and change the foot to the zipper foot.  Sew the zipper onto the fabric in a neat line above the teeth ~ roughly where the pins are.

7.  Fold the fabric down from the zip so that both the fabric and the zip are right sides up as shown in the next photo and press the fold.

8.  Now topstitch the fabric in place.  NOTE: You will probably find, even with a size 16 needle, that the bulk makes it difficult for your machine to sew and your needle might just go up and down.  To solve this problem you need to manually walk the first few stitches by turning the wheel of the machine and, when the needle is up, raising the presser foot and inching the fabric along.  Do this a few times until you can feel the feed dogs catching and moving your fabric for you, then you can stitch as normal.

Topstiching the zip.
9.  Now you need to attach the fabric to the other side of the zip.  Lay your fabric with the outer side down and the zip at the top then fold the bottom upwards so that the wrong sides are together.  Then fold the unattached side of the zip down once and then again and pin in place so that the right side of the zip is touching the right side of the fabric and the zip's teeth are at the bottom.  See photo below.

NOTE: At this point it's worth checking a few things to save you uttering a loud 'GARGH!' further down the line.  It's important to be sure that the the folded fabric is lined up with the fabric underneath and that your zipper is positioned evenly to match the sewn side otherwise you'll get a wonky purse.  The best way to check is to carefully slide the zipper along.  It should all be lined up like this...

 10.  If you're happy then open it back up and stitch the zipper in place as before.

 11.  When it's done fold the fabric down away from the zipper, press and topstitch.  This is where the extra length of zip on the side is needed as you can fully open the zip and keep the zipper pull out of the way.  Without this you would not be able to topstitch your purse.  When you're done it should look like this...

12.  Turn your purse inside out and press it flat with the zip positioned about 1/4 of the way down from the top, keeping in mind that if you have fabric that needs to be a certain way up for the pattern to work then when you turn it back again you want the fabric the right way up on the front (zipper side) and upside down on the back.

13.  If you want a ribbon strap now is the time to add it.  Fold the ribbon in half and pin inside the fabric sandwich in line with the zipper and with the raw edges poking out by roughly 1.5cm.  You can choose which side you want it on.  If you want it on the right (in the above photo) it will be on the same side as the zipper pull when closed which makes it easier for a child to open and less likely to drop their change if they hold the purse by the ribbon when the zip's open.  On the other side it's away from the zip and looks a bit neater.  I still can't decide which I prefer!

14.  Making sure the zip pull is halfway open (so you can turn it through when sewn and so you don't snip the zip pull off when trimming the overhanging zip later (yes I really did do that!!) you now need to sew the short sides closed.  Remember the trick for getting your machine going by walking the stitches manually if it struggles with the bulk.  I sew down the side and when at the bottom, with the needle down, lift the presser foot, turn the whole purse 180 degrees then sew back again so there are two rows of stitches to hold the zip more firmly.

15.  After you've sewn both short sides closed you can trim the excess zip.

16.  Turn the right way round and push out the corners using something blunt like closed scissors or a chopstick then press.

17.  You're done!  Add a couple of shiny coins and give to your little loved ones as a gift, or take your own money and a credit card out on the town :)

All the fabric is available in the shop (Robert Kaufman's Metro Market and Michael Miller's Dumb Dots) and we now have 8" zips in a variety of colours for just 75p!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

A year older...

Hi Everyone,

Firstly thanks so much for your lovely comments on the giveaway post, it's lovely to see so many good wishes for our little shop - the crafting community are so friendly and welcoming and it makes my job all the more enjoyable for it!

If you would still like to be in with a chance of winning a bundle we're also having a Christmas bundle giveaway with the Sewing Directory so click on the link for details of how to enter (Christmas fabric has sold out again but rest assured more is coming in the next week or two - the bundle may differ from the one pictured). 

Also, to celebrate our first year and our first advert in Mollie Makes magazine, we've included a 10% discount code to run for the whole of October in the next issue of Mollie (in shops from Sept 29th) so do look out for that.  
We've had a lot of fun this year, had some lovely customer feedback and made some talented new friends.  We have lots of plans for next year including; a more diverse range of stock, some improvements to the site including a 'search by colour' function and a wider choice of payment facilities, we're going to be launching our own range of 'Sew Your Own' kits with the first (bunting kits) arriving in the shop before Christmas, and I'm also collaberating with a friend of mine who is a very talented pattern designer for some new patterns launching in the spring/summer next year.  Lots to be getting on with then!  For now here are a few little curious little stats we've learned in our first year...

  • The number of parcels we've sent out is in the thousands and yet only two of our parcels have failed to arrive (frustrating when it happens but overall Royal Mail has been good to us and the people behind us in the queue at the post office are very patient!)
  • The fabric most often searched for in our shop is 'Sherbet Pips' by a HUGE majority.
  • Michael Miller is our most searched for manufacturer.
  • Blue is the most searched for colour.
  • 83% of our customers are women and men bought mostly in the run up to Christmas (last years 'Love Bundle' made up of Amy Butler fabrics was particularly popular with men - ahhhh!)
  • Our busiest day is Sunday.
  • Our quietest week was the week of the riots - I guess we must feel less crafty when the country's in turmoil! 
Looking forward to seeing what the shops second year brings...

Sarah x

Monday, 19 September 2011

Birthday Giveaway!

It's our birthday on Thursday and we are going to be one whole year old!  It's been a terrific first year and we're so grateful to you for welcoming us to the crafting community.  To thank you for your support over the last year we'd like to spread the joy a little and send one of you a lovely Patty Young bundle.  You have until 9am on Thursday to enter.  Just post a comment below and we'll pop your name in the hat (or random number generator!)
We have many more exciting plans for the coming year and would love to know if you have any suggestions or requests for the shop.  More on Thursday but for now thanks again and good luck if you'd like to win our bundle! x    

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Make it Perfect Patterns: Offer & Review!

I'm SO excited about the new Make it Perfect Patterns in the shop that have come to us all the way from sunny Australia.  As I've mentioned before I've been really keen to improve on the range of patterns available in the shop but was struggling to find any I liked enough - I'm quite fussy!  I really think these fit the bill perfectly.  Great photos, easy instructions and modern, fresh designs.  I especially like that they've thought about how us crafters like to make things for loved ones as gifts, and so the Sweet Dreams PJs come with matching make-up bag instructions to make it that bit more special

and the Slumber Party Jammies come with a drawstring gift bag.

Then there are the fab Bambino baby set, perfect for a baby shower or new baby gift,

and the Playschool set which is a lovely gift to make for a child's first days at school.

On top of all this the lovely people at Make It Perfect have also sent some extra patterns that I shall be giving away to the first customers who order a Make It Perfect pattern!

The first to order will receive this great fun & funky Melly & Me Little Ninjas pattern.
Second to order will receive the Make it Perfect Versatile Wrap Skirt pattern.
The third to order will receive the Make it Perfect Big High Flyers trouser pattern.

I'll let you know if you're a winner when I notify you of your order - good luck!

As you can probably imagine I was too excited about these lovely patterns to wait any longer and have already made my own Shearwater Kaftan, you can read the review below...

Pattern Review: Shearwater Kaftan

The first thing that struck me when I opened this pattern is that the cut out lines are handdrawn.  Obviously the straight lines are nice and straight and the curved lines are as straight as they need to be and  perfectly accurate enough.  In fact I found it a nice touch.  It added to the homemade feel and it really doesn't matter as you have to trace over the pattern pieces to cut out anyway as the pieces are printed on the front and back of the print outs.

The pattern itself is easy to cut oout and assemble.  It took me a little while - maybe an hour - as I was taking my time and in no rush.  I hadn't heard of a Placket before and admit I had to look it up - for those who are in the dark like me it is, in this case, a small piece of lining fabric for the opening of the slashed neckline.

Sewing the pieces together was easy except for when attaching the sleeves to the body as the fabric bunched up a lot making it hard to see and control.  They recommend sewing from one end to another but I have since read other sleeve patterns which suggest starting at the mid-point (top of shoulder) and doing one side then doing the other seperately.  I think I'll do this next time as it'll help eliminate the bunching problem.

Sewing together took a couple of hours, quicker than I had expected.  If you haven't got an overlocker (I haven't) you will be relying on finishing inside seams with a zig-zag stitch which isn't the neatest - in fact this pattern has made me really want an overlocker!  It doesn't matter however and my zig-zag stich is improving...

I was really happy with the finished article.  It fit so nicely - not as loose as the model on the picture but I am dieting (!)  The sleeves came up a little short but I am slightly taller than average 5' 7.5" and I prefer it with the sleeves up using the little tag and button (lovely detail).  I shall definitely be making another, probably in one of these voiles as it'll give it an extra floaty summer look!  The fabric I used for this version was Tanya Whelan's Delilah Paisley in blue.

A cheesy pic of me in my Shearwater Kaftan!
Ability Required: Some experience needed.
Time Taken: 3 1/2 hours
Any Problems, hints, tips: I would make the placket a little wider and the sleeves longer.  I would also sew the sleeves to the body in two sections as described above.  Still loved it though!    
Overall Score: 9/10

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Pattern Review: Wink Designs Petal Power Sundress

I've been looking at patterns over the last few weeks.  I'd really like to update the choice of patterns in the shop but can't decide which to go for.  I'm quite fussy with patterns.  I prefer photos on the front to drawings and am not keen on anything made to look 1970s as there are so many surviving retro patterns out there I like to see new ones looking a bit more modern.  I also like simple clothes rather than lots of swags and ruffles and layers which can be fun to make but can look more like dressing up clothes.  But what does everyone else like?
There's also now a growing range of PDF patterns.  So much choice!  What to do?
After lots of searching for a dress pattern for a friend's daughter I came across and nice, simple looking dress by Wink Designs.  Perfect as I could get my hands on it straight away and, as it would be the first ever little girl's dress I'd made, it looked suitably easy.
The first thing I noticed that gave PDF an advantage was that the instructions came with colour photos throughout.  So much easier to follow.  The written instructions aren't quite as simple - I found all the bodice front/back left/right outer/upper a little hard to visualise - but that could just be me and the photos were so great, it really was hard to go wrong.  The straps are very narrow and folding and pressing, like making bias, was the slowest part of the process as the fabric was getting too hot to touch.  The rest of the dress was lovely and quick to make, I took a leisurely 2 1/2 hours and was really happy with the results.  It's a very pretty and simple dress, perfect for summer.
Age 1 Fabric: Carolyn Gavin Spring Street Buzzing Gardens & Free Spirit Designer Solids ~ Lemon

I posted a picture of it on Facebook for my friend to see and got requests for several more so I've now made another three!

Age 1 Fabric: Kate Spain Central Park ~ Cherry Hill & Free Spirit Designer Beads ~ Powder

Age 4 Fabric: Left as above, Right Anne Kelle Metro Market Strawberries & Micheal Miller Dumb Dots Fuchsia

Now I've got the hang of it I might try customising with pockets, contrasting fabrics etc, although now I've got the bug of making children's clothes (so much quicker, smaller, cheaper & cuter than adult clothes!) I'd like to continue my search for great patterns so I can update the shop.  If there are any you'd like to see or designers you particularly like just let me know.

Ability Required: Beginner
Time Taken: 2 1/2 hours (not including sewing on buttons)
Any Problems, hints, tips: When sewing the button holes I had no problems on the bodice but on the skirt the needle was jamming on top of the left side and sewing over and over.  After much hair pulling I realised there were a couple of extra layers of fabric in the skirt and swapped the size 12 needle for a size 16 which solved the problem.    
Overall Score: 9/10