I love Christmas Tags, so fun, so different, so many ways to create them.
They are these tiny little pieces of paper that one uses to place a To.. and a From on, to let the lucky recipient know who gave them a gift. Sometimes it’s a secret sister, sometimes it’s from a secret admirer, even family and friends get in on the act by giving gifts at Christmas. Yes, you can get away with handing the gift directly to the person without placing a tag on it, but really, how many times would you do that. Perhaps you used a card instead.. if you bought that card you’ve just spent a small fortune to let someone else’s thoughts let that person know how you feel, but a tag, a mere small piece of paper just by itself says so much more.
Imagine a gift, where you made the tag, the wrap and even the gift, every single part of that gift meant for that person and that person alone… purchased cards, wrap, and gifts just don’t do that same feeling .. at least not for me anyway. I love handmade gifts, I love fabric to wrap gifts in and I love home made tags, but it’s pretty rare to see them.
In my days of selling at Craft Markets, I could sell gift tags all year long and they were always my biggest seller, and I always ran out of them. Tags are an inexpensive item that people have no problem buying, because tags can be used over and over unless you actually write on them, and then the tag becomes specific to the person your giving the gift to for years to come, and perhaps even their children who they might name after themselves.
So as my project for today, I’m going to show you my best tips for making tags.
I know, your thinking, tags are simple, and yes, they are, but can you make 100 tags in an hour? I can… Curious how I do it?
Well, let’s get started
First, you’ll need some fabrics. Did you know that some fabrics are perfect for making tags, and other fabrics require a bit more work? I created a page showing various prints that work well for prints and why some prints are more work. No actual print couldn’t be used, but some are easier than others. You can find that page here.
Try to use a good quality cotton, I don’t want to hear the reasons you think a lower quality would be ok, to me, the cheaper the fabric, the harder it will be to stitch on, write on, and fuse your other mediums to. Yes, it’s easy to say, it’s a tag, why can’t inferior quality fabrics be used, well say to yourself, am I going to consider using these tags as a Christmas tradition? If that answer is yes, then do not use cheap fabric. Do you want to sell to someone with the idea your saving money? Your not, if your tag(s) fall apart or don’t hold up, your own reputation is at stake as a craft seller. Using inferior fabrics hurts no one but you.. Don’t do it. Writing or Printing on fabric that you can see thru, will make the pen bleed into the medium you fused on and if it bleeds, it will spread on the fabric, because the fusible is ironed on, their is nowhere for the pen to bleed other than into the surrounding area of where your writing and especially if you use a marker.
First, let’s talk supplies…
What isn’t pictured here, is what I was out of, so this tutorial will go slightly unfinished until the other things arrive, but I can at least get thru most of the tutorial.
Steam A Steam, Heat n Bond Lite, or Wonder Under, and Medium Weight Cotton Interfacing. (by the interfacing, I mean the type that you would use for tailored garments, with wool, or suits, not heavyweights, as a medium weight will be good)
When you use specialty threads, be sure your using the proper needle for your machine, especially when it comes to heavier threads or something such as Metallic threads
Rotary Cutter blades for pinking, scallop and or wave cuts. You could use your cutting machines, but their is a lot more work involved to using a cutting machine and you can cut much faster with the rotary cutter. You can also use shears, for pinking, and decorative cuts, but, don’t be fooled, the ones offered for paper will not cut fabric, you must be willing to spend some big bucks for the shears as they are not inexpensive.
Glue Stick, or any type of glue for placing your ribbon in place to stitch over.
Backing fabrics such as homespun weaves, decorator fabric (the heavy upholstery type), Burlap, felt, felted wool, denim and yes, other types of fabric also..
Sewing Machine Required, with decorative stitches (optional) with lettering, even better.
What’s not pictured is ribbon. I am totally out, not even a scrap. You need to look for 1/16 to 1/8-inch ribbon, using wider ribbons will muck up adding the tag to the package.
Now, the basics to my tags.
I do not do a turn inside out technique. I don’t think their is any need to do this, and I love the eventual “fringe look” that happens after tags have been used.
With the fabric page, I went over various ideas on how to cut certain types of prints. I like to cut my fabric and backings together, if a fusible is going to be involved it gets ironed on to the back of the printed fabric first. I do this on purpose, and the reason is because if you applique with fusibles, you know it’s much easier to iron the fusible on prior to cutting the applique shape, yes, you will have some waste, but you are more likely to keep your iron cleaner, and glue won’t get on the ironing board cover either.
I’ll talk about the interfacing at this point. Heat n Bond type fabrics are nice to fuse the tags together, this is one of those times you want your fabric to be stiff, but you can’t use Heat n Bond Ultra with your sewing machine, or at least it’s no recommended, and I myself won’t do it either. I like the interfacing to go to the back side of my print first, and I always use the interfacing, no matter what. I do this because the cotton interfacing lends some support to writing on your tag later on. If you use just the heat n bond lite between the layers, it’s doesn’t give as nice a writing surface to print on, even tho you can still print/write on your tag. The interfacing just gives enough additional stiffness to make writing/printing on the tag nicer. It also retains it’s stiffness better for tags than what Heat n Bond will do.
Test your stitches your going to use first, before you put even one tag together. Make a sample layering of your cotton, the fusibles ironed between your cotton and your backing fabric, with all that layering, you shouldn’t need a stabilizer like you might if the fabric were just a few layers. Practice the decorative stitches not only because you want to find a pattern that fits well with the tag, but so you get to know how the decorative stitch “turns” also. Most decorative stitches won’t turn a corner well, so it’s good to get to know where the repeat starts on the decorator stitch. It also helps because you get an idea of how the back will look. This is the one case where it’s important that the back looks as good as the front does. So please try to use the same colors of thread in the bobbin as your top thread. It’s ok if the top is a metallic for instance, but make sure the bobbin is in the same color range as the metallic is.
A tip for corner decorative stitching..as you see yourself coming up on a corner, stop your machine, and let the memory to know to stop at the last stitch in the next repeat, when it does that, change to a straight stitch and stitch around the corner with the straight stitch, trying to stop at the same range from the corner to where you previously stopped on the decorative area prior … in other words, if your decorative stitch stops 1/2-inch prior to the corner of a top side of the fabric, change to a straight, come around the corner and place a little mark at the 1/2-inch from the corner you just came around, so you know to restart your decorative stitch. If you use this tip, you’ll notice that with the corners done in this manner it looks like it’s meant to be that way going around the corners, and you won’t have any overlapping stitches that may have occurred due to not using the straight stitch.
I didn’t make a picture of this technique, but I’ll try to get it done later today and post it so you can see what I mean better.
If you decide to use fleece, their is just one issue with using fleeces, and battings as a middle, and that’s the ability to write nicely on the tag. Using fleece and battings greatly impair the ability to get a nice “writing” on the tag. Please avoid them. This is why a heavy backing fabric is a better option. If your using normal cottons, fuse a heavy piece of fabric to the cotton, and place it inside to the back, then do your stitching trying to catch the heavy piece of fabric also when you stitch.
Let’s Get Started
Have I told you about the above rotary cutter? This rotary cutter is 28 years old. I love this cutter, it’s the very first one I purchased, and I’m sure that Olfa has redesigned them several times, but I still use at least 90% of the time, my first cutter. It works, so why not use it. In this case, I have put the wave cutter on this one.
If you own a second cutter, put an old blade in it and use that along with your pinking shears one. (I will note why in a little bit).
This is a sample cut using the wave blade in my rotary cutter.
In another cutter, I put the pinking shears cutter and made a sample of it to show you also.
I will note, I prefer the wave blade better. The pinking shears is nice, but if your cutting anything like felt, Burlap, or fleece, it’s a more difficult cut to get looking nice. You will get a better cut by using Pinking Shears and not a rotary blade with a shears edge.
Lay your interfacing in place (I’m using sample cuts in my sample, if you do this, please cut your areas larger until your more familiar with the process.
Iron the interfacing on. Interfacing is different from Heatnbond like products, This interfacing needs a pressing of about 20-30 seconds in the same place, instead of the few seconds that Heat n Bond has you use.
Iron the heat n bond onto the back at this point and remove the paper backing.
Lay your backing underneath the fabric (sorry I took this pictures before I had my interfacing and hnb ironed on)
Lay it, so it’s nice and flat, if you need to, you can iron, but I recommend not ironing at the moment, since your fusibles are in place. If you need to iron your fabrics, do it prior to adding the fusibles to your print, and before you lay everything out to cut.
Once everything is in place, lay a small ruler down, adding to it any seam allowance you plan to add. Make your cut.
At this point, I have to “stop” because I am out of ribbon, so I didn’t stitch any tags for today. I knew I had to order it, but I simply forgot, and so it only got re-ordered yesterday.
So once it’s here I’ll finish this lesson from here.. for now I’m going to just describe what to do.
Take your ribbon and while it’s your decision on how long you want your cuts, I recommend you cut at least a 7-inch piece of ribbon and no longer than 12-inches. I normally cut mine at 10-inches. When I cut ribbon, I usually wind it first like a figure 8, then I cut the loops that were created.
Fold the ribbons in half, and take the time, to iron a folding line at the fold of the ribbon at the top. Dot a bit of glue, or place a bit of glue on the ribbon end, and lay it in between the top of your fabric and the backing of the tag. Do this with all the tags you intend to stitch first. Stack them as high as you can, if your doing a lot of tags all at once, make several stacks.
Your ribbons will hold in place between the tags, lay them so they are slightly off each other so that they don’t get stuck together. You can add the ribbon as you stitch, but if I wait, I often forget to add the ribbon, and if your doing a decorative stitch, I can promise you, it’s not fun to have to take it out to add the ribbon.
If you do forget, use the corner where you placed the straight stitches and then just restitch those.
Additional Tips About Supplies
I love using Burlap type fabrics also as a backing, but there are some important things to know about this kind of fabric.
First, use paper scissors, not fabric scissors to make your cuts.
Use actual shears instead of a rotary blade, blades are very expensive and while shears are also, it is better to use shears over the blade because they are not as likely to dull as fast as blades generally do. It’s your choice, the blades will work, but you will replace them more often if you use them.
Whether you use scissors or a rotary blade, your going to have a lot of “dust” .. clean that up as quickly as possible, at least before you lay any light colored fabrics in as the dust will move in between your layers of other tags.
Techniques to back tags with
If the front of your tag has a “To” and “From” text on it, just use a plain backing, theirs no need to do a pocket unless you want to stick a candy cane or something like that into a pocket on the back of the tag.
I like doing the pockets, because I like the idea of adding a candy cane to them, and pocket backs also sell better as most people like the idea also.
When you make a pocket backing, you want the greater part of the backing to be the actual pocket. So let’s say your tag measures 3 x 5 inches.
Cut a piece of felt at 3 x 4 inches, and another piece at 3 x 1 1/2-inches. (You want their to be an overlap here)
Lay the shorter piece down first, then lay the larger piece on top of it, glue the edges into place, so that when your stitching around it, one of the edges doesn’t come up and curl.
Another fun option is to create a Frame.
This is best done with fabric that doesn’t fray, such as felt.
When you do a frame, you want a complimentary fabric on the inside where the hole can be seen, so use a normal cotton fabric and lay it so the right side is up on the back of the tag, glue (do not use a fusible here) in place.
Cut the felt to the size you need for your tag, fold it lengthwise and create a crease. I wouldn’t iron a crease in place, but a finger press tool works nicely with this method. Do the same widthwise.
We only fold so we know where the middle is. Decide how much of a frame you want before you cut the opening.
If your tag is 3×5 inches, and you want a semi-large opening
Mark, 3/4-inch on sides and 1-inch from top and bottom edges. I like to measure this from the middle, but I’ve given the measurements for the edge, so it’s up to you…
You can always cut small, then enlarge to your needs, but once you decide, don’t cut any more.
Once you have your opening cut, lay it on the piece of fabric your using to show off the hole and your complete tag parts, Stitch. leaving an opening large enough to place your label in. It’s best to do this next to your ribbon that you add.
I don’t do frames often because they are considerably more work and while they will sell, I price them higher so they don’t sell as well because the cost is quite a bit higher since they take much longer.
Additional Tips For Tags
Machine Embroidery In The Hoop Designs
Create Your Own Fabric Tags
Purchase some artwork such as the below:
Then purchase some Electric Quilt Printables
Place the paper in your printer, be sure your inks are full,
Open the image or pdf, and choose print, make sure it’s an actual size print or use the instructions for the size of printing from the purchased image.
Then print away.
I will note, this process is quite expensive, but it’s cool to do.
You should then iron some heatnbond to the back of your printable, then cut. Next iron a backing fabric on to the cut shapes adding a ribbon in between.
These are all good ribbons to use, you don’t want to get to wide, tags should not have wide ribbons. It’s generally a good idea to stay within a good color theme, if I’m doing Christmas tags, I use the following colors: white, red, green, silver, gold, and black .. If I’m doing birthday tags, I use fun, bright colors, Halloween, I’d use orange, purple, and black..
Bad Ribbon Choices:
You might be asking yourself why I think corded ribbons such as jute, silk, sateen is not so ok.
- First, it makes a lump in the tag and if your using decorative stitches, you can break your needle.
- Second, because it needs to get a really good secure stitch to stay in place.
- Third, If the cording comes loose, it will fray out and your cord will be gone, and it’s not easy to fix.
Paper type ribbon that is fabric, but so stiff it’s like paper is also not good.
Ricrack is ok to use, but it just doesn’t look good.
Text On Tags
Once it’s all said and done, you have to eventually put a name on the tag. Use a permanent pen that writes easily on fabric. Test, Test, Test first.. I love how the Sharpee Fine Point Pens write so easily on fabric.
You can use Pigma pens, but my experience with Pigmas is that they are hard to read after you use them. I prefer to be able to read, so I use a heavier type of pen in order to accomplish that.
You can also use your sewing machine if you wish, but I’ll let you know that you need to use a dark thread to do this and it’s better to do it prior to adding your backing fabric.
I have other ideas for this lesson, but they will have to wait for another day.
Do you have any good ideas for making tags? I would love to hear them.. please do share.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my project for you for Christmas Is In My Heart.
Be sure to go and visit the other bloggers who share today with me.