May 21, 2014

How to: Make Your Own Brag Tags — With Free Printable AND GIVEAWAY!

Whether you go by Grandma, Nana, or even Mom, chances are your local craft store has ready-made tags you can use to guilt-trip the people for whom you sew:

But what if you're not a Mom or a Nana — and what if you didn't sew that costume out of love? (Duty calls sometimes, after all, and you deserve credit for every stitch you make while cursing your children/friend/self's last-minute whims).

Sewn-in labels are a way to give credit to yourself for a job well-done. You could have bought a new pair of shorts at Old Navy. But instead you spent a whole weekend wrestling a pattern into submission (and missed out on the sunny weather? Possibly. But this is your hobby, so roll with it):

Labels are also functional in a few ways: they keep you from putting your clothes on backwards (like I did with my new Salme Double-layer Cami the other day for a whole half-hour), plus you can use them to hang your shirt, coat or pants on a hook while you shower:

It's easier than you think to make washable tags for your DIY sewing projects. You don't need to buy screenprinting supplies, deal with messy stamps or break your fabric budget to order online. All you need is a normal household printer, a xylene blender pen (found for a few dollars at art stores) and some scraps of cotton fabric. I initially found a tutorial for this process on Victory Patterns' blog here. Through my own trials and error, I discovered a few tweaks and tips.

1. First: the tags! You can create your own labels in a word processor or photo-editing software. (But be sure to flip your logo or phrase horizontally, so it's the mirror image). Or you can print mine out for an even easier project (clicking here should automatically download a PDF with my printable tags).

2. Print out a whole page of tags using a laser printer. (Please note: the method I'm about to explain does not apparently work with printouts made on an ink-jet printer. If you have an inkjet printer, you might want to instead try printing directly on to your fabric.)

After some trial and error I found that the type of paper made a difference in the quality of the image transfer. The most effective paper was that poor-quality construction paper that comes in huge multi-color packs for kids. If you've ever spilled water on a piece you will know how soluble it is — that's actually a good quality when it comes to using a blender pen to make an image transfer! You might need to cut your paper to fit the standard 8.5X11" printer paper size:

3. Check your printed image to make sure it's flipped (and spelled correctly!) before you proceed, then tape it FACEDOWN to your fabric. I used 100% cotton sheeting.

Put the fabric and paper down on a surface that won't be damaged by coming into contact with a solvent. I used an old metal cookie sheet:

Printed image is facedown
4. If you live in a house, you might want to do the next step outside. If you live in an apartment, you will want to crack as many windows as possible because the xylene blender pen stinks!

Ok, ready? Pressing firmly with your blender pen, saturate the paper where the label is positioned. When the paper is fully saturated with the solvent, you should be able to see your label through it like this: 

Do this step a couple times to insure that your image transfers fully. You can peel back the tape and paper to check on it, but make sure to place it back down carefully if you need to make another application. In all cases, this step required a couple saturations to really work for me. Like I mentioned above, the cheapo construction paper was the easiest paper from which to transfer my label.

5. Let the solvent evaporate (keeping those windows wide open!) and then you are ready to cut your labels. I have included cutting lines on my printable labels. If you used your own printout, be sure to leave enough "white space" all around your label for pressing under and sewing.

6. With a hot iron, press under the two long sides:

And then press under the two short sides:

7. Edgestitch the two long sides. I used my edgestitch foot to make it really easy:

8. Place the label on your garment and pin in place. Then edgestitch down the two short sides, taking care to backstitch and secure it well. 

That is it! No more backwards me-made leggings or tank-tops!

For those of you who are like, "That looks great and all, but I am LAY-ZEE!" I am giving away a set of 10 "Darn Right, I MADE This" tags. All you need to do is Tweet or Pin this post and send me the link via the comments section below (You can even do both for two entries). I'm giving you until Sunday morning, 9 a.m. Eastern Time on May 25 to enter. 


  1. Awesome!


    I love this tag!

    Of course you make your own tags and make it look easy as well but I am just too lazy.

  4. Ooh, these are really cute! But I'm definitely too lazy

  5. Great tutorial! This is definitely going on my "sewing news" and Pinterest page:

  6. Great tags!

  7. Great tutorial...and yes I'm laaaazzzy...

    I love it! Would love to win some tags.

  9. Lizzi was right. You ARE pretty awesome! Can't wait to take one of your classes at B&Y.


    LOVE this idea! awesome, thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Cathy, you won! Send me your mailing address: sbeaubien (at) gmail (dot) com

  11. You are // tag great. Thanks for sharing across the pond to England!

  12. I'm a little confused. Where did the blender pen come from suddenly? I feel like I missed something.

    1. Maybe I wasn't clear enough, but I say near the top that all you need for this project is a normal printer and a xylene blender pen. They're cheap. You can find them at art stores.

    2. OHHH! Holy cow! I read the post 3 times and somehow managed to miss that paragraph completely every time. Xylene blender pen, here I come! ... And by the way, thanks for the post, Suzanne!


  14. How long do these tags hold up?

  15. Just read your profile and I will be making some labels and thanks for the direction I just finished school for designing fashion and I will have fun putting it in some of my creations



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