If you live in England, how are you coping with the new plastic bag regime? For years, as I pulled plastic bags from the hedgerows and ditches where they’d been blown or dropped, I complained about the waste generated by free plastic bags given out in handfuls by supermarkets and so was very happy when a 5 pence charge was introduced for every plastic bag requested by a shopper. Since then, I’ve watched people leave shops juggling food shopping in their arms rather than pay for a bag, watched others leave with clothing draped over their arm (which must surely be a security nightmare) and stood in the queue while people harrumph about having to buy a bag.
So far I’ve avoided paying for a bag because I’ve only bought food since the introduction of the charge and it’s second nature to pick up my food bags along with my shopping list as I leave the house. But now that we’re approaching the Christmas gift shopping season, I realise how much I’ve previously relied on a free plastic bag from retailers. Rather than dig in my pocket for 5 pence to pay for a plastic bag that advertises their shop, I needed to find an alternative.
Just as I was wondering if I was going to have to make a bag or two, Ruth came to my rescue. Mindful of the shopping bag conundrum, she’d printed tote bags to sell in The Christmas Shop into which customers could slip their baubles or bottles of gin and then continue to use for the rest of their Christmas shopping. The bags needed labels so a deal was struck: in return for finding and sewing in some labels, I could have a tote bag for my shopping.
Since making my first batch of GiveWraps (and with some still unlabelled) it has been in the back of my mind to find a better way of making labels and certainly the tote bags needed something a little more professional than a scribbled label. I could buy printed labels but reasonably priced ones are sold by the thousand and anyway, according to the plethora of tutorials and happy photographs across the internet, it’s easy to print fabric labels using an inkjet printer. I followed the instructions, fed the bonded fabric and paper into the printer and pressed the button. After a series of clunks and rather disturbing noises, the printer ground to a halt and I had to delve inside to retrieve a screwed up ink sodden mess. I persevered and eventually managed to get one set of decent labels, but wary that the process wasn’t doing my printer any good, looked around for an alternative.
We have an ancient photocopier that is frequently cursed because it regularly jams and no longer automatically loads paper (hand feeding every sheet of paper is rather tedious when photocopying any quantity). With nothing to lose, I fed in a piece of bonded fabric and paper. Hey presto. It slid through without a splutter. The print isn’t quite as crisp as the ink jet printed labels, but that’s probably because the setting to increase or decrease the darkness of a photocopy has broken.
Should you wish to print a few labels, perhaps for your own Give Wraps or you’ve been on one of our Screen Print a Tote Bag courses, here’s a quick guide. To test the ink fastness, I hand washed the labels after heat setting with an iron and they looked fine, but I cannot guarantee that prolonged washing will not cause the ink to fade. For bags and Give Wrap it doesn’t particularly matter as they may probably never get washed.
How to print your own fabic labels
Freezer paper is widely available from craft shops in the UK. I used white cotton fabric (an old sheet would do the job).
Cut some freezer paper slightly larger than A4 size, lay it on top of your fabric with the shiny side down and iron it so that the plastic coating fuses the paper to the fabric.
Then, using a rotary cutter, trim your bonded paper and fabric to A4 size to leave a clean edge with no hanging threads. Believe me, your printer or photocopier will not like loose threads.
Inkjet printer method: Draft your labels, using a program such as Word or Publisher. Remember to leave space for turning in the edges or folding the label, depending on how you’re going to finish off and attach your label.
Load the bonded fabric and paper into your inkjet printer and print using an appropriate paper and ink setting.
Photocopier method: Draw or print your label design onto plain paper and then photocopy onto the bonded fabric and paper.
You should now have a sheet of fabric printed with your label design. Peel the paper away from the fabric and iron the labels to heat set the ink. Cut out and sew onto your creation.