1. Use a high-quality label
While there are many labels available on the market, a high-quality label is both easy to apply and provides a strong, long-lasting bond with the fabric. Machine washable and dryable versions are readily available. In clothing, opt for a soft, woven label whenever possible as these are most comfortable and can bend and flex with the movement of the clothing. Quality labels can also be customised to include your brand name and logo, as well as care information for your finished product.
2. Test on a scrap of fabric
Though iron-on labels are versatile and easy to use, they’re not suitable for all fabrics. Those with pile, like velvet or fleece, some synthetic fabrics, and stretch fabrics are better suited to stitch-in alternatives. To make sure your labels will adhere well, use a scrap of your project fabric and follow the same procedure you’ll use on your finished items to test the bond. Always iron on the label side rather than from the reverse. This allows you to make sure the label positioning is correct before applying heat.
3. Choose an appropriate location
Iron-on labels may stiffen fabric very slightly even when applied correctly, so be sure to consider that factor in choosing where to locate them on your finished piece. Do not place them across seam lines or at points where fabric faces a lot of tension or wear. Even with these limitations, however, iron-on labels are still a versatile option. Many custom designs are so attractive that they can even be applied to the exterior of clothing, so don’t be afraid to get creative with how you use them.
3. Use high heat
You may need to experiment with your label and fabric to find the optimum heat setting, especially since different types of irons have different capabilities. Start by setting your iron for cotton fabrics. If the label does not adhere well, use a higher setting, or leave the iron in place longer. If it damages your test fabric, adjust the iron for a slightly cooler setting. Do not attempt to raise the heat to seal the label in place faster. It needs a minimum of 10-20 seconds of heat to activate the adhesive, so raising the heat will only risk damaging your fabric.
4. Protect the fabric with baking paper
On your ironing board, carefully position your project and label, and then cover it with a sheet of parchment baking paper before ironing. This allows for even heat transfer and a smooth, nonstick surface against the label. In the rare case that any of the adhesive should seep beyond the edges of the label, the parchment will keep it from sticking to your iron and potentially ruining your project. Baking paper is preferred to a press-cloth since cloth may not transmit enough heat to create a good seal.
5. Turn off the steam
Dry heat is best for setting the adhesive on iron-on labels. Steam can create pockets of temperature fluctuation, causing an uneven bond. It can also cause fibres to shrink and compress, giving the point where the label is fused a different texture than the surrounding fabric. Using steam with baking paper between your iron and fabric is also dangerous. Since the paper is largely water resistant, the steam has nowhere to escape and can cause burns. Always remember to shut it off before starting to bond your labels!
6. Move the iron slowly
When beginning to iron your labels, place the iron on it and do not move it for 10-20 seconds. This allows the adhesive time to warm up across the label. Shift the iron slowly to focus on the edges and corners of the labels, applying firm pressure to ensure good contact between the label and the fabric. Use the point of the iron for this detail work.
7. Allow to cool
The glue of iron-on labels isn’t fully set until cool. After ironing, leave the baking paper in place for 2 minutes to give the glue time to set. When the label is cool, remove the paper and check for a good seal.
8. Test edges
The edges and corners of the label receive the most wear and tear. After fusing your label and removing the paper, check to see if there are any loose points. If the seal didn’t take, repeat the ironing process, focusing on the problem areas, until they’ve properly sealed to the fabric.
9. Wait 24 hours before washing
Iron-on labels are safe for machine washing, even in hot water, and can also be machine dried. It’s best to wait 24 hours to ensure the label is completely set before washing, however. If you’re creating items for sale, washing them after the labels are applied is a good way to make sure that the labels are secure and hold up to the recommended care process before your items make their way to customers.
Iron-on labels can save you time and provide a beautiful finished product that your customers will love. When they’re properly applied, they’re a durable alternative to stitch-in tags and labels and provide you with a whole new way to brand your creations and get the word out about your work. Do you have your own tips and tricks for using iron-on labels? Share them in the comments below!