Thursday, May 19, 2011

Handstamped Labels and Custom Camera Straps

I did some old fashioned typesetting this week! It seems like I have wanted to make some custom labels for myself since the beginning of time. Why didn't I do it before? It is a very rewarding and fast project. I made a whole stack of custom labels, mostly using extra rectangles from this project (I really got carried away cutting rectangles of neutral fabrics - I had about 100 too many). I used a sans-serif clear acrylic stamp set from Martha (of course), to typeset my labels. It was tricky to get the alignment perfect, but I reason the slight irregularities just add personality. It was also tricky to recognize some letters backwards - lowercase "a", I am talking to you.
 I wanted my fabric labels to be permanent and washable, but I didn't have stamp pads meant for fabric, so I decided to make my own. I used Speedball t-shirt screen printing ink, but I think you could use any medium consistency fabric paint you already own with this method. I squeegeed the ink with a smooth edged butter knife into a small piece of acrylic felt. I went over the inked area several times, removing extra ink until I had an evenly saturated, but not gloopy or wet, stamp pad. The ink will go right through in some places to the other side of the felt, so be sure to do this on a piece of cardboard or some tinfoil to protect your workspace. I kept the pad covered with a piece of plastic wrap when I wasn't using it, and I was able to get about 30-40 stamps out of it before I thought it needed replacing/reloading. Making your own stamp pad means you don't have to buy a new craft item you might not use very often, and also, you can mix the colours of fabric paint you have to make any hue you want. I don't think they keep though, I threw mine away after I was finished. When you are done stamping, dry your labels and set them using the ink's directions.
Don't they look nifty? I have to admit, some of them were not as perfect as I would like, but after playing with a real commercial stamp pad later, I think this mainly boils down to technique; my stamping skills are sadly lacking.

Of course, armed with a stack of freshly minted labels, I had to come up with a fun (and branded!) sewing project to use them in. What did I make? Camera Straps! This one is mine:
I have been saving this pretty Heather Ross print for a special project and the mermaids and sealife swimming across the strap look so cute. The back of the strap is pieced with a label printed in blue on natural linen and some of Joel Dewberry's new woodgrain fabric. My strap is lined with one layer of cotton batting to make it quilted and soft. I followed the basic idea from a camera strap tutorial over at My Sewcial Hour. I picked the stitches from my original camera strap, pried it apart, inserted my new strap into the pleather end pieces and sewed over the original stitching lines....
And then I made 10 more! These are pretty addictive to make: quick, pretty patchwork that looks both professional and useful. To make them from scratch, you will need 3/8" nylon webbing, a small piece of leather or vinyl, contact cement, and a leather sewing machine needle. You will also need the proper 3/8" locking sliders, or you could get your friends to use the original hardware from their old straps on their fancy new ones. 

Make your straps however you like, topstitching them to reinforce the strap and keep the seams from rolling. I tried to taper the last inch of the strap ends slightly so that it would tuck into the end pieces neatly. Cut 2 pieces of the webbing to the same lengths as on your original strap, finish one end of each by holding it to a flame. Then use some tracing paper to make a pattern for the leather end piece, placing the narrow end on a fold line. When you cut out your leather (or vinyl) the resulting shape should be like little bow-ties. Cut a center slit to fit your nylon webbing and slide it into the end so that the webbing is 1/4" from the inside edge. Coat the inside of the leather piece and ~1/2" of the end of your handsewn strap (both sides) with contact cement. Let dry about 10 minutes before carefully assembling and pressing everything together tightly. Sew around the edges of the end peice and also sew a box with an "X" that goes over both the webbing and the strap. It is important to sew through all the layers like this so that your new strap is secure and won't ever drop your camera.
I am participating in the Sew Mama Sew Giveaway next week, and I will include some camera straps like these, so if you would like one, please come back on Monday, May 23!


  1. I'm participating, too, and I will definitely come by and throw my name in the hat! Your stamps look fantastic, and I just love the camera straps you whipped up.

  2. These turned out so cute!! Someone is going to be a lucky winner. :) Are you making the others to sell?

  3. Such a great idea! Love the results.

  4. I think your labels look really good!

  5. Love the labels! I need to work on some for me! Thanks for the tips.

  6. So is it bad I was really *really* hoping someone wouldn't respond to the "you're the winner email"? But I really liked the camera strap and was wondering if you'd be interested in selling one? I didn't see any details to that effect. I also notice you're in Canada, so I'd also be willing to do a trade if there are American items you have trouble getting (I live in Texas, if that makes a difference) Thanks for entertaining the idea!


  7. Elizabeth, your account is No-Reply! Can you email me? My email address is in my profile :)

  8. Thanks for linking up with me! Your straps turned out fabulous! Happy Sewing!

  9. Hi Gabrielle, I'm Connie at, I think I'm a g+ follower, I cant' figure that out.
    Anyways, clever girl, coming up with this idea for handmade labels, have you priced them.....
    Thanks for sharing. Hope you have a great day!