DIY Fabric Covered Label Windows

Naptime Gnome Idea #2

Add a Custom Fabric Label Window to Just About Anything!

The gnomes responsible for cleaning-up around here all really appreciate labels!  For some reason, even when everyone knows the rightful home of various household items, things have a much higher likelihood of ending up in their homes, if a label is involved.  Thus, freeing up more time for the clean-up gnomes!  As I double as a clean-up gnome, I am particularly fond of these handy little devices. The best kind of labels are those that can be changed at will, with little hassle. This makes chalkboards really high on my list of awesome decorating tools, but the clean lines of label windows are right up there!
Here are some label windows, hard at work, in the “mud room” portion of the new laundry room remodel. 
You won’t be hard pressed to find all sorts of baskets, folders and various other organizers adorned with these household helpers, but what about adding them to your own projects, or items you already have?  Here is a quick (honest, they really don’t take long, the tutorial is just very thorough to account for various skill/experience levels), easy way to make label windows with items you probably already have in your home.
These windows were custom made for the little bear’s new backpack. We wanted a way to minimize the bulk of his preschool pack, while increasing the functionality… this is code for “make sure nothing gets lost on the way to teacher/show and tell or back home again.” Enter Naptime Gnome with one-of-a kind “folder pack,” complete with labelled pockets.
So grab a cup of your favorite warm and snugly beverage and join us for some label making!
DIY Label Windows
Crafty Gnomes: 2, for minimal sewing skill
 (See the Crafty Gnome Key Below)
Note: If you don’t have a machine, 
you could definitely glue them 
using fabric glue or fusible tape.
Time to Complete: 1 naptime to make 3-5 (possibly more if you’re quick, or they are super sleepy!)
Supplies and Tools
  • Old jeans or other denim/stiff canvas material (cut-off legs from shorts, or old bits of canvas drop-cloth are great)
  • Fabric to cover (here I used a felt backed vinyl tablecloth)
  • Coordinating thread
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Straight pins
  • Paper for labels
  • Printer for printing labels (if your handwriting looks anything like mine!:) Optional
Making the Denim Form

1. Cut a rectangle of canvas about as large as the window you would like to make. About 3.5″ x 2.5″ is pretty standard. I went 3.25″ x 2.25″ because I wanted them to be a little smaller to better fit a wee-one’s world.

2. Fold in half (either landscape or portrait, doesn’t matter). Measure the width you would like the edge of the window to be (these are 1/2″ frames). Remember, that once you wrap the denim with fabric, it will be slightly wider, but the difference is only about 1/16″ – 1/8″ of an inch.  Keeping the frame folded, mark the inner edge of the frame. Using three straight cuts, cut the upper, then lower line, then remove the center by cutting the third edge between them.

3. When you unfold the fabric, you should have a relatively symmetrical, rectangular frame. Trim any frays or wavy edges.

Preparing the Cover Fabric
4. Place your frame on your cover fabric and measure approximately 1/5″ out from the form, on all four sides. Mark and cut.

5. Mark the approximate center and inner corners with small dots. These will be your guides for cutting the inner portion of your cover fabric to make the “window.” I used dry-erase marker on this vinyl. You can use a pattern marker/pencil or a sliver of soap if using a darker fabric.

6. Fold the cover fabric diagonally and bite into it at a perpendicular angle with your scissors. This should be the beginning of your slit from the opposite or diagonally oriented marks. Carefully extend your cut to the dots on either side.

7. Insert the scissors halfway down the diagonal slit and cut to the remaining dots on either side, making an “X.” NOTE: DO NOT CUT BEYOND THE MARK. If you cut too far, the frame will be exposed underneath. You can always snip a bit more if you need to, but “you may never come back” (and if you didn’t hear that ethereal echo in the background, you may have to rent the movie “All Dogs Go to Heaven.”

Wrapping the Denim Form 
8. Now it’s time to get our wrap on. 🙂 Place the cover face down and position the denim form with the “X” peeking through the window.

9. Pull the triangular cut flaps up and outward to wrap the inner perimeter of the frame. Pin and repeat with each triangular flap. Flip over and inspect the corners, if the frame is fairly well covered… GREAT JOB! If any flaps look a bit loose, or the inner edges look uneven, one at a time, unpin the offending flaps, reposition, pin and continue.

10. Trim the portions of the wrapped flaps that exceed the denim frame. This will reduce the bulk when your wrap the outer edge.

11. Fold the flaps in to cover the outer perimeter of the form. If you are using a fabric that can be safely ironed, this would be an excellent place to whip out the iron, and simply press the folds as you make them to keep them crisp.

My vinyl would have shriveled into a little charred ball, so it took a little more effort to keep the edges looking crisp. To get nice square corners, I tried “gift wrapping” by making little triangular folds, but only resulted in bulky rounded corners. Ultimately, it was easiest to fold the flaps in on either side and pin.

THEN, doing the bottom and top, being careful to keep the folds tucked in. The next few steps outline this technique more clearly. So if you have clean corners, just skip to step 12.

11a. Fold the bottom (or top if you desire) flap, by first pinching the fold so the fabric doesn’t slide diagonally, then fold it directly up (or down if doing the top).

11b. Pin the corner in place, temporarily.

11c. Then smooth out the flap and pinch the other corner fold and pull up to pin, being careful to keep the fold tucked in. Repeat for the last flap.


Stitch Into Place
12. Using your desired thread, top-stitch in place by sewing first around the outer edge. This makes it safe to remove your pins as you go, as the tips of your inner flaps should extend to your stitch. Then stitch your inner edge.  I chose to stitch use an 1/8″ margin, but you can sew between 1/8″ and 1/16″ from the edge of your frame with a window this size.

Attach to Desired Object
13. Now that you have a beautiful little frame, you’ll need to attach it to something in need of organizing!  You can attach by stitching into place by top-stitching (using a running stitch) right over the top of 3 of your outer stitch lines, or you can use glue, again, only on three sides. The open edge will allow you to slip in your tags. On this project I left the top open because the pack will usually be upright. But you could also put them on the side, which on some items may lay nicer.

NOTE: If gluing, be careful to use just a very thin line of glue along the VERY outer edge, so you will leave space for your label cards. If gluing to fabric, fabric glue, or fusing tape (if your fabric can be ironed) are probably your best bets, but you may want to use something a bit more substantial if you are gluing to paper, wood, plastic or metal. I’ve never had much luck with fabric glue bonding to anything but fabric, and of course, me. I’m a fan of the newer white and yellow glues: Titebond, Elmer’s Glue-All, and Liquid Nails (though this may be overkill! 🙂 always seem to get the job done. Stay away from Gorilla Glue or Super/Krazy Glue for this, as they tend to misbehave a bit with fabric, plus they make a big fat mess.

Design Designer Labels
14. Your labels should be slightly smaller than the space within your outer stitching perimeter, but bigger than the window so they don’t jump out. I’ve found a light cardstock or even printable business cards seem to stay put the best. Measure and establish your desired label size, about 1/4″ narrower and about a 1/4″ shorter than the outer stitched edge should do the trick.

15.  You can hand write the labels and be done (YAY!), or you can print them using a word-processing or image creator/editor program.

16.  Cut your labels to fit, slide in, stuff your box, basket, or other receptacle with ONLY what is printed on it.  Harass mercilessly, any individual that does otherwise… or simply reorganize their sock drawer…


The Naptime Gnome

Crafty Gnome Key:
1 Crafty Gnome = Simple cutting, gluing, tracing, and/or painting, etc.
2 Crafty Gnomes = Any of the above, plus the use of a few tools, and may involve a sewing machine for some simple seams… nothing crazy.
3 Crafty Gnomes = Could require some practice with any of the above items, and/or could involve power tools (you’ll meet Burly Gnome soon enough)
4 Crafty Gnomes = Includes most or all of the above… A bear of a project or requires a bit of help.
5 Crafty Gnomes = Perhaps a bit sorry I attempted it.

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