screen print tote bags

Printing fabric labels at home

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.

screen print tote bag

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.

print your own fabric labels

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.

around and about

We have had a bit of a pumpkin fest recently from our three pumpkin plants. Two of the plants yielded no pumpkins and the other one produced just one. But one very large pumpkin, which was similar in size to last year’s because there were still some seeds in the packet and even though I said to Bill (very clearly) that they were far too big and we did not want any more that size, he decided it would be wasteful to throw away the seed. Thank goodness only one grew.

Consequently, we have eaten pumpkin in many ways, some more popular than others. For the finale, with the very last slice of pumpkin,  I decided to make pumpkin scones. I made some the other day by adding pumpkin flesh to my normal scones and though they tasted fine, I decided to do it properly and follow a Pumpkin Scone recipe. Big mistake. The mixture was far too sloppy so I threw in extra flour. Then a bit more with another spoonful of bicarb. Then a whole lot more. Then I dolloped the mixture onto the girdle and cooked them. The result was not the normal light, airy scone but a heavy, claggy doorstop that shouted indigestion. So no scones to eat and a heap of washing-up for nothing.

As usual, in times of frustration or in need of a good think, I pulled on my wellies and went for a walk.

mistletoe growing on apple tree

The mistletoe seems to be growing faster than the apple tree and for the first year has berries. It’s difficult to believe how much it’s grown from this tiny bud back in 2012.

spartan apples

A quick detour to pick up some crisp and juicy Spartan apples that have fallen to the ground. Spartan are my favourite apple and with their deep red skins, I always think of them as Snow White apples.

sloes for Slamseys Gin

We’ve picked kilos of sloes for Beth to make her sloe gin, but there’s still so many left that the hedge looks blue now that the leaves have mostly dropped. This blackthorn hedge was planted in 2012 and has grown remarkably well, though when you consider that the name of our farm originates from the Old English for “enclosure of the sloe tree hill” and we live in Blackley Lane, perhaps it’s not so surprising.

Old Man's Beard

Along the farm track, Old Man’s Beard threads its way through the hedges.

oilseed rape

The oilseed rape crop is looking remarkably healthy. At the moment.

ditch between The Ley and Lakes Field

The oilseed rape is growing in a field called The Ley. On a map of 1849, this is shown as three fields called Old Leigh, Little Leigh and Spring Field but by 1895 they’d been amalgamated into one field called The Ley. This small ditch runs between The Ley and Lakes Field, so named because Mr Lake once owned it. There’s not much water in it at the moment, but if we get a wet winter the level will rise as the water drains from the fields into the ditch.

autumn leaves

The leaves are falling fast from the trees and some trees are already winter bare. There’s nothing like kicking through a few leaves to bring a smile to my face. And hurrah, no more pumpkins.

a glittering week

Slamseys gin at Christmas

The week has passed in a blur of glitter, sparkly things and brown cardboard boxes as we’ve unpacked deliveries in preparation for the opening of the Christmas Shop in The Barley Barn. Most of the stock was ordered back in February, so there have been a few surprises that are mostly good but the odd one has resulted in an accusatory “Who on earth ordered that?” Mostly though, there has been glitter, which gets everywhere so that we look as though we’re just off to a 1970s disco with our sparkly faces and hair.

Unpacking has been interspersed with discussions about the Slamseys website. There has been much writing and rewriting, searching for photos, checking links and grappling with postage charges, but finally the new website has launched. You can check it out here. We’ve always used a website design company for our website and I think I’d probably go into meltdown if I had to design my own from scratch. Sadly, the price has risen considerably since we paid for our first website design with joints of pork back in 2004.

There have also been walnuts to harvest every day in a bid to outwit the squirrels. Open the airing cupboard door and you’ll find, not neatly folded clothes and linen, but baskets of walnuts gently drying out. I hope we don’t get a mouse in the house as it will make a bee line for the airing cupboard and think it’s in heaven.

wet walnuts

As a consequence, there has been much eating of walnuts recently. Fresh, wet walnuts are munched straight from the tree;  cream coloured and juicy, they fill the shells and are crunchy and mild tasting.

dried walnuts

Once dried, we pop open the shells with our hands and take out the slightly shrunken walnuts to eat or to cook with. There have been coffee and walnut biscuits, walnut and maple syrup steamed sponge pudding, walnuts in bread, pasta with walnuts … And rabbit with walnuts because Bill is in full rabbit catching mode. Yesterday he brought in seven, which is quite a lot of rabbit to deal with. We’re out for most of the weekend and what I’m looking forward to most of all is not that I won’t have to cook, but that I won’t have to eat bloomin’ rabbit.