CRAFTY MARKETING: Perfect Your Packaging

custom packaging

The Total Package

As a small business owner I’m always searching for ways to make my product stand out from the crowd. Extra advertising dollars, well honestly extra dollars in general, are few and far between at this stage of the game. I know this is the case for many young designers. Thankfully as a creative person I have found there are some crafty ways around paying someone else to create your marketing opportunities.

Today I’m going to show how in just a couple of hours you can make a great bag to place your product in for shipping. Having the product in a cute bag makes it almost like opening a gift. It relieves you of the need to buy plastic or tissue paper or any other kind of throw away item for inside your shipping package. The bag also is a carrying case for any other promotional item you may want to include. I add a couple business cards and a nice keeping card with the explanation of what the t-shirt graphic means. By placing these items inside the bag it guarantees they won’t be overlooked. Since my product is t-shirts my bags are large enough for people to use for other things. They are unbleached cotton, printed with water based inks and so are lightweight and non toxic enough to use at farmers markets instead of plastic bags. Or perhaps my customers will use them to roll their socks into when packing for a trip, collect loose change in, throw a pair of flips flops into their purse. No matter what they use it for, being re-useable and marked with my logo, it’s a constant reminder to them of my company and a small walking billboard to anyone else that sees it.

First things first. Before we get to the crafting, make sure you are set up to be properly entertained. My sewing entertainment of choice is our vintage stereo system and a selection of vinyl records. For today’s session I’m thinking a little Booker T and the MGs is in order. Nothing puts you in the mood for sewing like music from before the 1980’s. Sewing is just an old timey feeling activity.

Sewing Entertainment

Booker T and the MGs

STAGE 1: Cutting the fabric.

cutting tools for sewing fabric tools

Items you need for STAGE 1

Supplies needed: Yard or two 90″ wide unbleached cotton muslin, Yard stick straight edge, quilters ruler, tailors chalk, SHARP!! fabric scissors

1) Lay the fabric out on your largest flat surface, folded in half length wise. I use my 1950’s kitchen table but if you are feeling spry you could use the (carpeted) floor. Note my wrinkled fabric. I find it easier to iron the individual squares. You may prefer to iron the yardage.

2) I am going to use the dimensions I use but obviously rework to fit your product. My “squares” are 15″ by 14″. Being 15″ I don’t waste any fabric as six 15 inch sections equal 90″. I also buy my muslin 5 yards at a time because my local craft store Sav*A*Thon runs a special price on 5 yards. Measure 14″ down from the top folded corner of the fabric.  At the 14″ mark use your see through quilters ruler to square to the fold and then place your straight edge along the quilters ruler to get a straight line. Mark out the 14 inches all the way across. Repeat another 14″ down and so on.

3) Starting at the fold on each line mark off your 15″ measurement. Use you rulers to draw squared and straight cross lines.

4) Cut your rows out fold to fabric edges. Then stack 3-4 on top of each other using both the fold and the lines to make sure they are even.

5) Cut the squares out. By stacking the fabric you save time! Make sure your scissors are sharp!

how to cut fabric

Cutting out the squares

6) Iron all the squares. I do not own an ironing board. An ironing board reaches a level of domestic sophistication I have yet to achieve. Instead I use a flat hard surface (the counter between my kitchen and living room is a nice height) and a white towel. Make sure your iron is set to high and steam. Again you can stack about three layers of fabric and iron all at once to save time.

ironing board substitute how to iron

Faking it!

STAGE 2: Branding the Bag

note: I screen print my bags because I’m set up to do that. You could stamp your fabric, paint on your fabric, or send it through your printer at home.

printing pad and tsquare

Eco friendly Screenprinting

entertainment for art studio

Boom Box in Basement Studio

Again first things first. When working in my basement studio I listen to the radio. Generally my station of choice is 93.9 WNYC. It’s amazing programing. SUPPORT PUBLIC RADIO!!!!!

Screenprinting supplies: Though not pictured obviously you’ll need a screen. I get mine made at Standard Screen in Manhattan. They rock! you’ll also need: a squeegee, screen hinges, waterbased ink, foam core printing pad and a t-square. Optional are: Propylene Glycol and Ink catalyst

1) Use your t-square to line up the image or text on your screen in a straight perpendicular to the table.

2) Once straight tighten the screen into the hinges.

3) Place your pre printed foam core pad under the screen and register it with your screen image. Then making sure it doesn’t move, raise your screen and tape in place.

note: I also mark on my pad with a pencil the placement of my fabric square so I never have to think about where they are going. Just place in the square outline and print!

how to set a a screen for screen printing.

Getting the Screen Set Up

4) Once the screen is set up mix up your ink. I use black so theres no color mixing but I add 5-10% Propylene Glycol to prevent my waterbased inks drying in the screen and 1% of an ink catalyst to help the permanence of the ink on the fabric.

5) Add your ink to the top of the screen above the image. Place a fabric square on the pad. Close the screen and pull the ink across the image with the squeegee held at a 45 degree angle applying even pressure. Once you hit the bottom of the screen, lean the squeegee towards the back of the screen and push the ink back across the image to the top starting point.

6) Lift Screen and VOILA! you have a branded fabric square! Remove, replace with blank, and repeat.

branded screenprinted item

VOILA! Branded Square!

STAGE 3: Sewing up the bags

record serger fabric squares scissors

getting ready to sew the bags

overlock machine

My handy dandy overlock machine

Music choice for the upstairs sewing session is Bob Dylan’s New Morning LP. Back to the vinyl for sewing!

Supplies: overlock machine, 3 thread spools, scissors, pre-printed fabric squares

1) Decide which end you want to be your open end. Serge the final 3″ of each side of the open end edge.

2) Double fold the open end (from the side should make the letter N) back on itsself to create a drawstring pull through tunnel. I eye ball it and make the pull through tunnel about .5″ wide.

3) Place beginning of folded end in overlock machine with knife on (so it cuts off the excess) and serge the drawstring pull through tunnel into existence!

4) Fold the fabric square in half length wise making sure to line up the serged line. Lift pressure foot on machine and place underneath starting either at the serged line or, like me, about .5″ below so that you can get the drawstring in easier and pack the bag easier.

5) serge down the side of the bag. Don’t worry if they are a bit uneven at the end.

6)Serge across the bottom of the bag (with knife on!) making sure to even out any unevenness.

7) Cut all threads but leave a small .25″ bit of the braid on the bag corners so they don’t tear.

8) Turn bag right side out!

creating a drawstring bag

Start your Engines

serge the end side and bottom

Create the pouch!

three erin cadigan marketing

leave some extra braid on the corners

packaging for three erin cadigan tshirt line

YAY! Almost Done!

STAGE 4: Adding the string

natural jute string drawstring pull through

Stringing Supplies

Supplies: Thin rope (I use natural jute. It’s inexpensive and gives a “green” look that works with my brand), a drawstring tool (available at any sewing supply store) or you could use a saftey pin to push and pull the rope through

1) Cut a 16″ length of rope and knot both end.

2) Push the tool through the drawstring tunnel until it comes out the other end.

3) Hook the tool below one knot and pull back through the tunnel

4) DONE!!!!!

how to create a drawstring

Pull It Through

unusual packaging ideas

The Finished Product

The best thing about this is  it cost me .50¢ per bag in supplies and 4 hours of my time to make 48 bags! It could take less time but I’m a dawdler. One of you highly efficient crafters out ther could probably knock a bunch of time off the process.

If you found this post informative or helpful please leave a comment!

I’d also love to hear any other cute packaging ideas or cheap marketing tips!

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