Now it’s personal.

Anything we make is a special thing.  We take the time to put something together, but do we go that extra mile to make sure that someone could find us again, if only by looking at the finished piece?  Tags and labeling are an oft-overlooked detail that can pay off in a big way.  So, in light of the fact that Christmas will soon be upon us, I thought we could use some inspiring ideas for tagging the gifts we make both to give and to sell.  Hooray for Etsy! 🙂

One simple way to make your own:

Last night’s trash becomes today’s crafty treasure!

Remember that take-out container you brought home the other night?  The pad thai is long-gone, but that Number 6 plastic container can live on… give it a better life by turning it into custom jewelry tags or charms!

1.  Cut out the flat parts of the box on the top and bottom (I don’t have to tell you to clean it first, do I?  Of course not, you’re not my ex-suitemate!).

Color lightly on the sanded surface.

2.  Use some 300-400 grit sandpaper to roughen up one side of the plastic (move your sandpaper in little circles).  Then use a colored pencil to scrawl your signature, Etsy shop name, etc.  You don’t need to press hard at all.  In fact, the lighter you go, the better:  when the plastic shrinks, everything you drew on it will become extra dark.  If you like, you can print your name out in a nice font and then trace it.  You can also use a custom stamp you’ve carved or had made (use alcohol-based inks for best results).

Be sure to leave some room for a hole to attach a jump ring; a standard-sized hole punch works perfectly.  Once your hole has been punched and the final shape cut out around the text, it’s ready to shrink!

They’ll twist and turn a little while. When they lie flat (or thereabouts) take them out.

3.  Line a pan with parchment paper and lay the piece on it.  Pop the piece in a preheated oven at around 350 degrees (anywhere between 300-350 degrees should be fine).  Watch it heat up–it will begin to undulate and shrink up.  After a couple of minutes it will stop moving and lay mostly flat.  At this point, you may remove it from the oven.  If it doesn’t lay completely flat, take a glass and press the piece down while it’s still warm.  Don’t use your fingers, as the plastic gets very hot.

4.  Once the piece has cooled, you may want to sand the edges with an emery board if they’re not completely smooth.  Seal the penciled side with a resin gloss spray.  It looks nicer, and it keeps your design from smearing if you penciled too deeply.  Add a jump link through the now-tiny punched hole.

***A trick for figuring out the final size:  On a scrap piece of plastic, trace a 6″ ruler and then shrink it.  Once it’s shrunk, you can tell what the size of your piece needs to be before shrinking.  For example, if you want the finished tag to be 1″ long, hold up the real ruler next to your shrunken one and see where the 1″ falls on the tiny one–the number on the tiny one is how long your plastic piece should be starting out.***

For an even fancier/standardized tag, purchase inkjet-printable shrink film (you CANNOT use recycled plastic here).  Create an image in Adobe or Paint with your name on it.  Think about the scale of the finished tag, and choose your font accordingly (*you want it to be readable once it’s shrunk to size). is a nice place to download nice fonts for free.  You’ll also want to leave a blank area for the hole you’ll be punching for a jump link.  Copy your art and paste it as many times as you can within an 8.5″x11″ file (100-200 dpi–you may have to see what you like best after experimenting).  Try rotating your pieces to get as many on the page as possible (and don’t forget, each printer’s margins are different; try to account for that).

Once you’ve made a nice image, flatten it and take the opacity down to 25-40%, depending on how saturated your images are (this is to account for the darkening once the plastic is shrunk). You may have to experiment with each page to get a saturation you’re happy with.

Print it out on the inkjet shrink plastic (available here from, making sure that you have “transparency film” selected in your printer’s paper output.  Cut out each individual piece, punch holes, bake and seal.  Cool, huh?

Now all you have to do is make a beautiful piece of jewelry to go with your fabulous new tags!  🙂


Email Me at