To Sew or Not to Sew..Uniform Labelling and the Joys Thereof!

Labelling School Uniform

So, if you’ve managed to get your head around the uniform buying part of the ‘my little one is starting school in September’ equation, you’ll be ready to face the next labels!  Yes, I know. Who knew there was so much excitement involved!  For some reason this never caused me any grief at nursery – sure, I popped a few iron on labels in her cardigans, because cardigans are like gold dust and yet such an essential part of any little girl’s wardrobe! But she generally went to nursery in her trashiest clothes and it really didn’t matter if they didn’t come home.

At school, you are issued with a mandate to ‘label EVERYTHING’.  And for good reason. There are a lot of kids and not many grown ups to run around after them.  Reception teachers have to manage PE, swimming lessons (and all sorts of things in between) that require the removal and replacement of clothes, shoes, equipment and all sorts of other paraphenalia. And the seasonal variables are endless.  Home time is a chaotic scene of trying to reunite small children with their belongings, their parents and their dignity, after a hard day’s ‘learning’ through play and unadulterated mayhem!  This generally involves most children returning to pick up their water bottles, cardigans and coats over multiple trips in something that resembles a bungee running game from It’s a Knockout!

Over the past academic year, I have learned many lessons about labelling items!  Firstly, don’t leave ordering them to the last minute,  because guess what,  EVERYBODY does, and if you do too, there will be a delay to your order and probably a fatal one at that.  The night before the first day at school is not an ideal time to be applying required labels, especially as that is probably the point when you read the application instructions and it clearly states that you absolutely MUST wash all garments before applying delayed labels.  Ignore this instruction at your peril!  If you don’t, they labels just won’t stick! So to the options!


Well there are iron ons of course, which seem to fall into two categories – standard and woven.  Standard is a very broad description of anything that isn’t woven and come in all sorts of colours, shapes and sizes. They and are easy enough to apply with the help of a decent iron.  However, if you try and iron over the label later on, it will probably melt. Reapplication of  new label is then necessary. That said, it really does depend on the quality of the label – I have tried several different makes – some disintegrate worse than others, and some stick better than others, depending on the fabric.  It really is a bit of a lottery even within he same company.  So seek the experiences of others if you can in ones that do work, but I haven’t found a full proof variety yet.

Wovens, on the other hand, you can iron over to your heart’s content.  They look like a traditional sew in label, so you get that nice nostalgic feel, but you just iron them on.  Whether they stick better or not is debatable, but again, with the variation in highly durable fabrics, irons and labels, it really is hard to know.  They are a bit more expensive probably a bit tougher and other parents may be fooled into thinking you actually sewed them in!

With both sorts of iron on labels, I have had to reapply several times.  I  generally find myself fishing a load out of unstuck labels out of the bottom of the washing machine at the end of every load like a pile of dead tadpoles. ome do stick..randomly…and when they do you really can’t get them off, but it’s a very inexact science.


So this year, I can’t believe it – I am considering sewing!!!  Last year I pooh poohed my dedicated mummy friends who actually seemed quite excited by this prospect, purely on the basis that a needle and thread onlymake an appearance in my house once a year – generally in a panic 12 hours before the nativity!  But I do now see the benefits, epecially if you have been organised enough to buy all of your uniform well in advance.  And they do look smart.  Lots of options out there.  So give itsome thought.


My favourite secret weapon is my stamp.  Personally I like to double it up with some form of actual labels, but my Stamptastic stamp is the ‘must have’ in any labelling arsenal in my view.  Stamptastic provide you with a personalised stamp and indelible ink stamp pad, and you can literally just stamp your child’s name on anything that moves.  It works particularly well on the silky labels inside of most clothes, so if your iron ons were to fall out, at least your child’s name is still in the garment.  It is perfect for knickers, which otherwise might go un-named!  And it is instant.  I’ve used it on lunch boxes, drinking bottles, books, you name it – anything that has gone into school last minute – dollies, frog spawn, fancy dress outfits – and I can’t recommend it highly enough.


Being a little on the OCD side, these don’t appeal to me, but they are cheap, flexible and a big favourite with lots of people.   Most school uniform items have an area to write a child’s name on, even tights and it is probably good for those tricky little suckers – the socks…as long as the socks are white!  (Although I hear our clever friends at Stamptastic have just found a white laundry pen!)


A definite must have – all children have the SAME Clark’s shoes, and they are all black!  So, it’s even worth looking at some funky easy to recognise shoe labels which in my experience stick and stay stuck…forever!


Well I don’t profess to know everything, and when I wrote this article, I still had no idea what the packet of transfers in my label set was for.  And  now I find out they are for labelling socks!!!  I could have saved myself hours of trying to get normal labels to stick to socks if only I’d known!  Even the stamp doesn’t work on socks!  You live and learn as they say!


There are any number of funky bag labels, stickers, PE bags, transfers and tattoos available from most label companies these days, so shop around and have fun.  These are essential for lunch boxes, drinking bottles, bags and anything else you might want returned in one piece!

And also check if your label company runs a PTA affiliate programme which gives your school PTA a percentage of all orders from your school.  Your school may even direct you towards one.


  1. Don’t leave it to the last minute – ordering or applying!
  2. If you are using iron on labels you MUST wash the clothes before hand.  So allow time for that.
  3. If you are ironing on labels, turn off the STEAM setting on your iron. Learnt that the hard way.
  4. If you are using iron on labels, keep a stock ready to reapply and back up with pen or stamp for the more expensive items.
  5. If you have multiple children, you may want to just order labels or stamps with your surname only.
  6. Buy some stickers for labelling lunch boxes, drinking bottles, etc.  Extra funky for shoes!
  7. If you are going to label pants and socks (many don’t!), invest in a laundry pen or Stamptastic stamp.
  8. Order lots – you’ll be surprised how many you get through and your child will be at school a long time and have lots of
  9. Check the company you are ordering from has a PTA affiliate scheme and that your school is registered.
  10. If you can be bothered, sew! Please feel very free to add your own experiences.

Click here for your chance to win a Stamptastic set worth £32!

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