How to Make Reusable Labels for Fabric Bins

by HereWeGoAJen on August 23, 2011

I’ve done a lot of thinking and a lot of Googling on labeling our Closetmaid fabric bins that we use to store Elizabeth’s toys. I couldn’t find anything anywhere that I thought would work for labels that would stay put for toddlers to play with, while also being reusable and pretty enough to satisfy me. So I had to invent it myself. I decided to use chalkboard paint to label the bins.

Here are all our bins.

I used a business card to measure the area I was going to paint. I measured from the top and from the side so that all the labels would be in the same place on each bin.

And a little hint, since I had to do twelve bins, I made a tiny mark on my ruler so that I didn’t have to keep measuring, just line up the card with the lines on the ruler. I put painter’s tape around the business card. The business card is just there for measuring purposes, so I didn’t tape it down, just used it as a size guideline.

I put a tape box on each bin, making sure it was all lined up pretty and I pushed the tape down firmly.

Then I painted each square with chalkboard paint. You can get chalkboard paint at a lot of places now, I got ours at Home Depot. It was tintable and I chose the periwinkle color because I thought it would match fairly well with all of our bin colors. It came out much more purple than the picture on the can.

The canvas bins are very porous and they soak up a lot of paint. It took me four coats before it was actually a finished surface. I suggest letting the paint dry more thoroughly between coats than I did because I ended up with some bubbling. After the paint is dry (enough), I pulled off the tape.


Again, since the bins aren’t made from smooth fabric, there is some wicking under the tape and the edges aren’t smooth. If this doesn’t bother you, you are finished. If you are like me and the uneven edges drive you crazy, there is one more step.

I cut ribbon to fit around the edges of the painted surface and used fabric glue to attach the ribbon to the bins. Make sure that you heat seal the edges of your ribbon first. (If you’ve never done that, it just means briefly touching the edges of the ribbon to a flame. The ribbon will melt just a bit and then your ribbon edges won’t unravel.)

Then I used chalkboard markers to write on the labels. Chalkboard markers are kind of the wet erase equivalent of chalk. They don’t come off unless you use water or cleaner of some kind. (I’ve found that baby wipes are really good to erase them.) I used two colors of chalkboard marker to get this effect. (I did the blue first and then wrote over it with green while the blue was still wet.)

Also, be sure to follow the instructions of your chalkboard paint for drying time and any prep it needs before writing on it.

These erase fairly well. Sometimes a bit of color is left behind, but a baby wipe gets off most of it. Now we have bin labels that can’t be pulled off by a toddler, but are still erasable and reusable so that I can keep relabeling the bins.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa August 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm

OK. I’ve been reading you for a long time. I have my own blog, but it’s for invited readers only (basically my mom). Until today. I made it public so I can show the internets what I did with my same fabric bins. [I've been thinking about going public for a while now but it's just so scary. I hope I don't regret this...]


HereWeGoAJen August 23, 2011 at 6:32 pm

Awesome! Thanks for sharing. I thought about doing some like that, but I thought Elizabeth would pull them off.


Hope August 23, 2011 at 4:23 pm

That is such a creative idea–and the final product looks so nice! I want to hear how they are holding up in a few months though . . . :-)


Stacey August 23, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Jen, you are far more creative than I can ever hope to be! Now come to Ohio and create some beautiful items for my home!


Jesabes August 23, 2011 at 6:35 pm

I was hoping this would be something I could do to label our bins, but that’s a lot of work. Can you come do it for me?


HereWeGoAJen August 24, 2011 at 7:22 am

It wasn’t actually as much work as it looks like. I did it in about two hours.


Meghan August 24, 2011 at 6:53 am

I’m so I impressed. I get ideas but have zero follow thru. Not only did you think of something clever and did it but it looks great too!!


HereWeGoAJen August 24, 2011 at 7:24 am

Elizabeth’s favorite part was that every toy she owns was on the floor while I was working on it. And since I painted one night and then did the ribbon the next night, she got to keep all her toys out for two days. She cried when it was time to clean up.


Danifred August 24, 2011 at 9:38 am

I desperately need to get a good labeling system down. I might just have to try this!


Life of a Doctor's Wife August 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

This whole chalkboard paint thing is pretty amazing. And you’ve opened my eyes to alternate possibilities!


leanne August 24, 2011 at 10:05 am

I’m with Stacey — can you come to my house and work your wonders? I’ll help — I just need creative ideas (oh, and your organizational skills). I only seem to have those at work.


Trish August 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm

love this idea!


Emby August 26, 2011 at 7:27 pm

I love that idea! Did you stick a piece of paper or posterboard between the layers so you didn’t end up with paint inside the bins? Or was it so thick you didn’t have to worry about that? I also would like to hear how they are holding up after a few months. Also, how does everything end up on the right bin since Elizabeth is too young to read yet?


HereWeGoAJen August 26, 2011 at 7:35 pm

No, they were so thick I didn’t have to worry about paint inside the bins. I think they have cardboard inside the fabric to make them stiff.

The labels aren’t really for Elizabeth or me. The two of us already knew where everything went. The labels are mostly for people who come over to play and then try and clean up before they leave. Other moms really. When Elizabeth gets a little older and has older friends, I will probably draw little pictures on the labels. But for now, it is mostly moms cleaning up.


2fiesty4u September 4, 2012 at 3:46 am

Just an FYI for a quicker solution. Target carries clips specifically for labeling closetmaid fabric drawers. It’s made by RE (Room Essentials) and is called “Set of 4 Bin Clips”. You’ll normally see them right by the fabric drawers. I can’t seem to find on their site, but they are available in store. It looks GREAT!


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