Friday, August 23, 2013

How to Make a Stencil with Freezer Paper

Crafting, in many forms, is something about which I am passionate. I feel so very blessed to live in a world of many beautiful and wonderful things. Arts and crafts is one of them.. One of my favorite things is creating and transferring images onto all sorts of materials.

When something inspires me, I sometimes create a stencil to carry that idea over onto a project. I like to take a picture of something, a statue or nick-knack around the house and  enlarge,shrink or otherwise manipulate it to use in making stencils and for other methods of transferring, such as using solvents and using gel medium. More than once (way more than once), my husband has walked into a room and seen me taking a picture of something, like a miniature replica of the Eiffel Tower, and given me that "she has lost her mind" look. You would think he would be used to it by now.

By the way, graphics can also be found at various sites and blogs, such as . The Graphics Fairy has thousands of great graphics and images, of all kind. There are also tons of great tutorials and ideas for using the images to make your own creations at this site. It has been a favorite of mine for years and I really love visiting Karen's website and blog! Seriously, people, if you have never visited there, you are missing out.

In this post, I am going to tell you about an easy way to make a stencil, using any simple design graphic and freezer paper. I hope to inspire you by showing you how fun and simple it can be to make and use this type of stencil. Some of you might already have most of the materials and tools on hand and, if not, they are all pretty easy to find.

The graphic I used to create the project featured in this post, a dish/hand towel, was inspired by a kitchen rug I purchased  several of years ago. The rug wore out from a lot of use but I had taken a picture of a small portion of it. With the photo as a reference, I drew the rooster. It is not exactly like the image that was on the rug, and certainly not perfect, but I was able to create a somewhat similar image. Using a program I had on my old computer (Print Shop), I filled the image with black "paint" to create a silhouette. Sad to say, that program does not work on my current computer. It is too bad, because I used it constantly. I have used this same graphic with various methods of image transfers, over the past several years.

Since French Country design is particularly appealing to me, I feel the rooster or "coq" is perfect for so many applications. It is also great for any other Country or Farm House decor. This is the project:

For the sake of convenience, here is a list of the things for the project:
  • A Flour Sack or Other Towel With a Smooth, Flat Surface
  • Graphic to be Used for Stencil Design
  • Fabric Paint (I use Speedball Screen Printing Paints) This Can be Found at Many Craft Stores. I Purchase  from Our Local Hobby Lobby
  • A Medium Sized Stenciling Paint Brush
  • Popcicle Stick or Something with Which to Stir Your Paint
  • Paper Plate or Anything to Use as a Paint Palette
  • Paper Towels or Old Rag
  • Cutting Board to Place Under the Stencil when Cutting (if Using Craft Knife)
  • Fine-tipped Ball-point Pen
  • Exacto or Craft Knife with Very Sharp Blade or Very Small Sharp Scissors
  • Piece of Aluminum Foil or Piece of Cardboard 
  • Freezer Paper. This Can Usually be Found at the Supermarket in the Same Area as Waxed Paper and Aluminum Foil
  • Iron & Ironing Board                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   I know this looks like a lot of stuff, but you probably have many of the things already.                                     Here are pictures of some, but not all, the things needed to complete the project:                                                                                                              
    Speedball Screen Printing Paints
    Graphic or Picture to be Used to Design Stencil, Freezer Paper, Ball-Point Pen, Craft Knife, Stencil Brush, Paper Towels, Paint(s) and Paint Stirring Stick. All sitting on Top of Large Wooden Cutting Board.

    Flour Sacks Purchased From Walmart in a 5-Pack

    Step 1: Cut a piece of the freezer paper an inch or two larger, on every side, than the graphic being used to design the stencil. Note: A sheet of printer paper or cardstock can be used as a guide when cutting the piece of freezer paper. This will help to keep the outside edges of the freezer paper straight and, as I will point out later, make an easier job of folding the stencil and centering your work during the cutting, adhering and painting process. Word of Hard Learned Wisdom: The reason that the freezer paper should be cut larger than the actual dimensions of the graphic is that paint will be applied right up to and over the edges of  the stencil's design. Allowing enough room around the edges of the stencil when it is cut out of the freezer paper will ensure that masking tape or painter's tape will not be necessary after the stencil is ironed on to the towel. This way, paint that spills over the cut sides of the stencil (a given when stenciling) will not get on to other areas of your towel and ruin your project. 

    Step 2: Place the graphic, right side up, onto your cutting board or whatever is being used to protect the table or work surface. 

    Step 3: Center the piece of freezer paper on top of the graphic. The image should be visible through the freezer paper so that it can be traced, all the way around the image, and onto the mat or dull side of the freezer paper. A light box, if one is available, would be handy to use here. The image and freezer paper could also be placed on the pane of a window with light shining through. Since the graphic I used is black, it is easily seen through the freezer paper. This is a close-up photo of the image after being placed under the freezer paper: 
     My original graphic, as you can see in the picture above, included some ground area below and around the rooster's feet, but I left that part out of the design when cutting the featured stencil. Remember, I wanted to keep the image simple, so I could use one continuous line around the rooster. 

    Step 4: Use the ball-point pen to trace the graphic onto the freezer paper. Like this:

    Step 5: Remove the graphic from under the freezer paper.

    Step 6: Place the freezer paper, with traced image, onto your cutting board or other protective surface to begin the process of cutting the stencil. 

    Step 7: Using the craft knife, begin to carefully cut around the tracing lines of your design. Like this:

    Note: A small and very sharp pair of scissors could also be used to cut the stencil. Just make sure to cut slowly and carefully, whatever tool is used.

    The finished stencil should look something like this:

    Step 8: Take the project (in this case a flour sack) to the ironing board. At this point in the process, give the fabric a good pressing, blocking the piece to make it as straight as possible. Since the flour sack is shaped, more or less like a square, I perform the following steps.

    ** Fold the piece in half, one direction, press, then open back up.
    **Fold in half in the other direction and press. 
    **Open the piece back up. It should look something like this:

    This picture illustrates the creases lightly ironed into the towel to denote the center of the towel. The stencil will be placed on the bottom half and centered across the crease which denotes the center of the bottom half.

    Step 9:  Align the stencil with the center crease line on the bottom half of the towel. At this point, it will be very helpful to lightly fold the freezer paper stencil to form a vertical crease. It seems like extra work, I know, but it ensures that the graphic will be straight and centered on the bottom of the towel. It will look much nicer in the end. Once the area for placement is established, with the shiny or waxed side of the stencil facing the top of the towel, it is time for the next step. Here is a picture of the process. Look closely and you can see how the vertical fold in the middle of the towel lines up with the vertical fold you made in the freezer paper stencil:
    This picture of the Stencil, Having Been Placed on Top of the Bottom Half of the Towel. This Illustrates How the Crease Lines Assist in Centering up The Graphic on the Towel

    Step 10: Now that the stencil has been placed shiny, waxed side down and aligned on your towel in a pleasing manner, it is time to begin ironing the stencil. Using a DRY iron(no steam) carefully press the entire stencil on to the front of the towel. It will begin to stick to the towel. Pay close attention to small areas(in this case the roosters claws, comb and hanging feathers). Press the entire stencil,  including the edges around the cut out portion. This is the "adhering"  process referred to earlier in this post. In other words, this is the moment when the stencil is actually forming a temporary bond with the fabric. When the stencil is bonded to the towel and there are no gaps or areas that are not securely stuck to the fabric, it is time to start painting.

    Step 11: Move the towel, completely opened and flat, with its attached stencil back over to the work surface to begin the painting process. I placed a piece of aluminum foil on top of my cutting board to keep paint from seeping through and getting onto the cutting board. I placed my towel with stencil onto the foil-covered cutting board. Using something like foil or cardboard to protect your work surface would be wise. 

    To begin painting, place a small mound of paint onto a paper plate or whatever is to be used as a palette. Holding the stencil brush in a vertical position, straight up and down, dip the flat end of the bristles into the paint. It is best when painting with a stencil to apply two or three light coats, rather than one heavy coat.  Remove a bit of the paint, each time you dip it into the paint, by lightly pouncing it (holding the brush straight up and down) onto a paper towel or, as I did, onto the edge of the paper plate, as illustrated here:
    Applying Paint to Stencil Brush and Holding Brush Straight Up and Down and Using a Light Pouncing Motion to Remove Some of the Paint from the Brush Before Applying Paint to Project

    Use this same straight up and down and gentle "pouncing" motion to apply the paint to the stencil. Apply the paint in light layers until the desired coverage is achieved, usually two or three light coats. Make sure that paint covers along all the edges, so that the finished product will have a "crisp" looking appearance. After completely covering the open area of the stencil (the design area) it should look something like mine (a big glob) in this picture:
    Stencil After a Couple of Light Coats of Paint were Applied. This  Illustrates the Importance of Leaving an Inch or Two Around the Outsides of the Stencil to Avoid Having Paint on Areas that are Not to be Painted.

    To avoid any unnecessary messes, wait a few minutes for the paint to dry. Meantime, make sure to check hands and fingers to make sure they have not picked up any paint during the process.Wipe or wash them off. As stated earlier, it is no fun to ruin a perfectly good project with inadvertent paint smears. Believe me, I know all about that!

    Now, for the moment of truth. The big reveal! Starting at one corner, slowly begin to peel back the freezer paper from the towel to see the lovely painted image. Here we go:
    Peeling off the Freezer Paper Stencil to Reveal the Finished Painting

    Peeling a Little More

    After removing all of the stencil and allowing the paint to dry completely (overnight in this case) it is a good idea to heat set the design with a dry, hot iron, as I did. After heat setting my towel, it was laundered and ironed. The towel has now been laundered, pressed and folded.  This picture gives a better idea as to how the design was placed on the bottom/middle portion of the towel.
    Towel After Having Been Laundered, Pressed and Folded. See How the Design is on the Bottom/Middle Half of the Towel?

    The following picture is how the towel will look when it hangs over a towel bar or rack, with only the front side visible.

    Laundered and Pressed French Country Rooster Towel
    Pretty Country French, n'est pas? Go ahead. Give it a whirl. It is great fun and it will surely give you something to crow about!

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