I love this faux silk-screening project that can be done with kids from Amanda Blake Soule’s terrific book, The Creative Family (Trumpeter, 2008). Freezer paper, a paper with one waxy side (also called “butcher paper”), is readily and economically available in most large grocery stores across the country and can also be found at some craft supply stores. (If you cannot find it locally, try searching for “freezer paper sheets” online or at quilting shops.) From the little ones creating the images to be stenciled to Mama and Papa cutting out the stencil, the result of this activity could be a “new” wardrobe for everyone. There are plenty of resources online about how to do this and where to find the stencils, but let Soule share with you the method that has worked best for her family:
What You’ll Need
• Sheets of freezer paper
• Fabric paint
• X-acto knife (for parents’ use only!)
• Self-healing mat or cardboard
• Stencil paintbrush (or a regular one)
• Silhouette image or shape to stencil
• Iron (again, for parents’ use only)
• Curved manicure scissors for rounded images (helpful but not necessary)
1. Choose a fabric. The freezer-paper stencil can be done on any fabric; however, fabric high in polyester fiber might be a bit more challenging than cottons. We’ve done a lot of tote bags, as well as lots of T-shirts-either new, thrifted, or old (with the stencils conveniently placed over the stains).
2. Choose an image. When looking for an image to stencil, think about the outline of the shape. Simple images with little detail, such as stars, flowers, and birds, are best. Some sources for stencils are Google image searches (use stencil and silhouette as keywords), clip art found on your computer or online, stencil books, photographs, drawings, fabric, vintage cutouts and silhouettes, online stencil websites, and your or your child’s own art. Once you’ve selected your image, place the freezer paper over the image to be traced (shiny side down), and trace the outline with a pen.
3. Cut the stencil. This step will need to be done by an adult, as the knives can be very sharp. Place
the freezer paper on cardboard, foam, or a self-healing mat (used for quilting and collage), and cut the shape out with a craft utility knife (keeping the shiny side of the freezer paper down). A pair of curved manicure scissors works well for curved lines. Be Sure your knife is sharp (the blade should be changed after every few stencils).
4. Set up the stencil. Be sure that your fabric to be stenciled is clean and dry. Iron out any wrinkles. Place an extra piece of freezer paper (the same overall size as your stencil) under the fabric, shiny side up; this will help hold the stencil in place. Put the stencil, shiny side down, where you want it on the fabric. Iron lightly (twenty seconds at most) to “hold” the freezer paper in place.
5. Paint the stencil. Any fabric paint will work for this project, though I do prefer working with a higher quality textile paint, which can be found at your local craft supply store or online. Using a paintbrush (I prefer stencil brushes, which control the paint coverage a bit), and following the manufacturer’s directions, apply an even, single layer of paint to the inside of the cutout area of the stencil.
Once the paint has been applied, let it sit overnight. Do not remove the freezer paper, and try not to move the fabric. Once the stencil is dry (twelve hours or so), you can peel off the freezer paper. At this point, you may use a fine brush to add another layer or more detail to your piece, letting it sit again to dry, if necessary.
Set the stencil according to the directions on your paint. Usually, this involves ironing first the wrong side of the fabric and then the right side over the stencil for thirty seconds each on high heat. You can also heat set by tossing the stenciled article in the dryer for fifteen minutes. Be sure to follow the instructions on your fabric paint for the best results.
It’s a good idea to wash your stenciled fabric by hand the first time. Depending on the fabric, the paint used, or the way it was set, it’s possible to have some bleeding the first time it’s washed. For best results, wash it alone in cold water. After, it can be washed with other laundry.