weekend workshop: a crash course in stenciling fabric


my arsenal

garden season is fast approaching, my friends, even here in Zone 5.  add that and my susan khalje camp chanel at the end of the month, and time is slipping by fast.  to mitigate these #firstworldsewingproblems, i dove head-first into a weekend of fabric stenciling to get some fabric ready for construction later this month (and this season) as i get pulled in all kinds of other directions.

to recap:  as part of my SWAP for this year, i’ve found myself completely drawn to knits.  but i can’t have it that easy – the colors and inspirations i am working from demand more!  so i grabbed my trusty alabama chanin books, as well as ms. chanin’s new crafsty class, and decided to go all-in on knits assembled and embellished by hand.  i’m working from a few basic patterns – mostly the AS+D basic T, the “sloppy josephine” from papercut patterns, the copellia from papercut patterns, and a few drape drape knits – and then incoporating ideas and techniques.  it’s definitely been a spaghetti approach so far, and i’m just waiting to see what sticks to the wall (and makes sense) after all of the experimenting.


an example of a wet-painted stencil.

i took a spaghetti approach to my supply shopping as well, buying a lot of different kinds of fabric paint.  natalie chanin uses an airbrush, and after a few experiments, i can see how the predictability and ease of an airbursh would appeal.  for myself, i used mostly two major techniques:  fabric spray paint, both in a plain spray bottle and in a compressor bottle; and a foam stencil brush.


my sample library after an afternoon of stenciling.

i did decide, after a lot of deliberation, to pony up and buy three of the alabama chanin stencils from their supply website.  i had intended to make the stencils by hand and save the money, but then took one look at this (in its 20×30 glory):

Kristina's Rose Stencil Artwork - From Alabama Studio Sewing + Designenvisioned the hours of cutting with an x-acto knife, and decided that those hours were worth the cost of the stencil – as well as the neatness of a laser-cut mylar piece over a hand-cut piece of craft felt.  i also went in for the “all-over bloomers” motif, which is a gorgeous leaf pattern (a one-off of this comes with the alabama stitch book, which made it a great vessel for testing paints and for bastic motifs) and a gorgeous rose.

i totally have major plans for this.

after a quick infatuation with “wet-paint stenciling”, i realized that my compressor bottle of black spray paint was gorgeous but much too thick and heavy for what i was working on.

20130304-104848.jpgand settled in to daubing the paint – the bottle kind and/or the spray bottle kind – over the stencil using my foam stencil brushes.


and then, because i am me, and i cannot help myself, i did an extra layer of stenciling with a little bit of metallic paint in it, because if there is no sparkle there is no point.


my first victim awaits…





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3 Responses to weekend workshop: a crash course in stenciling fabric

  1. Nadine in NC says:

    If you find you enjoy stenciling, please consider making a small investment in a junior wood-burning tool or a stencil cutter. These work very well with the plastic sheets that come in packages of bacon, cleaned of course, or you can purchase sheets specifically made for stencil cutting.. (Even if you don’t eat bacon, you can ask friends or request them on freecycle.) Anyway, you just tape your picture/words to be stenciled under a piece of glass (obtained from a picture frame at the dollar store) and tape the the plastic sheet on top of the glass. It takes a little practice using the tool to get the hang of what parts to cut out and what parts to use as bridges, but with even a little practice you can make fabulous stencils!!!. My 13yo daughter got us started, and we have stenciled all sort of things: walls, fabric, ceramic tiles for trivets, plastics containers, etc. It really is cheap and easy to make your own stencils and you’re no longer limited to stock designs! It can be a very addictive hobby. Just think of all the sparkly designs you could stencil everywhere!

    • puu says:

      that sounds both cleverer and less intimidating than hand-cutting stencils (or paying $$$$ for them, either from alabama chanin or with a laser-cutting service here in NYC)…thanks for the suggestion!

  2. Pingback: WIP: t-shirt, alabama chanin style | puu's door of time

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