Monday 5 September 2011

The Stencil Option

Making Peaceful Pathways?
Have you considered the stencil option for your verses? Here's how I made mine:

From the pattern, trace the verses on a sheet of freezer paper which has been cut down to size.  With a cutting matt and scalpel, cut away the letters. Keep the letter insides where required and set aside, you will need these to complete your letters when ironing onto the fabric.

When you have cut away all your verses, iron them onto your background fabric. Use a hot iron - no steam, and ensure that all the edges are securely fixed down onto the fabric. You don't want any paint leakage when you begin to stencil.

When all your stencils are ironed to your fabric, it's time to paint the stencils. I have chosen a clear red without blue undertones. You can see the two reds here. As the fabrics I will be using in this quilt are not blue-reds, I have opted for a clear red hue for my verses.

You can stencil with any appropriate acrylic / fabric paint and textile medium, according to the manufacturer's directions. I use Permaset Aqua Fabric Magic. This paint does not require additional textile mediums and is an environmentally friendly textile ink.

The two reds here are: Mid red and Bright Red. The mid red has blue undertones and I have used the Bright Red in this case. These pigments won't fade or wash away and are considered to last as long as commerically printed fabric.

Stenciling is straight forward. The most important step to remember is that your brush should always be a little on the dry side and that it is better to build up colour gradually, remember - you are not painting and your brush should not be heavily coated. Saturating the stencil in colour will result in leaking and smears. Work as dry as you can.

Before painting in the stencil, always work a little product off onto some scrap fabric or paper toweling to blot off any excess paint.

Dab a little onto the freezer paper first, to ensure that it is not too wet. Build up the colour gradually as you work.

Then leave the stencil to dry about 2 minutes, it should be almost dry.

Now gently peel the stencil away from your fabric carefully

Some paints require a curing period of up to several hours prior to heat setting. With Permaset this is not required, so within a few minutes of peeling away the stencil, heat set your paint by ironing over the paint for several minutes with a hot dry iron. Your stencil is now set and is permanent.

Remember to cover the stencil with grease / parchment paper to protect your iron!

Now the stencils are heat set and permanent, it's time to get them into position. In this picture below, you can see the stenciled fabric and the template pattern behind.

DO NOT PRESS your block with the paper behind it from this point on as the graphite may transfer onto your lovely white block!

Using AURIFIL thread (this is a heavier thread used for embroidery), and a plain stitch on my machine, I followed the lines of the template and simply stitched over them. I released the top tension on my machine (because this thread is thicker) and it stitches beautifully without knots or shredding. It's a delight to work with. And I stitched 2 lines very close together to create a thicker line.

I used the printed template as a paper pattern to directly stitch over.

And to achieve this thickness, I actually stitched 2 lines very close together

Now, the inner text is framed in red according to the pattern, which is how I wanted it. You'll notice that I have stitched another line around it in white, following the template. This extra line is for my own personal margins, it shows me where to add a seam allowance to finish this block when I come to set it into the borders.

 For many of us, quilts are personal undertakings, and I am no different. Although I have been stenciling for a few years and am able to cut smooth flowing script, you'll have probably noticed the the text in these blocks is not perfect. However, I believe in the perfection of imperfections and in this case it is a sentimental imperfection for me - this is because I had my DD cut them out for me. I wanted her to do this and as you can see, she has never stenciled before! Therefore, some of the lines are jagged instead of smooth, so they do require some neatening up.

You can go back in with a toothpick and the original pigment ink if there is a larger
gap. You can also use Fabrico or Sharpie or Faber Castell Indian Ink in red or black. Basically, fill in the jagged and missed lines to make it as neat as cursive as possible.

I have not heavily corrected the text lines as I intend to sew over them at the quilting stage.

The red inner line to set the text, the white outer line to mark the boundary and then, I cut inside the last black outline (see template). Always measure twice and cut once and don't cut if you are unsure.

It is not necessary to cut this block down to size yet. I have been generous with allowances on this block as I know many quilters are embroidering and this shrinks the fabric down. My red stitching line didn't pull in, however it is a straight line. If you embroider or zig zag, you will have to test and re-measure. The template gives you 1/8th more.

This finished block measures 6.5 x 8.5inches with seam allowances, ready for setting into the border later.

A note on stenciling:
I used Permaset and the curing / iron times apply to this pigment only.
I have previously used and can recommend Jo Sonja Artist Paints and Textile Medium
There are lots of new products on the market, including paint stitcks, fabric fast pencils and crayons that will work just as well. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Stenciling is not a new technique, it is an old fashioned heirloom technique that is present in some of the oldest known quilts. It's definitely a method worth trying. If you are interested, why not try stenciling my Tulip Delight Table Runner - (on the sidebar) I have this project on offer for free.

Why not give it a go?


  1. Thank You so much, it came out so clean and crisp. Love perfect word.

  2. Thanks Esther for this wonderful lesson on stenciling. I have never done this type of work before and now hav great tut to keep in my file. One day I will try it. Hugs Bunny

  3. YAY!! Bless your heart, I was thinking of using crayon or fabric paint instead of embroidering and this looks like something I just have to try!! Thank you so much!!

  4. Wonderful post! I will look for that paint.

  5. I have been looking forward to seeing your stenciling blog post since you mentioned it was coming. After falling in love with all the machine embroidered examples in the yahoo group, I had started talking to a friend about bartering for some machine embroidered blocks ... but the stenciling option is much more "me" I think. Thanks for suggesting it and for the clear how-to directions.

  6. I had never thought of stenciling on a quilt, but what a perfect place to start doing that. Thank you for a great tut.


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