Friday, 22 March 2013

New Craft: Freezer Paper Stenciling

I finally had a chance to take some time out of my busy schedule to try something new (to me): freezer paper stenciling! I know this isn't new in general -- the technique has been out there for a while -- but I've never tried it. It turns out it's actually quite easy!

For those of you who've never heard of it, it's like making your own screen printed shirts or bags, but without the complicated and pricey supplies and equipment. You're limited only by your own imagination, and maybe the difficulty of your image (really detailed pictures might be tough to do; you'll understand more when I go through the step-by-step).

So when you've got a strong ethnic background and identity like I do (and Paula, too, in fact!), it's fun to find items that let you show your pride. For us, it's anything Finnish! And unfortunately, Finnish items aren't always easily found. So I thought I'd make something for my wee-est munchkin. She loves her Paappa (Grandpa) more than anything, so I decided to make her an "I love Paappa" shirt.

Measuring stencil against shirt.
 To do something like this you'll need:
  • Freezer Paper (normally used to wrap around food for the freezer. It has a waxy, shiny side and a smooth, matte side. It's found on rolls right beside the wax paper, parchment paper and aluminum foil in your local grocery or department store)
  • a stencil idea or pre-made stencil
  • your garment, or fabric for a bag or whatever you plan to make
  • X-acto knife
  • printer
  • iron
  • fabric paint (I used Tulip Soft Matte paint in Grape, and Fashion Fabric Paint in Sapphire Pearl, Bright Green Shiny and Sapphire Sparkle)
  • one or more foam brushes
So the first thing you do is decide on your stencil. Because mine was just text, I made it up using Microsoft Word. But you can use Photoshop or some other design program to create your own, purchase one pre-made, or even use Jack o' Lantern Hallowe'en pumpkin stencils. Now you need to transfer your image to the freezer paper, and you can do this a couple of ways:
You can print directly on the matte side of the freezer paper; or
You can print onto regular paper and trace your image from the regular paper onto the freezer paper.

I chose to attempt to print directly on the freezer paper. I'd seen this on other blogs and it had been done successfully, so I thought, what the heck? I cut a piece of freezer paper into 8 1/2" x 11" size so it would fit in the printer, and I put it in the manual feed tray, ensuring that the printing would happen on the matte side of the paper. This is important. Don't forget this point.

Printing directly on the paper worked okay, except that the paper jammed in the printer right near the end of the print job. Thankfully, my image wasn't affected, and neither was the printer. I think next time I do this, though, I may just print on to normal paper and either trace the design or use the X-acto knife to cut through both layers.

Carefully cutting out the image.
Anyway. Next, you take your handy-dandy X-acto knife and verrrrrrry carefully cut out your stencil. This is where I could see major problems if you have an intricate or detailed image, but YMMV (your mileage may vary). You need to be patient for this part and not rush. You don't want any tears or mis-cuts in the stencil where the paint might leak into places it doesn't belong. Slow and steady wins this race.

Oh, and make sure you're cutting on top of something made to withstand cutting, like a self-healing mat or cutting board. You know, so you don't mark up your furniture. (And no, I didn't do anything like that!)
Little bits! Don't lose 'em!

Don't forget little bits like the insides of your letters (my As and Ps!) Make sure you don't accidentally throw those away. You'll need them later!

Stencil ironed on to shirt.
 Next, you heat up your iron so that it's hot, but dry -- NO steam here! Position your stencil where you want it on the item and gently press. Move the iron around carefully for a few seconds and check your stencil. It should be firmly attached. Be extra careful where you have corners or other spots that you want firmly in place. Don't forget to put your little cut-out pieces where you need them, too. The insides from the As and Ps were finickity because they were so small, so they're not exactly perfectly centered. Oh, well. The 2.5-year-old isn't going to care.

Once you're positive your stencil is securely in place, you can start the fun stuff -- the painting!

I put dollops of paint on a paper plate for easy cleanup, and also because you're not going to be using the paint straight from the bottle.
Using your foam brush(es), dab the paint onto the stencil. I recommend going inward from the edges to avoid the possibility of getting any paint under your stencil and wrecking your image. I used two coats of paint. After this, you let the paint dry. Thoroughly. Trust me, this isn't a place where you want to rush things too quickly.
Waiting for paint to dry is SOOO hard! :P
Once you know your image is completely dry, carefully peel the paper off. You'll initially think it's stuck for good, but I promise you -- peel slowly and gently and it'll come right off. If you're having trouble with the little pieces, a pair of tweezers helps a lot (just don't accidentally poke a hole in your fabric!). Some bloggers suggest using a pressing cloth and a hot iron to set the paint, but I've also read other bloggers who don't bother with this step. I didn't bother with it. The only suggestion would be to make sure your garment is washed inside-out to help the image last as long as possible.

All done! Looks cute, too! :)
And -- tadaa! The finished shirt turned out pretty cool! My only complaint is the the Fashion Fabric Paint was kind of old, so it didn't work as well as I would have liked (any bets on when those letters will start peeling off? 'Cause I'm positive they will, before long...). The matte paint looked the most like a real silkscreen or store-bought shirt, so I'll definitely use more of that in future.

While I had the fabric paint out, I drew some designs on a few pairs of Little Miss' socks that didn't have non-slip stickies on the soles. I'm not sure how well they actually work, because she was still slipping around on our laminate floors while wearing the first pair. Ah, well.

New technique challenge? A success!

1 comment:

Canucks In France said...

Thanks for the great idea! Alex has been making his own "street art" posters and talking about getting some cool new t-shirts. I suggested that he make his own. He's excited, now!