Thursday, July 21, 2011

DIY Stencil Tutorial

As you can probably tell, there is no rhyme or reason for my blog posts at this schedule, posts are anachronistic (yep, I learned that one this summer with my students in our ACT word of the day challenge.  Go ahead, look it up.  You know you want to.) and chosen by no apparent theme.  But that's life right now, being torn in 80 directions because I have so many things I'm interested and would love to do or make, but not enough time in the day to make it happen.  Instead I end up with partially finished projects, before I get too busy or distracted by something else.  Tomorrow is the last day of my summer job, which means that I'll have four full weeks off before school starts.  Even with our vacation and weddings to attend, I should be able to have relaxation time AND project time!  My plan for August is to finish lots of projects.  Finishing should be the best part, right?  Those little touches that take it from decent to great?  Like filling nail holes, caulking and painting baseboards?  Too bad that by the time I get to that point I'm sick of the project.  But, back to my goal:  finish.

For today, however, I simply browsed through iPhoto and found a project I have pictures of, but haven't written about yet.  The lucky winner?  Stencils!

Almost two years ago, right after Dylan bought this house, I made window coverings on my new (well, new to me, but handed down from my grandmother) sewing machine.  I had some experience sewing, but had never tried to make a roman shade before.  I looked up several tutorials, and the dining room window was the first one to be given it's very own, custom-made roman shade (say it out rhymes!).  But after making three more for the living room and one for a bathroom, my first efforts were no longer something I was impressed by.  Over time my method improved, my measurements became more precise and accurate, and I developed a different way of creating a roman shade.  Unfortunately, that is not what this post is about (because I totally forgot to take pictures!).  This post is about how I took $1.50/yd white fabric from Walmart and made a geometric patterned roman shade.

  • plastic pocket folder (don't get the 3 prong kind)
  • craft paint
  • cheap craft roller (mine was $.50 at Walmart and has helped on two projects)
  • time and patience
  • spray adhesive (I used the Elmer's brand)
  • pattern for stencil
  • exacto knife
  • plastic cutting board
First I found a few patterns online that I liked and printed them off at a size I thought would be good.  I cut off the pockets on the plastic folder, laid it out flat, and used packing tape on both sides to cover the holes.  I taped the pattern to the plastic, and used an exacto knife to cut out the stencil.  I didn't take pictures the first time around when I made the Moroccan pattern for the curtain, so some of the pictures below show a zig-zag stencil I made later.  A bit of advice before you begin cutting:
  1. Make sure you think through your design what part will be painted and whatnot because you may need to leave connectors strips that you'll later have to paint in with a paintbrush.  In the example below (the second stencil I made) I ended up cutting out about half of the connector pieces because the stencil was strong enough without, but I wanted to make sure.
  2. Before putting the blade to the folder, "x" out the area's that you want to cut out, because it's much easier to do this at the beginning than later when you're in the midst of your project and realize that you've screwed up.
  3. Leave at least an inch or two around the border, or you may have to tape around the edge to keep your stencil together.
Once your stencil is cut out, you are ready to start painting!  I did this the next day, because as much fun as I had on this project, it did take some time.  I bought a large bottle of brown craft paint (I don't remember the name) at Walmart and a smaller white bottle, because I wanted it a bit lighter.  I had to mix paint several times, and just guessed at the ratio, but I think it turned out looking pretty consistent.  I mixed the paint on a paper plate, gave the back of the stencil a quick spray with the Elmer's adhesive spray (put newspapers below to protect from over-spray and be warned that this is stinky stuff!), stuck it to the middle of the curtain (I made it ahead of time so that the thread and everything would be painted for a seamless look), and used my roller to lightly roll over the stencil.  I was really careful the first time around, but I quickly learned that the stencil and spray glue combination was tough against the fabric bleeding under, so I could just go to town rolling.  The few places this occurred I just blended it in with an artist's paint brush we had on hand.
When I had to move the stencil I gave it a couple of minutes to dry before I moved it and rolled again, but I was kept busy painting in the areas that I had to leave for the structural integrity of the stencil but really wanted to be painted.  It didn't take long and it was actually very soothing to be working with my hands.  It didn't hurt that I was also watching the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice (for probably the 15th time, at least).
As you can see, the outcome wasn't perfect, so if you're super obsessed, this may not be the route for you.  As much as I like perfection and staying inside the lines, it's the imperfect parts of this shade that make me like it more, because I made it from scratch and it has more personality than if I had used store-bought shade or even store-bought facbric (well, store-bought pattern, I guess...I certainly did not make the fabric!).

I let it dry overnight, and the following day inserted the dowel rods into the pockets I had sewn into the back before stenciling, stapled it to the 1x2 board, and screwed it into the wall.  While it can be a bit over powering when the shade is down (we have huge windows!), I still like it, and it's usually up anyway.  Here's a finished picture (sorry for the low quality.  These pics are all old...since taking these, I made up my mind that I was going to become decent at photography, so I'm slowly stepping up my game, turning off the flash, and turning it to manual mode).
Do you see how great the pattern looks when the blind it up?  It is perfectly centered!  Lucky coincidence.  I doubt I could have done that if I'd tried!  It's been several months since this project, and I still feel good every time I see my new shade!  Maybe I'll have to do a tutorial on making roman shades soon...