halloween motifs! – freezer paper stenciling (tutorial)

Eventually I would like to do my own screenprinting. Ain’t happening any time soon. In the meantime, I got something that works okay – freezer paper stenciling!

This tutorial is quite specific: when you want to print a simple motif, and are willing to cut a new stencil per motif. This is an easy, low-cost method that usually looks pretty sharp – especially when you add some topstitching. Examples:



Ripslinger, Size 3

OK, so let’s get started. You will need:

1. The fabric you will be stenciling on

2. Fabric paint (regular acrylic paint dries stiff as heck)

3. Wash-away stabilizer (I like Sulky’s Fabri Sticky-Solvy and it’s very useful for lots of different things! NAYY)

4. Thread for topstitching

5. A topstitching needle or large-eye sewing machine needle

A few notes on supplies. For paint, I used the inexpensive Tulip brand for the examples here. I’m quite sure a higher-quality fabric paint would lend a higher-quality result. Please notice; fabric paints often come in different “finishes” (velveteen, matte, pearlescent, etc), so pay attention when you’re shopping.

For topstitching, I generally use two spools and double-thread the needle, instead of topstitching thread which is often annoying. If you only have one spool of the thread, wind two bobbins before starting and use one bobbin up top.

Now as with any new technique, I advise you do a quick practice run. Specifically, you will want to treat the fabric sample exactly as you plan to treat your final garment. If the garment is going to be washed and dried in the machine, then wash and dry the sample in the machine. If the garment is going to be ironed, then iron the sample. My first attempt at the flames shown in the bottom picture (above), I steam-pressed the end result and the paint “puffed” up – not a desirable result. It wasn’t a “puff” paint either – that’s just what it did. Always practice as it will save you time, and give you valuable expertise, to boot.

OK. so first – trace your motif, ideally on to a pattern piece specific to the garment. Shown below: the sleeve hem of a hoodie:

Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial


Using freezer paper (found in most supermarkets), place the paper wax-side down on the motif, and trace. Be as accurate as possible. If you are making this motif in corresponding left-right parts of the garment, make sure to flip the motif, tracing a mirror-image. Taping up the pattern piece and the freezer paper to a window (in the daytime!) makes tracing simple and accurate:

Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial


Now: listen to the sound of my voice, as I did not take pictures for these next crucial steps. Because I am doing this tutorial for free, Ass, so take what you can get. Anyway:

Cut out the freezer paper motif using scissors. Take your time and be accurate.

Using a steam iron, press the freezer paper to the fabric. Wax-side down. The wax will “adhere” to the fabric, making a very nice, accurate stencil.

Paint. This is where practice is helpful. I use a paintbrush and I make sure not to spread the paint too thin while I paint on the fabric. There is no point in me describing this process as practice is the only way to get good at it. The results will also depend on your fabric and paint quailty, as well as the fiber and weave of the fabric.

Let dry – preferably a day. Then, gently, peel away the paper. DAY-UM that shit looks good!

Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial


Now – topstitching. This is easy and yields a great result.

First, on the wrong-side of the work, peel and stick some of that Sulky stabilizer. Yes, you can use non-stick washaway stabilizer or even paper (and tear it away later). Paper is a mess and annoying. But having something under the fabric to stabilize, especially when topstitching a knit, will make the whole business easier:

Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial


Shown below: the motif, wrong-side (left), and right-side (right):

Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial


Ready to stitch! Get your thread and needle. Remember, double-threading the needle is an option if you don’t have or don’t want to use topstitching thread.Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial

Set stitch length to 4.0 mm. You want a long stitch length to look gooooooood. Go slow. Keep your thread ends aside and, when finished, pull them to the back of the work and tie a knot. Use a little fabric glue to secure the knot.

Freezer Paper Stenciling, A Tutorial

Finished – sadly, after the “puffy” ironing betrayal. As a result, I scrapped this entire project (and made a new hoodie). So make sure to test, first!

Ripslinger, Size 3

Any questions?

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