Stencils are great for making all kinds of crafts and decor. But what do you do when you can’t find the right stencil for that creative project you have in mind? Make your own! I’ll show you how, using supplies you probably already own.
This project brings all my favorite things together: thrift store diving, paint, and flannel. For just under $10, you can make your own fun Christmas wall art, and you get a great excuse to make a trip to your favorite thrift store!
This will be a two part process, with the first being to prepare your canvas and the second, making and using the stencil. We’ve got several small steps, but don’t be intimidated because each step is easy and doesn’t take too much time.
Part 1: Prepare Your Canvas
First, you need a canvas! I find canvases all the time at my local thrift stores, usually for as low as $1. The uglier the better, because we’re just going to cover it up. Consider these the Ugly Christmas Sweater of crafting. Actually, you don’t really need a whole canvas. What you really need is a frame, so get creative and look for anything you can use.
Next, you need the canvas. I feel like I just said that? What I mean is, you need something to stretch on your ugly canvas frame to make it pretty. In this case, we’re going to use a plaid flannel shirt. Make sure you get a shirt large enough to cut out the shape of your canvases, plus at least 2 inches on each side.
Out of the back of the shirt, cut around the canvases, leaving two inches on each side.
Next, grab your trusty staple gun. If you don’t have one, you should ask for one for Christmas. They’re useful for all sorts of DIY projects! But don’t worry, if you don’t have one, you can definitely use craft glue or hot glue to cover your canvas with flannel. You just won’t be able to stretch it as tight, but that’s OK as long as you glue it down well.
Then stretch your flannel a little to pull it taut over the frame and put a staple in the opposite side, followed by stretching and stapling in the middle of each adjacent side. Think, “North, South, East and West.”
Once you get a staple in each side, check the front to make sure your plaid lines up evenly. This part is kind of tricky when using a pattern as linear as plaid. Try to stretch it evenly, a little at a time, then work your way around the back of the frame, stapling in between the other staples. Check your lines often, and use lots of staples!
If you’re looking for a little more detail on how to stretch fabric for frames or upholstery, check out this post for step by step instructions.
Part 2: Make Your Stencil
As promised, you’ll see how easy it is to make your own stencils, even if you don’t have a fancy cutting machine! You’ll need a printed version of the design you want to use. Feel free to draw your own, or you’re welcome to use mine, just click for the free downloadable PDF of this project. You’ll also need a sharpie, a transparency or stencil blank for each stencil, and a sharp X-Acto or craft knife.
Note: if you’re designing your own stencil, keep in mind that you’ll need to find a way for the stencil to hold together, once all the pieces are cut out. This is why stenciled letters have those funny little lines in them (like the “o”s here), to keep them from becoming gaping holes in the stencil.
First, print out your design. Lay the transparency page or stencil blank on top, and trace with Sharpie. (You can also use card stock if you don’t have any transparent plastic, but you’ll need to print your design on it, since you won’t be able to see through it to trace the design.
Then, using your craft knife or X-Acto, carefully cut out the design you’ve traced or printed. For this, I like to use a special craft knife with a rotating head, to make it easier to follow the curves, but it’s not necessary. Any sharp craft knife will work. Make sure you work on top of a cutting board, so you don’t cut right through your table!
This stencil works in two parts. First, paint the larger outline of the ornament for the background. Then once that’s dry, you’ll use the smaller part to paint the letters. By the way, sorry my ornament kind of looks like a bomb or a wrecking ball. That definitely was not my intent! 😉
Tip: You might find it helpful to place a book under the part of the canvas that you’re stenciling, so the fabric and stencil won’t flex under the weight of your brush, causing blurred lines. (Yikes, what’s happening to my innocent little Christmas project!)
First, lay the large outer part of the stencil on your canvas and paint using your background color. For mine, I chose gold, but first I’m painting a layer of yellow because gold paint tends to be slightly transparent and I think it will show up better with yellow underneath. When the yellow is dry, I’ll simply repeat this step with gold.
If you have any paint bleeding under your stencil, you can touch up later with the background paint color. Just be sure to let this layer dry first.
Stenciling tips: First, use an actual stenciling brush, which this one is not. Stencil brushes look like little round brushes with very flat bottoms, kind of like a stamp. Second, less is more! Dip your brush into the paint, then lightly paint on a piece of scrap paper or a paper plate to remove any larger globs of paint that might seep under the edges of the stencil. Finally, to minimize paint bleeding under the stencil, be sure to dab straight down with the brush, or pull away from the edge of the stencil toward the inside part. Don’t use your brush to push paint underneath the stencil.
These would be a fun alternative to a wreath on your front door, or leaning on a mantle, all decorated for Christmas. And of course, now that you know how to make your own stencils, you can make any design you want, for any time of year!
Now that you’ve got stencils on your mind, check out these other inspiring projects from my creative blogger friends!
Carole @ Garden Up Green
Karen @ To Work with My Hands
Patti @ Garden Matter
Jemma @ At Home with Jemma
Jane @ Grit Antiques