Creative environments - Stencil it

February 14, 2009|By ROSEMARY SADEZ FRIEDMANN / Scripps Howard News Service

Can't find the right colors and patterns for your bedroom sheets, blankets and window treatments? No problem. Buy solid-color sheets, blankets and treatments, and stencil your way to coordination.

Actually, you don't have to stop with fabrics. You can do furniture, walls, floors and accessories. You can go stencil-crazy if you'd like because there's virtually no surface that won't take to some form of stencil paint.

Probably the easiest thing to stencil is fabric because you can lay it on a table and sit comfortably to do your magic. With walls, you might need to climb ladders; with floors, you might need to get into awkward positions. So taking the easy one first, let's talk a bit about how to stencil fabric.

To begin with, the paint you need is called textile paint. It is water-based, which means easy cleanup. So far, so good. Now the key to successful stenciling on fabric is the "dry-brush" rule. When you apply paint to the brush, it should seem to you that the brush is practically dry. More than "practically dry" will soak the fabric and bleed. The best fabrics for this project are cottons, muslins and synthetic blends. Wools or other nubby fabrics do not lend themselves well to stenciling because it is hard to stencil smoothly on such surfaces.


Once you've created your masterpiece, the textile paint will adhere permanently to the fabric wash after wash. Also, when you are done, simply wash all the supplies, your hands and anything else that the paint might have splattered on, with soap and water -- and, abracadabra, it disappears.

Stenciled-fabric projects can be a real ongoing thing. Stencil several changes of sheets for your linen wardrobe. Stencil various throw pillows for added oomph in your living room or den. Stenciling clothes can be a great idea for that personalized gift.

Next on the easy-to-stencil list are accessories. A purely utilitarian wooden storage box can become a conversation piece when you stencil it. Heck, if you don't have a wooden box, go out and buy one or a few, because they're so much fun to stencil. Buy pinewood because it is perfect for stenciling. Unfinished wood is the best, but if it has a glossy finish, simply apply mineral spirits and sand lightly to get it down to the raw wood. Once you've stenciled, spray it with a light varnish for protection.

After you've tackled the little boxes, you can promote yourself to bigger and better items such as furniture. Here, again, pine is best, but any wood will welcome stenciling. If the wood is unfinished, follow the same procedure as for the unfinished wood boxes. If you want to paint the furniture first, for a background color or to refurbish an old piece, sand the wood before stenciling it and apply two coats of flat, oil-based paint. Allow each coat to dry thoroughly, about 24 hours, sanding lightly between coats. You will need to use Japan paint, as opposed to textile paint. Japan paint is oil-based and requires turpentine to adjust the consistency and for cleanup.

Just think, if you take an old hope chest and refurbish and stencil it, you can create an heirloom for your daughter or granddaughter to pass on. And isn't that what memories are made of?

Rosemary Sadez Friedmann, an interior designer in Naples, Fla., is author of "Mystery of Color." For design inquiries, write to Rosemary at

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