February 20, 2012

How To: Make a Stenciled Pillow

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By Kristin

Long post alert! Yes, its very long and detailed but worth it! 

Whatever will this become? Keep on reading...

Recently I decided to make some pillows as a gift for my mom. But these weren't just any pillows. Nope- no simple, fabric-covered pillows here. I'm talking handmade burlap and plaid slipcovers with images meaningful to my mom: one pillow had a moose and one had a "G" on it (her last name starts with g). Enter Microsoft Word, Google Images, Adobe InDesign, contact paper, and a steady hand with an exacto knife.

When following the directions below, there are basically three major steps to it: making a stencil, stenciling the fabric, and assembling the slip covers. Now hang onto your hats cause here we go!

1. Get the pillows
I wanted to make slipcovers for the pillows so that my mom could easily wash them. Therefore, I could get whatever pillows I wanted (and whatever ones were the cheapest) since they would be covered up by the fabric. I found these light green pillows for $2 each. Not exactly my style (or my mom's) but again, looks didn't matter.

2. Pick out slipcover fabric
I decided that I wanted burlap to be the front of the slipcover with stencil on it. For anyone that has ever worked with burlap, part of the appeal is the texture. However, this texture also means that you can see right through the fabric. To combat this peek-a-boo characteristic, I decided to line the inside of the burlap with plain white cotton that I already had on hand. Burlap can also be a little rough and not very soft on the face  so I used a soft cotton plaid for the back of the slipcover (what good is a pillow if you can't use it while napping?). If a nap was needed, the napper could just flip the pillow over and drift off to happy land. I found this red and green plaid fabric at Joanne Fabrics.

3. Measure and cut slipcover fabric
Once I had my fabric, I measured the width of the pillow.

Then, I added six inches to that measurement (3 inches for each side of the pillow) , and cut the specific dimensions out of the burlap and white cotton. For example, if the pillow was 20 inches across, I measured out a square 26 inches by 26 inches to allow for hemming. Its important to note that for the type of pocket slipcover I made, I left approximately 5 extra inches on each side of the plaid fabric, instead of just 3. It'll become clear as to why I did this in step 5.

4. Create your stencil and paint the fabric
This is where creativity was a must. First, I Googled "moose" and saved a black and white image as a jpeg. Next, I opened the jpeg in Indesign (any graphic design program would work), re-sized it so it would roughly fill up an 8 x 11 inch piece of paper, and printed it off.

Then, I cut out an 8 x 11 inch square of clear contact paper and taped it to a plastic cutting board. I taped the print out of the moose over the contact paper.

Going slowly and carefully,I cut out the moose using an exacto knife. Here's what it looks like mid cut. You can see the moose leg starting to curl up where its been cut.

And here's the moose stencil all cut out, or more accurately, the square of contact paper with the moose cut out of the center. 

Next, I centered the moose stencil over my burlap fabric, peeled away the backing so it stuck to the burlap, and firmly pressed down all the inner edges of the stencil. Once this was done, I began applying black fabric paint (also from Joanne's. $0.50 for a small bottle) with a small foam brush. I made sure to apply an even and thick coat and covered every inch of the open part of the stencil. It won't look like much at this point but just have faith.

Then, I pulled out the big guns, aka my hair dryer. I dried the paint for a good 5 minutes and did a finger test to make sure it was thoroughly dry. Once it was, I slowly peeled back the stencil and did a happy dance once I saw it had worked.

I followed this exact same process to make a "G" stencil and stenciled it onto the second square of burlap. Then I hung the fabric to let it thoroughly dry for a few more hours while I began assembling the slip covers.

5. Assemble the slip cover
In order to make a pocket slipcover, the plaid back fabric had to overlap a bit so the pillow wouldn't easily come out. I cut each plaid square in half and hemmed one side of each half. These hemmed sides would be the exposed edges of the pocket on the back side of the pillow. Its the part where the pillow would be pulled in and out (hence needing a finished edge).

Then, I started to assemble the covers. I assembled the burlap and white cotton fabric by laying the cotton fabric on top of the burlap (good side of the burlap facing away from me), sewed around all four edges, and trimmed any excess fabric.

Next I laid down the two halves of the plaid fabric with the good side facing up (making sure they overlapped in the middle by a few inches) and placed the burlap/cotton square on top of it (stenciled side of the burlap facing down towards the plaid).

I pinned it all together, sewed all four sides, and trimmed off any excess fabric from the edges. Then I turned it inside out (really right side out) and had a complete slipcover: the stenciled burlap was on the front backed by white cotton while the two plaid halves formed the back with an opening in the middle to insert the pillow.

Here's the finished pillows:

Here's a shot of the back. Hopefully you can tell where the two halves of the plaid fabric overlap to form a pocket for the pillow to go into.

Its pretty clear that this was a lot of steps from start to finish but to be honest, this project probably took about 2 hours total. Not bad for custom made pillows that only cost about $8 to make (I only had to buy the plaid fabric, pillows, and fabric paint). Just think of the possibilities! I was so inspired that I then made another pillow for my sister Catie out of some leftover fabric. A different take on the same concept.

Have you guys ever done fabric stencils before? What method did you use?

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