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Stenciling And Crayon Painting

( Originally Published 1932 )

STENCILING and crayon printing are so closely allied as to process and results that the writer feels they should be treated in the same chapter, although the steps of each will be discussed separately. Both are methods of transferring designs or patterns to plain surfaces, such as cloth, paper, or wood.


The process of "stenciling" is so called because the work is accomplished by use of a "stencil." This consists of a piece of metal, paper, or cardboard perforated or cut with a design which is imprinted on the surface beneath it by painting over the stencil.

Beautiful wall hangings, costumes, Christmas cards, table runners, scarfs, place cards, and pillow covers can be made by this process. The work is not difficult in any way, the expense trivial, and the opportunity for individual expression through creating one's own designs is unlimited.

Let us make a wall hanging, and by careful study of each step, learn this fascinating craft. We must choose a simple design to begin with, as the knack of stencil cutting, while not difficult, comes only with practice. Draw the design on a sheet of thin paper. This must be exactly the size you wish it to appear on the hanging. Our next step in the work is to trace this on the stencil paper. While stencils may be made of paper or metal, it is best for the beginner to obtain regular stencil paper. This is specially prepared with an oiled surface, and can be purchased from any art supply store. Ask for "stencil paper."

Such a surface prevents the color from "running," and as blurred edges will ruin the beauty of a design, this is an important factor. Ready-cut stencils can also be bought, but they are expensive and half the pleasure of the work is lost when the creating of one's own design is eliminated.

The design is now traced on the stencil paper with the aid of ordinary typewriter carbon paper. Care-fully trace the entire outline of the design with a sharp pencil. The stencil is now cut. This means re-moving the paper inside the design by cutting along its outline.

If you should draw a square on a piece of paper, cut along the four sides of the square and remove the piece, a square hole would result. The paper with the hole could then be called a stencil. By placing it over a plain cloth, applying paint to the hole and then removing it, a square of solid color would show on the cloth. This explains the entire process of stenciling.

Stencils may be cut with an ordinary razor, but a stencil knife, is recommended. Pin the paper securely to a drawing board or some other equally smooth surface. Holding the knife as you would a pencil, cut slowly along the out-line. Pressure should be applied, so that the paper will be cut through without retracing. Great care must be taken when doing this, as a single slip off the outline might ruin the stencil. Much of the success of the finished work depends upon the sharpness with which the design is cut. A dull knife or razor will leave ragged edges resulting in blurred outlines and clogged corners when the color is applied to the stencil.

When the stencil has been cut, preparations are made for painting. Linen and cotton materials of medium or heavy texture are best to work with, rather than light-weight silks such as chiffon and georgette crÍpe. Unbleached muslin is particularly well adapted to this process. The material should be ironed out before being stenciled. Lay it flat on the drawing board or table, and fasten it down with thumb tacks. The stencil is now placed in position on the fabric. Fasten the top of the stencil with thumb tacks, but leave it free at the bottom. This is done to enable the worker to lift the stencil occasionally to check her progress without running the risk of shifting its position on the cloth. Such a shift would prove disastrous when the stenciling is continued.

Stencil brushes can be purchased in various sizes from any art supply store. They are made specially for this work. A stencil brush is round, flat-topped, and contains stiff bristles. Some have short stubby handles, while others are fitted with the usual long ones. The stenciler should test each when making her choice, and purchase the type she can handle with the least difficulty.

Ordinary oil colors, printer's ink, or specially pre-pared stencil paint may be used. The latter is recommended for beginners as it comes already mixed. However, oil colors or printer's ink serve splendidly if diluted to a proper consistency with a good thinner, which is known as a "medium." Mediums the writer recommends are H. P. Indelible Mixture, Stencil Mordant, or Permanent Mixture.

No steadfast rule can be applied for obtaining the exact consistency best for stenciling, as the texture of the fabric and the color used must be taken into consideration. Because of this, the old rule of trial and error must be applied.

Let us use a piece of glass as a mixing board. Squeeze a little of the color on the glass. Pour a few drops of the medium next to it, and mix a small amount of the color with it. When it appears to have about the right consistency, test it on a scrap of the same material you intend to decorate.

If the paint has a tendency to crack when dry, it indicates too thick a mixture. If it runs under the stencil, the paint is too thin. The problem of the stenciler is to strike a happy medium between these two conditions.

Do not mix more than a brushful of the paint at a time, as the medium dries quickly, and large mixtures are apt to be too thin. The glass serves as a good de-vice for testing the paint, for if it shows the slightest tendency to run on the glass, it is too thin for stenciling.

With the stencil in place on our fabric, the paint mixed, and the brush handy, we are ready to apply our paint. This is done by holding the brush in an upright position and dabbing the design with short, hard strokes. Such a motion is called "stippling." Do not overload the brush with paint, as this will cause it to smear and possibly creep under the stencil. If handled properly, the flat top of the brush will strike the material with the ends of all its bristles. Do not use a painting or scrubbing motion, as either are liable to move the edges of the stencil and result in a blurred outline.

When the entire design has been filled with color, a careful survey of the work should be made by lifting the stencil- from the bottom. See that all corners are filled out, and that the outline of the design is clear and sharp.

When these points have been checked, the stencil is carefully removed from the material. It is now placed in its next position. Care must be taken to see that it is on a straight line with the design just finished, and that there is correct spacing between them. When the stencil has been secured with the tacks, the process is repeated.

Regular stencil paints allow the material to be safely washed, but many other paints will run when washed, and if such have been used, the fabric should be treated as follows to prevent this fault: hold the material in the steam of a kettle for a few minutes just after the paint has been applied. It may then be washed without fear of the colors running.

This completes the stenciling process.

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