I think I mentioned last week that I’m always a little stumped when it comes to holiday-themed posts, since a) I’m not much of a baker and b) my family celebrates Chanukah. Chanukah is fun to celebrate, for sure, but we don’t really go all-out in the decorations department.
When A was a baby, I found a onesie at Target that said “2012 Dreidel Champion” – I was so excited to find a cute Chanukah-specific clothing item! Miss P had a Carter’s shirt with a menorah on it one year, and when I was looking for one for my nephew this year, all I found at Carter’s was one that said “My First Hanukkah” with a little Star of David on it. It’s cute, but a bit bland. I do a lot of freezer-paper stenciling to embellish shirts for my kiddos, so I thought I’d share a couple of Chanukah-themed shirts that I’ve been working on. I made a post on my personal Facebook page to solicit suggestions from friends, and one idea that got a lot of love was to play on the challenge of spelling Chanukah/Hanukkah. The fact that there are two accepted spellings makes it even more difficult to remember which variations are correct and which ones aren’t. One of my closest childhood friends suggested this one, and I love it.
If you’re an old pro when it comes to freezer paper stenciling, you can download the free pdf with sample Chanukah stencils (here) and have fun! If you’d like some more details about how to make these shirts, read on. 🙂 The Internet is chock full of great freezer paper stenciling ideas and tutorials (and there are tons of free stencils to be found, too!) – one of the most frequently cited seems to be this one from Dana at MADE. I like this one from Disney at Ruffles and Stuff, also.
You don’t need too many special supplies to do stencils this way, and they’re pretty inexpensive too. For the holidays last year, my daughter came up with a few ideas for stencils and we made shirts together to give as gifts – she had a great time doing it and it was a great project to get her involved in the gift-giving process. Freezer paper can be purchased on a roll in most grocery stores, and can be found on the shelves next to aluminum foil and parchment paper. It has a shiny side and a matte side, and the shiny side can be ironed onto fabric – it will stay in place well so your stencil doesn’t shift, and can be removed without marking or damaging your fabric. (Some people like to trace their patterns onto freezer paper, so they can just iron the pattern piece onto their fabric, cut out the piece, and remove the freezer paper template.)
Print out your stencils – you can download the Chanukah-themed stencils I drafted for this tutorial at Amy’s Craftsy site HERE, or you can just print out any image that you find. I’ve used everything from fun fonts and wingdings (I’ve downloaded a bunch of fantastic free fonts from dafont.com) to pictures from my kids’ coloring books to pumpkin stencils. You can also hand sketch your stencils if you’re artistic – I find I tend to be more crafty than artsy these days, but I’ve sketched stencils on occasion that have worked out fine.
Place your freezer paper SHINY SIDE DOWN onto your stencil template, and use a pencil to lightly trace the image.
You’ll need a small, sharp pair of scissors or an Exacto knife (with a cutting mat underneath) to cut out your image. I like to use the Bumblebee scissors that I picked up at Michaels ages ago, but any small paper scissors should do. If you’re going to be hand-cutting your images, make sure to save all of the tiny pieces inside the letters (as in the “a” in Nana) to iron back in when you place your stencil onto your fabric.
NOTE: Lately I’ve been using my Silhouette Cameo to cut stencils, by reversing the image in Silhouette Studio and placing the freezer paper with the shiny side UP onto the cutting mat. If you’d like to do that with these stencils, you’ll need to convert the pdf file to a format that is recognized by the Silhouette software. (Here’s how I did this: I took a snapshot of the stencil I wanted – found under the edit tab in Adobe Reader – and pasted it into Microsoft Paint. Then I saved as a .bmp file with high resolution and opened in Silhouette Studio. I traced the outline of the stencil shape with the high pass filter cranked way up, reversed my image and sized accordingly, and then cut as per program settings and instructions.)
You’ll need a clean, dry iron to adhere your stencil to your fabric. I usually put it on the cotton setting, which is pretty high heat – you’ll only need to press for a couple of seconds to adhere the freezer paper to your fabric. I like to use the tip of my iron to press into all of the edges of the stencil to make sure all of those little corners are pressed down well.
For painting, I like to use the basic 1″ foam brushes from the craft store, and keep a small variety of paintbrushes on hand as well. I often need to touch up my paint job a little bit when the stencil is removed, and I usually use a small, fine paintbrush for that. I use the Tulip brand Soft Fabric Paint from my local craft store, though I’ve also heard great things about the paints from Dharma Trading (which can be found here). I keep a few pieces of cardboard or cardstock to slip inside the item I’m stenciling in case any paint seeps through, and a smock if one of my kids is helping me paint. 😉
You’ll want to spread a very thin layer of paint over your stencil, being careful not to pull up any of the edges of the freezer paper. I find it easiest to just use the foam brush to gently dab the paint onto the shapes, and then carefully just brush downward to smooth out the bubbles. If you let the paint partially dry (this paint will usually be at least somewhat dry to the touch in about 1-2 hours), you can see if you’ll need another coat or two. If you’re using a light color on a darker fabric, you’ll definitely want to build your paint coverage gradually, using several thin layers.
A note about fabric choice – I’ve used freezer paper stenciling on a variety of knit fabrics, and have found that cotton jersey and cotton interlock seem to take the paint the best (and the most smoothly). A rib knit or fabric that stretches a lot (like cotton lycra) can distort your image and you’ll likely see some cracks in the paint as the fabric stretches as well. I like to use premade shirts for these – Old Navy, H&M, Target, and Carter’s all have shirts that I’ve used successfully. I also like using cotton interlock fabric and just cutting my pattern pieces before I apply the stencil. I used interlock from Hancock’s Fabrics for the “latke” shirts shown in this tutorial, and it is really nice and thick and takes the paint well.
Once the paint has set after a few hours you can carefully peel off the paper. This is the most fun part for me – it’s awesome to see how your design developed. Keep a fine-tipped paintbrush nearby so you can touch up any stray marks or fill in any places that need a little extra paint. You can also use the paintbrush to hand paint any additional details, like the “x”s that I used here to cross out the Hanukkah misspellings. (I’m including the shirt sizes with the photos below, so you can get an idea of the scale of the stencils as designed. You may want to adjust the images larger or smaller depending on the size of your garment.)
The blue paint I used for the “Shalom” onesie (the word “Shalom” is Hebrew for peace) has a shimmery finish to it, which adds nice texture to the design. For the Mommy shirt, I painted a thin coat of gold glitter on top of the heart to add a little texture to that one. For similar shirts, I’ve cut a small heart out of fabric and appliqued it to the shirt – mixed media designs are some of my favorites.
Let the painted fabric sit at least overnight to completely dry and follow the paint manufacturer’s instructions for setting the paint, if necessary. Some paints need to be heat set either with an iron or in the clothes dryer, so you’ll want to make sure to do that before the garment is worn.
Freezer paper stenciling is a great afternoon project that can be done inexpensively and makes a nice, personalized gift. I like doing them with my kids’ names since they have uncommon names that aren’t likely to be found in any gift shop items. And like I mentioned before, they’re an easy enough project that kids can participate in with your supervision. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do – make sure to join the Peekaboo Patterns group on Facebook and show us what you come up with!