Simple Stencils

When it’s time for an event or special occasion, and I need to make a quick print, then a simple stencil is very quick indeed!

It often happens that I have lots of ideas (thankfully I do record a lot of these in a workbook when inspiration strikes!) but not enough hours in the day to complete. So, as a consequence I’ll use a stencil! It’s also a good way to ‘test’ an idea and have something physical to check the balance; proportion; adjust or even see whether a particular colour works! A good idea before committing to lino which is great as it is much more permanent but also can be more time consuming.

Stencils are generally made from paper, plastic, or metal. The basic concept is that cuts are made into the surface leaving a design or pattern which can then have paint applied over the top, imprinting onto the fabric beneath.

I love a wreath at Christmas so I chose the size I wanted to fit squarely in the middle of a tea towel. I used a dinner plate to trace around and used some larger paper. I also used an extra sheet of paper to add to the sides so no extra ink or paint would go onto the tea towel.


Now because I wanted to have a simple wreath shape, I also needed to make a mask to go with it. This is the reverse of a stencil. So rather than the design being cut out of a surface, a mask is the piece that has been left. It creates a negative image or blocks the ink from being applied to the fabric.

I used a small bowl for the mask and left a connecting strip so that it wouldn’t move. I then measured before cutting to make sure it was centred. This can also be done by folding the paper in quarters to make it easier.

I folded the tea towel as well so I could line up the folds with those on the paper.

Then I got busy printing with a small lino block, completing the smaller inner edge first then the outer. I left space where the connecting strip was so it would be easier to fill the gap later. Once the ink was ‘touch dry’ I rotated the stencil with connected mask so that I could finish the print.

Once the paper is removed, my simple wreath is revealed!

A very basic stencil and mask but also very effective! Of course paper can absorb quite a bit of moisture so depending on your ink and how many prints you’re doing, if a temporary stencil is not what you’re after, try it on a very thin piece of plastic. Happy stencilling!

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