DIY Stenciled Curtains

They’re finally done! After over a year of having all the materials needed to stencil curtains for our master bedroom, I finally did it. I was really intimidated by this project so I just kept putting it off. One day a few weeks ago, I just couldn’t take it any more!

Since it’s been so long, here’s a refresher. I was inspired by these curtains from West Elm. At the time, I couldn’t decide if I wanted them, and by the time I did, they were no longer available!

I had already decided I wanted grey curtains for our bedroom, and I loved that the pattern on these was fairly subtle from far away. I looked high and low for a suitable alternative…and nothing. I was so in love with these that I hated everything else, so I set out to recreate them as closely as possible.

And here’s the finished product! The pattern is subtle from far away (and hard to capture in pictures), but that’s what I loved about the original curtains in the first place! (More “after” pics are at the very end!)

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And they block plenty of light (probably more than the West Elm ones would have!), which was the whole reason for curtains in the first place! Our neighbor, Floyd, has a flood light in his back yard that shines directly into our window. It’s on a light sensor, so if it’s dark outside that sucker is on. We mentioned it to him once and his solution was to spray paint half of the light’s cover black while standing on his roof. He then proceeded to say “Can’t say I’m not bein’ neighborly!” in his native Arkansan accent. Apparently other neighbors have told him he’s not neighborly. Probably because he’s not.

Also, it is about 1000 times better than our “solution” before which consisted of a decorative screen and a picnic blanket. Pretty sad.

MATERIALS

  • Fabric: I bought 7 yards of grey light duty upholstery fabric from Fabric Guru (fabricguru.com) for $5.95 per yard. It’s a heavier weight fabric than you might normally need for curtains, but these needed to block light. After tax and shipping the total was about $46.
  • Stencil: I chose the FUJI Allover stencil from Cutting Edge Stencils. It’s almost the same as the West Elm curtains! It only came in the bigger size that would have been around $50 (the actual pattern is bigger, not just the stencil) so I emailed and asked if it could be made in the craft size. I thought the smaller pattern would appear more subtle. It also happens to be cheaper! She said they could make it for me and would charge the same as any other craft size stencil! After shipping it was $32.

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  • Acrylic Paint and textile medium: You could just use fabric paint, but I found this option to be much cheaper (about $8 after the 40% off coupon.) I found both of these at Hobby Lobby. According to the textile medium, you simply mix it in a 1:1 ratio with any color of acrylic paint. This keeps the paint more flexible like fabric paint. 1 bottle of each was more than enough for my 2 panels. If you had a stencil with bigger openings, though, you might need more.
  •  Stencil Adhesive Spray: This really helps the stencil stick to the fabric and stay in place while you’re stenciling. I also found this at Hobby Lobby (about $4 after coupon). There were several other adhesive sprays, but this was the only that said “repositionable.”  I was worried the others could leave a weird residue on the fabric. There was no residue with this one. If you opt not to use it, be sure to tape down your stencil to keep it in place!
  • High density foam roller: You can buy these from places like Cutting Edge Stencils, but I’m guessing they’re pretty similar to the high density foam rollers you can buy at home improvement stores, just more expensive. You will want to make sure it has the rounded tip! It comes in handy for corners! 

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INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1: Wash the fabric to remove any sizing and to preshrink it. I went ahead and cut the bolt into two panels before washing so my washer wouldn’t get so off-balance.

Step 2: Iron. Enough said.

Step 3: Prepare your work surface. Most tutorials recommend covering your floor with craft paper or plastic and then taping down the fabric to keep it from moving. (If you do this, be sure to lift up the fabric after every couple passes so it doesn’t stick!) We just happened to have this huge piece of chipboard in our garage, and it was perfect! With the chipboard, there was no need to tape down the fabric because the chipboard is rough and held the fabric in place. The paint dried very quickly, so I just moved it around as needed.

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Step 4: Spray and position your stencil. Spray an even coat of stencil adhesive over the entire back of the stencil. I sprayed a new coat of adhesive after every third use. The more often you do it the better, but I was worried I might run out. The adhesive I used recommended patting it with a rag first so it wasn’t too sticky, but I chose not to do this so that it would stay stickier longer, and I didn’t have any issues with residue.

This is the sample stencil they sent that I practiced with before hand. This is with a coat of stencil adhesive. Warning: While it does not make your fabric sticky, the overspray will make your garage floor sticky. Hehe, oops.

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I started in the top left corner and lined my stencil up with the selvage edge. This was the scary part!!

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Step 5: Load your roller with paint and then offload it on a paper towel. The more paint you have on your roller, the better chance you have of pushing the paint under the edge of the stencil. Load your roller with paint, and then roll it over a paper towel to remove any excess.

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Step 6: Roll away! I chose to use a 2″ foam roller after some experimenting. Since the openings on my stencil were so small, I either had to paint every opening individually by turning the roller on it’s side or use a ton of pressure which just wasn’t evenly distributed with the 4″ or 6″ rollers.

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I also found it helpful to dab the corners, though I did have to be especially careful about the amount of paint on the end of the roller. This method seemed to push more paint under the edges.

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Step 7: Respray and reposition your stencil. Overlap your stencil to make sure the pattern turns out straight.

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But be extra careful not to repaint what you’ve already done since the stencil won’t always line up perfectly…otherwise you’ll end up with this.

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But luckily this only happened once, and that spot actually ended up in a seam so you can’t see it. 🙂 I turned the roller on it’s side for the tricky edges and then tried to roll most of the rest of it.

Step 8: Cleanup. After about every 6th or 7th use, I washed the stencil. I brought it directly to my bathtub and scrubbed the paint off with a green 3M scouring pad. GENTLY!! To get the stencil spray off, I coated the back with Goo Gone, scrubbed with the scouring pad, and then rinsed with dish soap. It worked wonderfully! Pat it dry, spray, and stencil again!

If paint did bleed through, I simply wiped off the back of the stencil between uses and then proceeded to use the stencil again. The paint on the stencil dried so quickly that I really didn’t have problems with it getting on the fabric from the stencil. Not even the one time I stenciled with the painted side of the stencil face down. But maybe don’t try that…

Step 9: Iron. Again. Once the paint is completely dry, go over each area with an iron (without steam!)  for about 20 seconds to heat set the paint. I did a test section and none of the paint was coming off, so I didn’t put anything between the fabric and the iron.

On my test swatch, I washed it once the paint was dry without ironing first, and I didn’t notice any paint wearing off. I needed to iron before sewing anyway, but I’m not sure you absolutely have to do this step. If the curtains will get washed often, though, it’s probably a good idea.

 

TIPS, TRICKS…AND MISTAKES

On the first panel, I didn’t vary the placement of the stencil and I could tell where it had been placed each time.

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I was kind of worried about that, so I tried to vary it a little more on the second one.

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This did help with the obvious lines, but it also caused it not to match up as well towards the end. I’m not sure which way I preferred, but now that they’re sewn and hanging, you can’t see any of those problems at all anyway. So I guess it really didn’t matter!

Before I started this project, I was really worried about how I was going to keep it straight! The only measures I really took were lining it up with the left selvage edge the whole way down for the first row, and then just getting it lined up as closely as possible with the parts that were already stenciled. And to my surprise, it turned out really straight!

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There was some bleed through…I definitely noticed this more if I got a little heavy with the paint or when I was really being lazy and in a hurry. The method I found to work the best was very little paint + lots of pressure! Test it out first, though. It could be really different if the openings on your stencil are large.

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Really, though, from a distance you barely notice the mistakes! Mesmerizing, huh?

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SEWING

Not many pictures of this, because it was very simple. My mom used her serger to create this nice edge, and then we just tucked each side and the top under once, ironed it, and hemmed it. We turned the bottom under twice, and made a 2.5″ hem. Ideally it would have been 3″, but I wanted the curtains to be as long as possible. I think they turned out about 88.5″ long. We were also able to line up each fold with the edge of a pattern! However you do it, make sure the patterns line up from one curtain to the other!

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And here’s the finished product hanging in our bedroom! Hung high and wide, of course, to show as much of the window as possible.

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I love them! I really think they bring some much needed presence to this poor little window!

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I also think they look really cute with our door, but because the colors and pattern are so subtle, don’t take away from it.

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And most importantly, they block plenty of light! Oh and the curtain rod? $5 at Salvation Army, brand new, still in the box. Boom.

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And look how well the pattern coordinates with our West Elm rice pintuck pillow shams! The pattern is larger scale than they are, but will still be smaller than other patterns we’re hoping to layer into our bedroom, like a rug, a bench at the end of the bed, pillows, etc.

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So there you have it. For my first ever stenciling attempt, I call this a success. Next time maybe I won’t put it off so long! Or do so much fabric. It is a lot of work, but it’s really not as scary as it seems once you get started!

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2 Responses to DIY Stenciled Curtains

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