Tag Archives: freezer paper stencil

Instant gratification (and library book bag tutorial)

Yesterday I played hooky. Seriously–Second Child got a snow day and my flight (I was meant to be on my way south to visit my mom) got canceled. And I wouldn’t have gotten much work done had I been doing the car/airport/plane/airport/plane/car/visiting family thing, right?

So I played.

Took a long bath with a craft magazine (which I would name, but it turned out to be a disappointing issue and I wouldn’t want to embarrass them).

Watched Monster in a Box on tv, putting My Better Half to sleep almost instantly, but entertaining myself enormously.

Made what we call around here Instant Gratification Cookies. You know, those great oatmeal chocolate raisin peanut butter cookies you cook in a saucepan but don’t actually have to bake.  Three of us nearly wiped out one huge batch in one day, but I’m convinced they’re actually pretty good for us.

Made this:

Want to make one, too? I’ve been needing a bag for toting books to and from the library (which one member or another of this family visits at least 4 times a week), and, inspired by this, I suddenly knew what to do with one of the pre-sewn fabric bags I bought a few weeks ago at Michaels.  Next time I might sew the bag myself out of a somewhat sturdier fabric, but I was in for instant gratification here.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • computer, printer, and ordinary printer paper
  • two pieces of freezer paper (not waxed paper) cut to the same size as your printer paper
  • masking tape
  • a black pen or marker
  • an X-acto knife with a sharp blade
  • a bag to print on (should be pre-washed and ironed; I ironed but I didn’t wash–instant gratification day, remember?)
  • black fabric paint
  • a foam brush with which to apply the paint
  • an iron and ironing surface
  • a pair of tweezers

Step 1. Use your computer and printer to print out a sheet with the lettering you want. I played with various fonts and then decided something simple and quick was best, so I printed out my image in Times New Roman, increasing the font size to 200 pt. I had to print in landscape format to get the lettering arranged the way I wanted it on the page.

Step 2. Lay your paper on a forgiving cutting surface (I used my trusty Alvin self-healing cutting board) and use masking tape to make sure it stays put:

Step 3. Lay one sheet of the freezer paper, shiny side down, over your image and tape it in place, too.

Step 4.  Use a pen or marker to trace the outline of your letters on the (non-shiny side of the) freezer paper.

Step 5 (bet you’re way ahead of me by now). Use the knife to cut out each letter.  You’re cutting through two layers, here, but it’s really only the top one (the freezer paper) that matters. NB: as you cut, set aside the 4 little cutouts from the centers of (in my case) the q, e, o, and p. Your letters may vary, but whatever they are, don’t lose these bits!

Step 6. I missed a photo here, so work with me. Lay your ironed bag face up on your ironing board. Heat the iron to the cotton setting (no steam). Now take your non-cut piece of freezer paper and slip it inside the bag with its shiny side towards you (inside the bag) in a position that corresponds to the position in which you will lay the letter stencil you’ve made on the outside. Don’t skip this step–this will keep the paint you’re going to use from bleeding through the bag. Now iron the outside of the bag over where the paper is on the inside.

Step 7.  Lay your stencil (face up and shiny side down, with letters positioned as you see them above in Step 5) on the outside front of the bag, positioning your design where you want it. Carefully iron over the whole paper until your stencil is staying put on the fabric (marveling, as you do, at the miracle of freezer paper).

Now take those little bits you saved–the insides of any letters that have insides–and put them in their proper positions back inside their respective letters, and iron again. The tweezers may come in handy here so you can hold them in place as you start to iron each one. Burned fingers are definitely not instantly gratifying.

Step 8. This is the instant-est step of all.  Pour a little bit of fabric paint onto a non-porous surface. I save recyclable lids from deli cartons and the like for this, then rinse and reuse (or recycle) them, but you could even use a little scrap piece of freezer paper. Dab your brush into the paint and then gently pounce it down onto the open spaces in the stencil. There are flat sponge applicators made just for this, but I couldn’t find mine, so I just used the tip of a sponge paintbrush. Use 2 or three light layers instead of one thick one. Take care to apply paint straight down–if you brush back and forth you run the risk of dislodging the finer bits of your stencil. Look carefully to make sure you haven’t missed any part of any letter.

Step 9. This is the only non-instant, non-gratifying part. Wait for the paint to dry. Follow the instructions on the fabric paint you’re using–mine recommended letting the paint dry for 4 hours.

Step 10. Slowly, carefully, peel away the freezer paper sheets. Use the tweezers as needed to help peel the finicky bits. Stand back and admire your amazing tote bag. Ta-daa–(nearly) instant gratification!

What did you do on your snow day?


Moose mod

Got a boring long-sleeved t-shirt? Got scissors? Got 45 seconds?  Then you, too, can have a spiffy little summer sweater.

Amy, over at Angry Chicken, shows you how.   Seriously, the hardest part will be remembering where your scissors are. Making the sweater will take less time than it will take to read this post.

Here’s the version I made Second Child about 2 minutes after I saw the one at Angry Chicken:

Can you tell I still have all my freezer paper stenciling stuff laying about?  The moose motif (she likes moose . . .er . . .  mooses . . . um . . . meese?) came from a rubber stamp–I scanned a print from it, enlarged it a bit, and used a copy of it to cut my stencils.

We didn’t let the cuffs go to waste, either.

Ugly beautiful

I’ve been doing more sewing lately–putting things together in my own way, which means mostly without measuring or using a pattern.

Here’s a tiny project that was born out of need. For years I’ve been using masking tape to fix a little brown paper lunch bag to the edge of my sewing table, just at my right hand, for collecting snippets of thread, bent pins, paper packaging from zippers and trims–that sort of thing. A good idea, but not sturdy or attractive.

Recently I bought a new (sort of–keep reading) sewing machine  that’s affixed to a table. The table has a useful little  drop down tray in the front of it for holding spare bobbins, tools, etc., and in the far right end of it is a little hook for holding something . . . what?


I made it on the fly and it’s neither artistically perfect nor precisely designed (you can see that the strap from which it hangs is a teensy bit off center), but it serves its purpose with dignity. It also incorporates a bit of recycling–I made it with a piece of heavy duck cloth adorned with a freezer stencil of two pomegranates that was intended to be part of a lunch bag set. The design came out perfectly, but the placement on the cloth was a bit off, so I set it aside and waited to see what it wanted to be.  Now I know.

A word about the sewing machine. I bought a brand new one about 3 years ago–a name brand but low on the price scale.

And on the quality scale. From day one it caused problems. Wasted my time with repairs. Taunted me. Mocked me. Vibrated like a magic fingers bed every time I got it up to speed. I spent more time fixing it (and cursing it) than I did sewing with it (the bonus was that I lost any sense of trepidation about taking it apart and putting it together again). And it invariably broke down when I was 5 minutes from the end of a project that had to be finished within . . . 5 minutes.

Finally I got fed up. Hopped onto Craigslist and went hunting. Three days and $25 later I was the proud owner of Ugly Beautiful, a Singer from the 1970s that was part of the estate of a woman who used it lovingly and had it serviced professionally once a year.  Her husband had even built a table for it (which is a little wonky itself–it has leaves that are hinged in the wrong direction, but it’s a strangely endearing problem that I haven’t had the heart to fix yet).  The woman’s daughter showed me the brown burn marks on the top left of the machine’s sewing end where her mom, eyesight failing, had pretty much planted a high-intensity lamp right against it. “You sure you want it?” she kept asking. “It’s really ugly.”

It is ugly. But it’s a beauty, too–runs like a dream, heavy enough that there’s no vibration, never balks, skips, or falters, isn’t cluttered up with features I don’t need (back, forth, zigzag, and various stitch widths are the only features I’ll ever ask for) and came with the original owner’s manual and a chair with a hidden storage area full of pins, needles, specialized presser feet, bobbins, ribbons, zippers–all from the 1970s.

She’s ugly, but she’s mine.

Wooly fruits

Shhh . . . don’t tell. These are a gift for someone’s birthday and I’m only posting here because she doesn’t really pop in very often. I think I’m safe.

Definite last-minute panic here. I’ve actually planned this for some time, but then the calendar snuck up on me so I’ve only  just now got things done.

First, the lunch bag set. This is a slightly modified version of the lunch bags I made for my book group picnic back in September.  Instead of leaves I’ve gone for a pomegranate thing here. I stitched up the little bag from fabric I printed using the freezer paper stencil method.  Let me tell you, all those little seeds were a royal pain somewhat challenging to manage. I think they came out well, though. Then I sewed up a nice big napkin (reversible) and added a little reusable container for fruit or salad, and a set of biodegradable cutlery. Going for eco-chic here–did I make it?

The recipient plays bridge now and then with a group of women at the senior center; they all bring their own sandwiches and sodas, so I’m hoping this will come in handy.

I haven’t got the light adjusted quite right, so my little fabric tag that says floating ink on it has completely vanished; it’s over on the left side and if you could see it, it would look like this:

I may yet get around to selling some version of this (etsy, perhaps?) and I’ve been working up a hang tag to use then. I think this is the version I like best:

Anyway, on to the next part of the present, with which I have to say I’m rather pleased:

Little needle felted fruits in a knitted and then hand-felted basket. Here’s another view:

I forgot (I always forget) to add something to the photo to illustrate scale, but the apple and the pomegranate (I think I’m on a pomegranate kick; I’m not actually mad about eating them, but they are so wonderfully graphic) are each about the size of a half dollar. The pear is a tiny bit taller.

So anyway, don’t give the secret away before Friday. Tomorrow I’ve got to pop them in the overnight mail. I do always seem to be behind the 8-ball on these gift-giving holidays, but I think it will work out.

More notebooks

When we left our heroine, she was tied to the railroad tracks with the 6:15 express train to Sweetwater bearing down on her  . . . no, wait . . . she was tied to her desk chair scrambling to meet a couple of deadlines for work. Did it, though I had to pull an all-nighter to do so.  Three or four times a year I end up doing this to finish writing an article or some such thing, and every time I am more deeply convinced that I’m getting way too old for this stuff. It’s not nearly as much fun as it was back in college, when we laughed in the face of deadlines and clocks and we once caught our friend Jim in his dorm’s common room eating freeze dried coffee crystals out of a jar with a spoon in an attempt to stay awake to finish an overdue term paper.

There is a part of me, though, that relishes those quiet hours for work. The phone doesn’t ring, everyone’s in bed; even the dogs are snoozing in their crates. No one cares if I take an ice cream break at 4 in the morning, and from my office window I can see the dawn breaking over the pond. But, honestly, once or twice a year would be plenty.

Anyway–art notebooks. I was saying a few posts ago that more pictures were creeping into my writing journals and my daily calendar, so it was becoming clear that this stuff needed its own books.  A couple of years ago I picked up a cute, sturdy, unfussy little perfect-bound blank book in a sale bin at, of all places, Old Navy.  For 79 cents. This one has become my art/craft/project/ideas/inspiration book. I record things I’ve made, make sketches for things I’d like to make, draw quick versions of clever things I’ve seen so I can either try to make similar ones or take inspiration from them, as on this page at the beginning of my bag-making kick.

It’s also a great place to record the stamps I carve sometimes (like the little rabbit from yesterday):

Most of these are my designs, though the little mug of tea on the far right was carved by First Child, who wandered through the kitchen while I was playing with the Master Carve and sharp implments, and the apple core and green bullseyes on the right-hand page and the carrot and blocky faces on the left were contributed by Second Child. It’s in their genes, you know?

The designs that look like Japanese crests are just that (also the little crane on the right hand page). I think I’ve mentioned before my love for this book:

I checked it out of the library so many times that the universe finally threw a copy my way–I found my own at a used bookstore for all of $5. Over 4000 illustrations of Japanese heraldic crests from years (and in some cases centuries) past.  Wonderful for freezer paper stencils on shirts and bags–here’s a larger fabric paint stenciled version (from a market bag I made my sister) of the little crane stamp I used on the page above:

Also–no, that’s enough for now. I think I need to go and take a nap. Like I said, getting too old for this.