Sunday, June 7, 2009

DIY Sunday: Fashionista Edition

See. I had this skirt.

This plain black skirt from Target.

And the skirt was sad. It hung in the closet for months, just waiting for someone to love it, smushed in between a couple of shirts. And the other skirts got to go out and see the world, but this skirt just sat there.

And then I got an idea! I was going to transform that plain ol' boring skirt.

It's kind of a full skirt, a little 1950's, so I thought about creating an ironic version of a poodle skirt. I'm not a fan of poodles, though, but I do like owls. And so I kicked around the idea of adding a cute applique owl to the skirt. You know, those goggle-eyed little owls that are basically four circles arranged around a triangle, the kind you see all over craft websites. But as the idea bounced around in my mind I knew what I really wanted: an owl gliding silently down upon some unsuspecting prey. Cute!

That was way more than my meagre applique skills could handle, so I did some exploring in the craft section of BookPeople in Austin, and of course, through the hallways of Interwebs University. I settled on stenciling as a means of decorating the skirt. However, the owl-about-to-kill-kill-kill stencil is (oddly enough) not available commercially. Therefore, I created my own stencil and here's how I did it:
Big reveal of the finished skirt is at the end of the post.

Step 1:
Find some clip art or draw a simple image for your stencil. I used Microsoft Office to find clipart. They have a category called "Black and White" which contains hundreds of images that are bold and simple enough to be turned into a stencil. (You want an image that has clear contrasts between colored areas and a plain background. Think of stencils you might have used as a kid, or as a cheerleader making banners for Pep Con - that's what the cheerleaders did at my school, anyway. With a stencil, you can't be as detailed as you would be with a stamp or screenprinting.) I found the ideal picture of an owl and enlarged it in a Microsoft Word document. Then I printed it to a printable transparency.
Here's the printed image of the owl. Watch out field mice! This owl is coming to get you!

Step 2:
Using a razor or Xacto knife, cut out the black portions on the printout. Those become the painted areas in your finished product. Work slowly and smooth out any rough edges by running the edge of your razor along the plastic, sort of like filing down a nail.

Step 3:
Practice using your stencil on paper. For this step you will need:

Fabric paint and something to put it in (the trays from frozen meals work well)
A stencil brush, sponge, or large paintbrush
Cardstock or heavy paper

Put your stencil on top of your paper or cardstock. If you want, tape it down so it won't move around. Pour some of the fabric paint into your container and spread it out so it's not too thick. Too much paint is the enemy of stencilling. Then, with a DRY BRUSH, pick up some paint. Dab it onto your stencil. It's OK if you get it all over the stencil. It should only go through the openings you've cut. If the paint bleeds or you get blurry edges, you're probably using too much paint. Practice until it turns out the way you want it. You may need to refine some of the edges of the stencil with your Xacto knife.
Here are my supplies, as I get ready to practice with my stencil. I played around with a few different brushes before I got the effect I liked.

Step 4:
Prepare your garment. A solid-colored, cotton garment works best. Make sure you have read the directions on the fabric paint (for example, it might say not to use fabric softener when you prep the garment). Start with a clean, ironed garment. Put a piece of cardboard in between the layers of the fabric so the paint doesn't bleed through. You can tape the cardboard in place. Lay your garment out on a flat surface and smooth the fabric so your image doesn't become warped. Then carefully place your stencil where you want it, and tape it down.

This skirt is ready. (The stencil is blue because I used blue paint to practice, but I'll use white for my finished skirt.)

Step 5:
Stencil away! Using the technique you practiced on paper, fill in your stencil. Fabric will probably need more than one coat of paint. Follow the directions on the paint label.

Here's what my stencil looked like after I applied the paint. You can't see the image right now, but that's OK. It will be there when you lift the stencil. You gotta trust the craft gods and goddesses.

Step 6:

Carefully remove the stencil so the paint doesn't smear. Voila! You should see your desired image.

Step 7:

Finish the fabric as directed on the paint label. It will specify drying time, how to heat set if necessary, etc.

And now ... the result!

I love my owl skirt. You just can't tell, because I'm using my disaffected prepster expression. It matches my polo shirt.

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