Thursday, March 31, 2011

Stenciled shade tutorial

ETA: Linking to Remodelaholic's Anonymous 65 Link Up Party and Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now; be sure and check out all the other great tutorials!

For my new dining room shade, I wanted something fun, cheap and functional. I decided on this, which is kind of a variation on the wall words that are everywhere now. Except this is much more of a pain to do.

Supplies needed:
--miniblinds the width of your window
--fabric glue
--fabric paint or acrylic paint and fabric medium
--exacto knife with a sharp blade to cut out the stencil (only if you make your own stencil)
--self-healing rotary mat (only if you make your own stencil)
--scotch tape (maybe)
--pins (I use the long quilting pins with the big heads)
--pencil, fabric pen or magic marker to transfer stencil to fabric
--seam gauge or tape measure
--something to make sure your rows are straight, like a long level or yardstick--I used my rotary mat

I used the tutorial on turning miniblinds into Roman shades from Jenny at Little Green Notebook (love her site) as the starting point for this project.

First, the stencil. If you are smarter than me--and I hope you are--you will go buy a stencil at Hobby Lobby or something. It might take more time to lay out the words, but it'll be a lot less time-consuming. If you're not, though, you can do what I did. Find a quote you like and type it in Word (or Open Office) in a font you like. I wanted something kind of retro, but not too complicated or too decorative because it would be a pain to cut out. I used Rogers, free from

Now you have to figure out how big your stencil needs to be, which can kind of be a crapshoot. I think I ended up with size 220 (don't quote me on that--I tried a lot of sizes from 400 on down). I like it, although I do have a fair amount of blank space at the bottom of the shade and I could have gone bigger. Print your stencil out using the fast draft setting or whatever uses the least ink. No reason other than a large font will use a decent amount of ink and there's no need to waste it.

Before you start cutting go through and mark where you'll need "bridges" on each letter. Just do it on all of them at once because if you try to do it as you go you'll forget. Ask me how I know.

Then start cutting. It's easiest if your knife has a new sharp blade and if you use light pressure when cutting. That way the knife will move more easily over the paper. Be sure not to cut your bridges. If you do, the whole thing's ruined and you have to start over. Just kidding--stick a piece of scotch tape on it and cut the excess. If you find that you need a bridge and you didn't put one in, stick a piece of tape on either side and cut it down to size. Here's a completed letter.

Repeat that a million more times. Wish you had chosen a shorter quote. Try not to slice a finger open.

Wash the dropcloth when it's still whole. It prevents fraying and it has to be washed to accept the fabric paint, plus they kind of stink fresh out of the package. (I found a package of 2 for the price of 1 dropcloths at Home Depot; sadly it was the last one or I would have bought them out.)

Jenny recommends using a 2-1/2" border when you cut out your fabric. I knew I also wanted a margin around my quote so I added another inch and a half, for a total of 4". Just add 8" to one long side and one short side, then cut.

Before I started laying out my stencil I used my fabric pen to mark the border. I just measured in 4" from each side and made a small mark every so often. I made a cross at the corners, like this.

If you don't have a fabric pen just use a magic marker or something else washable. I'd use something close to the color of the fabric.

Start laying out your stencil. Lay it out completely before you pin or trace anything. I wanted mine left-justified but you could also center yours. Just measure each row to make sure it's an equal distance from each side. Be sure not to let any letters go past your marked margins; if they do, move the word to the next row.

Start pinning. I started out pinning just at the outer edges but as I went on I pinned more with the curves of the letters. If you have letters with islands in the middle (like p, b, e) you might want to put a pin in the island. Make sure the words and rows are all the same distance apart. I made mine 1-3/4" apart, from the farthest part of the first letter to the nearest part of the second letter, as shown in the picture.

As you lay out the words make sure they stay straight. You can use a level, yardstick, whatever you have that's long and straight. I used my rotary mat because it was right there. Just match up the bottoms of the letters (although my Os went slightly below the rest of the letters, but you'll know if your font does that).

And of course I forgot to take pictures of the rest of it. I could have sworn I did but they're not on the computer and they're not on the camera so I guess I didn't. When I do the shade for the kitchen (I cheated and put up a plain shade I made a couple of years ago using this technique) I'll try and remember to take pictures and put them in here.

Next, trace your letters onto the cloth. Just go around the edge of each one, moving pins in the islands if necessary. You don't need to trace the bridges but you can if you want. I used a magic marker for this. Remove the stencils and get ready to paint.

If you don't already have the supplies, get fabric paint. I've heard lots of good things about the Tulip Soft paint but I haven't tried it yet. I used acrylic paint mixed with textile medium because I already had both of those things and didn't feel like going to the store or spending any money. Follow bottle directions on mixing--mine said two parts acrylic paint to one part medium. And mix less than you think you need or you'll be there forever or be throwing away paint. I found that using a quarter teaspoon measure gave me a good amount. On my next one (for the kitchen) I'm going to test a Sharpie. I think that might bleed through a little more and make it easier to see the letters when gluing on the blind, so you can make sure everything is perfectly even. Mine's a tiny bit off-kilter (I think--you can't really tell when the sun isn't shining through the back) so that would have been a good thing for me. I had to use two different-sized paintbrushes (medium and small).

Whatever you use, protect the surface you're painting on with plastic or a garbage bag. If you don't care if it gets messy, then it's not necessary. I didn't notice any bleed-through with the dropcloth, but every fabric is different.

I didn't follow the directions on the textile medium bottle about setting with the iron or waiting a week and washing. These aren't really washable anyway, and I don't expect them to get dirty. If you want to you can do that, but it'll add a week to your project.

Once your fabric is painted, follow Jenny's directions for gluing the fabric to the miniblinds. I made double folds all around to encase the raw edges but if your fabric doesn't fray or if you stitched around it or used Fray-Check on the edges then you don't have to do the extra work. I followed her example of having a fold every nine inches.

Then just hang your shade up. I find that the canvas is stiff enough (especially with the folded-over edges to not move at the ends left loose for the brackets, but if yours flops a bit you can stick some velcro on there. Here's mine one more time:

And there you have it. Have fun and if you make one, send me a pic or a link to your blog post about it!


  1. What a neat idea!! You did such a good job with your tutorial. I think the final product is great. :)

    Thanks for joining my Weekend Bloggy Reading party. Hope you'll visit me at Serenity Now again soon! :)

  2. I LOVE this! I'd love to do an alphabet one for Baby Brudder's room.

  3. Great job! I love that quote. Just watched Ferris Beuller (spell?) recently, too.