Monday, August 19, 2019

Stencil & Stitch on Clothing

Sometimes, all you need is that One. Perfect. Stencil. 

Pam Carriker’s Heart Stencil (L032) called out to me as I was teaching a class called Visual Mending based on the book by Jenny Wilding Cardon. I asked the class to bring in items of clothing they loved but were flawed from years of use. 

Those of us of <ahem> a certain age may have fond memories of ironing on very cool images like mushrooms, flowers and such on our blue jeans, and then stitching them up. Guess what? It's baacckk!

Visual Mending is about finding creative and artistic ways to keep those beloved wardrobe items in the lineup even with stains, holes, or tears. 

My go-to, adored, and 20+-year-old jean jacket was calling out for some bling. Pam’s stencil was the perfect fit to jazz it up. I used multiple colors and weights of thread in chain stitch, french knots, backstitch, satin stitch, some random cross, and seed stitches, and even added some beading at the end because, more is more, right??

I approach my stitching as I do my Mixed Media — with layers. Although this stencil would have been beautifully stitched all in one color, I think the depth and interest come in adding layers and layers of color and a neutral from time-to-time. 

I get asked a lot of questions about stenciling on fabric and stitching, itself. This project made me think about those, and below are the top questions and answers I give.

What needle should I use?
You want a sharp needle that you can thread with the weight of the thread you are using. Chenille needles are great because they have a sharp point and a big eye. You generally don’t want an eye bigger than you need, especially on fine fabrics like silk and thin cotton. Milliner’s needles and embroidery needles are also good choices. I’ve only learned the names recently. Like a paintbrush, grab what feels good in your hand and go. 

What do you use to stencil on fabric?
I suppose I *should* try fabric paint, but I just grab either white or black gesso or a non-sticky acrylic paint (matte-like Paper Artsy). Generally, when I’m stitching I plan on covering up the paint so the most important thing is for me to be able to see the image to stitch. 

What threads/floss should I use?
I use EVERYTHING! In the picture is good old reliable DMC Floss and I usually split the 6 strands into 2-3. Valdani makes gorgeous little balls of Pearl Cotton (12) and this can get as thick as the variegated DMC (5) strand in the photo (the smaller the number, the bigger the thread). Lately, I’ve fallen in love with thread for Sashiko stitching - the white hank. I use them all interchangeably and have baggies of floss sorted by color....actually, that's a lie. I have SOME baggies of floss sorted by color and small bags and plastic containers with wads of floss. But, I digress.  

Are the threads colorfast? What if I do all this stitching and then it bleeds on my fabric?
Yes, that would be very sad. I tell folks to make a little test sample with the threads you want to use on similar fabric or on a part of the garment that doesn’t show then throw it in the washer. If you are too impatient for that, swish the thread in some water and Dawn and lay it on the fabric to see what happens. 

Now, dig out those Bell Bottoms and get stitching!!!




  1. Delightful! The heart stencil is indeed perfect for this project!

  2. I love the spontaneity of your stitching. This was a perfect stencil for this project. You’re making me itch to get out my Needles.

  3. This is so luscious Kristen! Thanks for sharing your process and beautiful work!


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