Friday, April 9, 2021

Gifts as easy as ABC using StencilGirl® ATC Mixup Alphabet Stencils

Hi, everyone! Ann Barnes here!

2020-2021 has been a different kind of school year for people everywhere. The educators' roles have been more important than ever. Whether tackling new methods of educating remotely, or simply connecting with students they have never met in person, teachers have dedicated their time and efforts to the cause. With the end of the school year approaching, I have been contemplating ways to show teacher appreciation. I thought it would be fun to share a couple of these ideas.

I love giving handmade gifts. To me, there is nothing better than receiving something lovingly made with the recipient in mind. The first piece I am sharing is an artsy alphabet mixup pashmina. This lightweight accessory could be used throughout the year in a wardrobe, or as a simple throw. The varied designs in StencilGirl® ATC Mixup Alphabet stencils give this piece a lot of interest and the alphabet shapes lend themselves perfectly to a teacher gift. 

For this project, I use a recycled pashmina scarf. I want the piece to be monochromatic, and this silver grey color provided the perfect base. I did a bit of research before starting the project and learned that when painting on fabric with acrylic paints, it is best to mix your paint with a textile/fabric medium. There are many manufacturers that make this product, and it is simply mixed into the paint in a two to one ratio. Be sure to refer to specific product directions for best results. Painted fabric will become stiff, the fabric medium is supposed to alleviate this stiffness and allow movement.

Before working the stencils into my design, I paint each end of the scarf with an ombre effect. This helps to give a base to the design, grounding the splattering of letters. Unfortunately, this ombre paint effect also added an extra layer of "stiffness." In full disclosure, I must admit that my scarf is fairly stiff. I would recommend using an ink or high flow paint for creating the ombre, which I believe will allow the scarf to drape more freely. It's best to use a piece of cardboard underneath the fabric when painting, and securing the fabric in place will reduce the amount of stretch.

When the ombre "base" is completely dry, lay out some of the ATC Mixup Alphabet stencils in a random pattern. The letters located over the lighter section will be stenciled with darker paint, while the letters on the darker base will need to be lighter in order to stand out. I like that some letters extend beyond the painted base and onto the unpainted scarf material. (Tip: If you lightly spray the underside of the stencils with a removable adhesive spray before starting, it can help to keep them in place when stenciling.)
Using a foam wedge and very small amount of paint, pounce the paint through the stencil onto the base using an up and down motion. A few light layers of paint rather than one thick one ensures that the paint does not seep under the stencil where it shouldn't. When you are satisfied with the first end of the scarf allow it to dry completely. The second scarf edge can be completed in the same manner. 
When the scarf is finished to your liking, allow it to dry overnight then heat set the painted areas. The fabric medium directions recommend heat setting with an iron. When ironing, be sure to sandwich the scarf between an old towel so that you are not touching the paint directly with the hot iron. 
The artsy alphabet mixup pashmina is ready for gifting.

Knowing that spring brings many extracurricular and outdoor activities and there may not be much time to make gifts. A simple handmade gift enclosure with handwritten note can easily be created. You could  stick one in with a gift card or attach it to a wrapped package, these cards complete with a personalized note can mean a lot to that special teacher, colleague or friend.

 The ATC Mixup Alphabet stencils from StencilGirl® are perfect for creating a personalized gift enclosure.  The ATC size (3" x4") is just right for a small card. These cards can be as simple or complicated as you wish. I made a few different ones in a relatively short time. The first step is cutting the base cards. Since you may want some to open from the side and others to open from the bottom, its best to cut two different sizes while you have all of your tools handy. The base measurements for each directional card are 6"x4" and 8" x 3". When either of these bases are folded they will create a 3"x4" finished folded card. I cut my bases from Bristol paper; however, you can use any type of heavyweight cardstock. The bases can be cut from watercolor paper, or simply colored or patterned cardstock. It is best to consider what you will be doing to the paper and select appropriately.

Once the card bases are cut, scored and folded, choose a letter that corresponds to the recipient's name. With the stencil in hand, determine if you would prefer a top or side folding card. You will notice that for some of the cards, I cut around the letter shape. If you are making a shaped letter card, you definitely need to pay attention to the fold location. (For example: if the A is to be used as a shaped card, the fold would need to be at the top along the flat edge of the letter.) All of the ATC Mixup Alphabet Stencils will fit onto the 3"x4" card front. When you have chosen a folded base, and your stencil, there are limitless possibilities. I have shared a few different ideas to get your imagination flowing. 

The "T" card is created by tracing the stencil onto the card base with a permanent archival pen. Each of the stencil sections have been filled with doodles and then watercolor.

The "A" shaped card is created with spray inks, paint, and a gold gel pen. Ink the card cover with distress oxide spray inks and allow it to dry. Next, using a foam sponge and acrylic paint lightly pounce the paint through the stencil onto the inked background. Lift the stencil and allow to dry. Using a straight edge, draw a pencil line following the contour of the letter edges with an equal distance offset all around. Cut along the lines being sure to leave the folded top as an edge. When the excess is cut away, what remains is the  shaped "A" card that folds at the top and opens at the bottom. (You may want to experiment with this technique on scrap paper before making a final version to ensure the fold remains intact.) I also added accents with a gold pen to outline the letter and highlight the arrow design.

The "O" card is made by initially creating a splotchy watercolor background. I wet the card cover with a thin layer of water and then splatter watercolor paints onto it and set it aside to dry. Select a coordinating color of paint to stencil the letter with. When the background is dry, stencil the "O" with a pouncing motion. Lift the stencil. Use a paint pen to add details to the stenciled letter, following the pattern lines. Edge the card with the remainder of paint on your foam wedge to give it a cohesive finished look.

The "N" card is the simplest in the batch. Using a paint color of your choice, simply stencil the letter onto the card base. You can create an ombre effect with your paint color if you are looking to jazz it up a bit. This technique could be very interesting if done on a patterned base. You can also add a few additional marks or doodles to the finished design if time permits.

The "M" card combines a couple of the different techniques. This is a "shaped" card, where the stencil design is traced and then embellished with watercolor pencils. The "M" shape works best for a side folding card. Align the stencil so that the open design edge is set in from the fold. (Tip: if you cut the ATC stencils into nine separate 3"x4" sections, the edge around the letter design is sufficient offset. Simply align the stencil edge to the fold.) Using a pencil, trace the stencil design onto the folded card base. Color the design with watercolor pencils, then use a water brush to blend the coloring. Add accents to the mushrooms with a white paint pen. When completely dry, draw the offset lines around the letter design. Cut the excess off to create the letter shape, leaving the folded edge along the side.
These cards are really fun to make each one can be individualized to the personality of its recipient. 

I hope you are inspired to create something special to show someone that they are important and appreciated. It's the little things that mean the most.

Thanks so much for taking the time to stop by today, it means a lot to me.

Ann Barnes

StencilGirl® stencils used:
ATC Mixup Alphabet A through IATC Mixup Alphabet J through RATC Mixup Alphabet S through Z & 

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  1. The scarf is amazing and such an inspiration. Stunning cards.

  2. What a beautiful and fun shawl you've created - I love this!
    I wonder if using paints specifically designed for textiles might lessen the stiffness?

  3. The pashmina is beautiful and just perfect for teacher appreciation. The individual cards are a delight, I especially love the doodled 'T'. Such lovely work Ann! x


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