Sunday, April 18, 2021

Stenciling with Paint & Textural Stitching

Hi All, it's Gwen back again with the April Paint & Texture column. This month I'm sharing one way that you can incorporate stitching as a textural element in your work. I'll share the basic technique and then review how I used the sewn design in a larger piece of mixed media artwork.

I've long enjoyed stitching and embroidery and so I'm always thrilled when I find ways to use it in my artwork. For this piece, I decided to use one of my stencils as the template for some painted and beaded embroidery that would become the focal point of the finished piece.

You don't need to know any fancy stitches and you can make it as simple or as elaborate as you'd like; the idea is simply that different weights and types of threads and stitches, along with a few beads if you're so inclined, are a fantastic way to add texture into your work and also a great opportunity to really customize stencil designs and make them your own.

To start, I used one of my most recent stencil designs, the Boho Faces stencil, since I thought it lent itself really well to this technique and I could practically picture the finished piece in my mind. I took a piece of linen fabric with a looser weave (because I wanted to use thick thread,) and stenciled the design with Jet Black Archival Ink and a blender brush. I like Archival Ink for stenciling on fabric because it's permanent and doesn't smudge or fade too much while I'm working over it with thread. You can use any color - I went with black so it would stand out and because I knew I wanted a dark thread outline over top and so it wouldn't noticeable if any of the ink was peeking through.

You can use embroidery fabric, linen, cotton... whatever works for you. I also frequently use vintage or upcycled fabrics because they add such a unique look as part of the finished project. But because I was going to paint this one, I went with a plain white linen.

Speaking of paint, that was my next step. Golden recently released a new line of So Flat Matte Acrylics. They already have some fabulous matte fluid and heavy body paints in their lineup, but this new line is more of a soft body paint - a really perfect consistency for painting on fabric. Of course you can use any paint you'd like (I also use a lot of PaperArtsy Fresco Acrylic paints,) but I love Golden's rich, saturated color.

I just took a paintbrush and filled in the openings of the stenciled design with paint, making sure to work on top of scrap paper (I used parchment paper) since the paint can and usually will seep through the cloth. You may want to tape down the fabric to keep from moving it around while you work since that can smear any wet paint that seeps through and get it all over the back of the cloth - that runs the risk of seeping back through to the front, usually in a very inconvenient place.

One I finished with the paints, I let it dry completely; stitching into wet paint is a good way to make a mess! When it was dry, I put my painted design into an embroidery hoop to keep the fabric taut while adding in the stitching. I don't always do this, but for a larger project that I wanted to make the focal point of a piece of artwork, I wanted to make sure that the fabric didn't pucker (that generally happens when you have uneven tension on the fabric while stitching.)

For the sewing, I used a size 3 perle embroidery thread by Wonderfil to outline the design... again, you can use whatever you'd like. If you're using a stranded thread like DMC or other similar brands of floss you can just use all six strands. Or go with a thinner thread or fewer strands if you want a different look. I wanted bold and that's what I got!

I used a split stitch here - it's one of my favorites for outlining, but you can also use a backstitch or a straight or running stitch. Outlining the painted areas is really the main way that I brought in texture and definition with the thread, although I did add a few beads (because I just can't help myself!) as well as a few other types of stitches. This is where you can really go crazy with details or keep it simple based on your level of comfort and / or the look you want for your piece.

Here you can see how I've added some satin stitching to a few areas and also stitched on some beads where there are dots in the original design. It's a great fit for the vibe of this stencil and also another great and fairly easy way to get more texture.

I also went through and added some outlining with metallic gold thread because I love a good metallic!

Once the stitching and beading were done, I took the piece out of the embroidery hoop, tore off the excess fabric to get it to the size I wanted (you can also just cut it if you want a cleaner look,) and then used some gold ink and the 4"x4" stencil from my February 2021 StencilClub collection to add a bit more stenciled pattern to the background. I also edged the borders of the fabric with Sepia and Jet Black Archival Ink.

As you can see above, I also took a larger piece of heavy-weight paper (about 600 gsm) and stenciled it with my Collage Textures and Patterned - Medieval Cyrillic stencil as well as my Art Deco Sunburst Background stencil. I added a bit more texture by stamping with one of the designs from my EGL10 stamp set from PaperArtsy. This paper would end up being the background for the stitched piece - most would be covered, but I wanted to have more layers of pattern peeking out from behind the cloth.

At this point I knew that my final piece was going to be hung and that I wanted a few dangling accents, so I took a drilled stone and stenciled again with the 4"x4" stencil from my February 2021 StencilClub collection and some VersaFine Clair pigment ink and then heat embossed the design using my Turkish Bronze Boho Blends embossing powder.

You can absolutely emboss rock and stone - just make sure to wait a while before attempting to touch or handle it (or make sure to use copper tongs) as the rock will hold the heat for quite a while longer than paper.

With the stenciled and stitched components complete, I wrapped and added beads to a piece of driftwood and made a few little dangling accents from beads and coins. I stitched my focal point onto the background (with some black lace paper behind) using gold thread and then added some more accents using pieces of Indian sari trim and African sandcast beads. I also stitched a large Dogon or Dutch Donut bead over the eye with the plus sign as a bit of a frame and yet another dimensional / textural element.

Here's a bit more of a close-up so that you can see the texture from the different threads as well as the beads:

There you go! I hope you enjoyed today's project and tutorial and that you'll maybe even try out combining paint and stitching and also exploring using threads (and maybe a few beads) to add some texture into your work.

Thanks for stopping by... see you next time! Until then, happy stenciling.


  1. I love what you did with this! Thanks for sharing your technique!

  2. As always Gwen your creations are magical! This piece has so much beauty, personality and color. Thank you.

  3. This mixed media project is took my breath away!! Beautiful embroidery, own embellishments and colours all magnificent, love your beautiful creations as always. xx


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