Monday, August 12, 2013

Making A Felt Stencil for Hand-Sewing

You can buy stencils for your hand-sewing projects or you can learn to make your own.  A blog reader recently asked about my stencil making process and I outline it here.

Supplies needed:
  • Microsoft Publisher
  • 2 Sheets of 12in. x 18in. Pennant Felt (Can be bought at hobby and craft stores for about $1) This will give you a stencil 24in x 32in in size.
  • Stencil image or text of your choosing. If you are unsure of the suitability of your image, print it first and cut the areas to be removed from just the paper. The cut area will be your painted area.
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Sharp Blade (a rounded tip blade works best, but a straight edge works as well)
  • Sewing Machine
  • Rotary Cutting Mat
Sew your felt pieces together

At your machine, align the 2 long sides of your felt together and sew using  a zig-zag stitch. Practice and adjust the stitch width until it is wide enough to secure both sides of the felt. Sew twice.
Felt sheets joined using a zigzag stitch

Stitched Felt and stencil image
Prepare your artwork

Open a new Publisher document and choose a custom page size. Adjust the width to 32in and the height to 24in. Insert your saved picture and enlarge it to fill the page dimensions. Check  the "Print Preview" to see that the image does not go completely to the edge of the page. You want about .5in- 1 in. along the entire image.

Go to your "Print Preview" under "File". You will want to print a "Tiled" picture. Adjust the overlap down to 0.000 (there will still be a little there).  Print your image, in fast draft and black and white, you do not need a high quality color image here.

Lay the sheets out and trim the overlap area away on the sheet which will be on top. In this image, you will trim the left overlap on the right sheet.

Tape sheets together and repeat until you have the entire poster joined.

You will want your completed stencil to have an uncut border with no shapes. If you have shapes that will extend over the edge do not cut those. Use a marking tool to draw around the shapes you will not cut.

 Use spray adhesive to secure the image to the top of the felt.

Use your Rotary mat as a base and cut out the shapes using a sharp blade. This is a time consuming and at times a tedious process. It is well worth the effort for a stencil you can use again and again and will not break the bank.

My cutting tools
Almost done!
Once you are done cutting, examine your shapes to check that you removed all of the felt from your cutting area. Look to the bottom of the point below. There is a bit of felt still left. Trim it away.
Double Check Cuts

Trim shape as needed.
Double check your stitching and resew, if needed. I suggest you hand sew areas that need it and not use your machine. Remember your stencil still has the residue from the spray adhesive (Laura asked a great question in the comments below, check it out)! I did not need to resew any areas on this stencil. If you use an image with smaller shapes, it may be necessary.

All done! Here is my completed $2 stencil next to my purchased $60+ stencil! (Never throwing my money away like that again!)

My completed stencil!
I am now ready to get painting! I hope you found this helpful!

Update: The stencils illustrated here are Alabama Chanin. This post was written when I supported the company. You can read here why I no longer do here. This post is popular and the information is useful for making any stencil you wish, go make something pretty. :)

Happy Sewing,


  1. Wow! Thanks for this post. Saw your work on PR and it's beautiful

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