My first chiton edge embellishments were primarily stenciled. This was the easiest way I could think of to create a decorative edge similar to the garment edges that appeared on pottery images. I didn’t own an embroidery machine, I didn’t have time to hand embroider, I found most decorative trims to be too stiff for this purpose, and I had previous experience with stenciling for other SCA garments. I have since experimented with fabric ink stamping, but I tend to get a cleaner, more reliable result with stenciling. Here are pictures of a few of my first stenciled chitons.
The red chiton was the first linen stenciled chiton I ever made. The stencil was not a period-accurate motif so I didn’t use it again after I did more research on accurate motifs. I was excited to find a stencil with a more accurate motif for the white chiton. I’ve used this stencil for other garments, including outfits I made for Their Excellencies Ioannes and Honig when they were Prince and Princess of the East Kingdom. I will showcase the outfits I made for them in a separate post.
I found some stencils at craft stores, and some were made by my husband, Sir Zhigmun’ Czypsser. He does a wide variety of arts and his talent for visual arts is far superior to mine. Therefore, he will design and cut a custom stencil if I need a specific motif. I also modified some of the stencils by either covering parts of them with tape to isolate design elements in a busy motif or by cutting design elements out of a larger motif. Many of our purchased and custom stencils are shown below.
I stencil on fabric using standard acrylic craft paint mixed with textile medium and a little water. I don’t have an exact ratio, but it’s approximately 1/3 cup of textile medium to 1/2 cup of paint with 1-2 teaspoons of water. The goal is to thin the paint so it doesn’t dry so stiffly that the fabric won’t be soft and flowing, while preserving the integrity of the color. The textile medium thins the paint without diluting the color and helps the paint set into the fabric. The addition of water is a personal preference to ensure that the paint won’t be too stiff and it helps make the stenciling process quicker.
The procedure for stenciling begins with laying a single layer of fabric out on a flat surface with some kind of heavy or non-porous protective barrier beneath the area you will be stenciling. I have used cardboard, card stock, and aluminum foil. I prefer aluminum foil because I can easily run a long sheet of it down the entire length of the table beneath the fabric and not have to cobble together multiple pieces of cardboard with tape. I secure the foil to the table with tape then pull the fabric taut and secure it to the table with clips. You have to be very careful that the fabric and the protective under layer do not shift around while the paint is drying. If this happens, the paint will transfer to non-stenciled areas on the back of the fabric and may bleed through to the front of the fabric. If I’m working on multiple garments, I will set up two stenciling lines on each long edge of the table. That way I can work on a second stencil line while the first is drying.
After I have everything taped and clipped down I mix the paint. I then spray the back of the stencil with repositionable adhesive spray and wait a few seconds for the adhesive to start drying and get tacky before laying the stencil down on the fabric. You will need to press the stencil down firmly on the fabric in order to reduce paint bleeding past the edges.
The next step is to daub the paint onto the fabric. I have used a variety of sponge-style paint daubers that are easy to find in any craft store. Some styles may work better for some people than others, but I have used all of them successfully. I begin by dipping the sponge into the paint to soak up a moderate amount of paint, then daubing some of the paint onto a scrap of cardstock or foil to get a thin, even distribution throughout the sponge before daubing the fabric. I would recommend experimenting with this process using scrap fabric to get a good feel for how to produce the best results. It honestly takes some trial and error to figure out how much paint to use and how to avoid paint bleeding across the edges of the stencil.
After daubing the paint onto the stencil you will immediately pull up the stencil and carefully lay it down next to the area you just stenciled to continue the pattern down the length of the fabric. You don’t want to let the paint dry with the stencil still adhered to the fabric. This will make it difficult to pull the stencil up and will likely pull some of the paint up with it. The spray adhesive will remain tacky for a few rounds then will need to be reapplied when the tackiness no longer keeps the edges firmly adhered to the fabric. If there are any questions about how often to reapply the adhesive, err on the side of more frequently to prevent paint bleeding across poorly adhered stencil edges.
There are a few common problems to watch out for. Make sure to check the adhesive side of the stencil for paint in between every round of stenciling. If paint bled across the stencil line or accidentally came in contact with the painted design, you will run the risk of transferring paint to an unwanted place on the next section of fabric if you don’t clean the paint off the adhesive side. Also, if you are stenciling a large project, you may begin to notice paint building up along the edges of a stencil you are using repeatedly. Make sure you either wipe or pull the paint build-up off the stencil or use a razor knife to cut the paint back to the original edge. Otherwise, the design will grow progressively smaller and small details around the edge will become distorted.
After the paint has completely dried, I set the paint by putting the garment into the dryer at the hottest temperature setting. The stenciled paint is safe to iron after this initial setting. Ironing with a hot, dry iron will also help fully set the paint prior to wearing and washing. The paint will last a surprisingly long time and will not flake off or wash out.
Here are examples of products I’ve used for this process. I’m not picky about brands and can’t tell much of a difference between the variety of brands I’ve used.
I now own an embroidery machine, but I would still use stenciling if I needed to quickly add a custom design to something I was making on a deadline. I have yet to make friends with my machine and have so far found it to be more trouble than it’s worth. However, I am hoping to master some simple, period-accurate motif designs for future chiton and himation projects. I’m sure that adventure will find its way to another post.