How to Stencil a Pillow with Freezer Paper

  • 01 of 10

    Stenciling a Custom Pillow with Freezer Paper

    Stenciled Pillow.

    Sometimes, despite the myriad of stores offering stylish pillows at great prices, it's difficult to find just the right pillows for a space.  If this has ever happened to you--perhaps you can find the right pattern in the wrong color, or the right colors in the wrong fabric--then you need to have this technique in your back pocket.

    The only time-consuming part was cutting the stencil. Even so, the whole project only took about 3 hours and it cost a mere $5.29 because we had fabric on hand.  If you've ever priced stencils before, then you know they can be expensive; this was a real savings.

    Read on for the step-by-step process for stenciling a custom pillow.

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  • 02 of 10

    Gather Materials for Step 1

    Materials for Step 1.

    Here are the tools and materials you will need to get started:

    • Pillow form (or an old pillow you wish to recover)
    • Freezer paper (about $4.00 from any grocery store)
    • Scissors
    • Pencil
    • Plain, light-colored fabric of your choice (I used some linen left over from another project for the front, and since there wasn't enough for the back, too, I used a sweater I was going to donate for the back.)
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  • 03 of 10

    Measure and Cut Material

    Stenciled Pillow Step 1.
    • If you are using the same fabric for the front and back of your pillow, double it up and lay it flat. Place the pillow form or pillow you wish to recover on top.  
    • Cut around the pillow form, leaving about an inch extra on all sides so that you have two pieces of fabric the same size.
    • If you are using two different fabrics for the front and back, do not double the front fabric. Simply cut out one layer, then cut the back fabric the same size as the front.  
    • Next, cut a piece of freezer paper the same size as your fabric.
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  • 04 of 10

    Select and Trace the Stencil

    Stenciled Pillow Step 2.

    Conduct an online image search for the pattern you wish to replicate.  Since geometric patterns are really popular right now, I typed "geometric pattern" into Google and was rewarded with images of ogee, mosaic, Greek key, and others.  Whatever image you choose, make sure its lines are thick enough to create a stencil.  In addition, steer clear of indistinct patterns such as ikat.  ​

    • Print out the pattern.  Enlarge it a little if necessary.
    • Place the freezer paper (glossy side down) on top of the printed pattern. You will be able to see the pattern through the freezer paper, making it easy to trace. Make sure one of the motifs is centered in the middle of the freezer paper to begin. Also, make sure the pattern is straight.  
    • Begin tracing the pattern onto the freezer paper with a pencil. Start with the motif that is centered in the middle, and work your way out until the entire piece of freezer paper is covered with the pattern.
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  • 05 of 10

    Gather Materials for Creating and Stenciling the Pattern

    Stenciling Materials.

    The following items are needed for the last steps in the process.

    • Craft knife
    • Cutting board or self-healing mat
    • Clothes iron
    • Craft paint
    • Paper plate
    • Pouncer or stencil brush
    • Sewing machine
    • Thread
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  • 06 of 10

    Cut the Stencil

    Stenciled Pillow Step 3.
    • Place your freezer paper on a cutting board or self-healing mat.  
    • Using the craft knife, begin to cut out all of the negative space of the pattern.  
    • Depending on the complexity of your pattern, this portion of the project is the most time-consuming. 

    Tip: Hold the knife the same way you would hold a pencil.  For cleaner cuts, pull down rather than push up on the knife. So, for instance, when cutting a leaf shape, start at the top apex of the leaf and pull down one side, then pick up the knife and pull down to the bottom apex on the other side. 

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  • 07 of 10

    Iron on the Stencil

    Stenciled Pillow Step 4.
    • Set the heat on your clothes iron to the level recommended by the fabric type.  
    • Place the stencil glossy side down on top of the front piece of your pillow fabric. Iron the freezer paper stencil onto your fabric.
    • Iron a second piece of freezer paper onto the back of your project.  This will prevent bleed-through when painting. 
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  • 08 of 10

    Paint the Fabric

    Stenciled Pillow Step 5.
    • Squirt some paint onto a paper plate.  
    • Dip the pouncer or stencil brush into the paint, then with quick "pouncing" movements, completely cover the stencil-covered fabric with paint.

    Tip: Try to evenly paint the surface of your project by avoiding loading the pouncer with too much paint each time.  I was worried about paint bleeding under the stencil, but since I was careful to iron it all down fairly securely, there was no problem.  Even in places where the stencil wasn't completely secure, however, "pouncing" rather than brushing the paint on helped keep it from seeping under where it shouldn't.

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  • 09 of 10

    Remove the Stencil

    Stenciled Pillow Step 6.
    • Let the paint dry.
    • Peel off the stencil to reveal the pattern.  
    • Peel off the freezer paper used as a protective backing.

    Tip: I don't plan on washing this pillow because it is just an accent in a rarely-used guest room.  If you think your project will need to be washed at some point, read the directions on the paint bottle for how to set the paint.  This usually involves ironing it again with a press cloth.  You can also add fabric medium to acrylic paint for a softer finish.

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  • 10 of 10

    Sew the Pillow

    Stenciled Pillow.
    • Place the right sides of your front and back fabric together, pin them, then sew, leaving an opening for you to insert your pillow form through.
    • Hand sew the opening closed.
    • Check out these instructions for more detail on how to sew a knife-edge pillow.