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tudor ensemble 1

Kimiko Sews

A Gentlewoman's Creative Blog

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Stencil Creation Day
tudor ensemble 1
(Cross posted from A Gentlewoman's Blog: http://kimiko1.com/blog/2016/01/stencil-creation-day/)

Today we had planned to go to the mountains, to enjoy the snow while the whole family had the day as a holiday. The rains that came in early this morning meant we had to come up with other plans.

So, this afternoon I got out my new stencil making supplies, and decided to take my original design that I made yesterday, and make the stencils a reality. And in learning how to work with hand made mylar stencils, I found and mostly corrected a big mistake from my original design, as you will see.

Today’s post will have lots of photos for you. But, let’s start with my light box. The only tool I didn’t photograph. It has been very helpful in making my various crafts, so it is today’s unsung hero. I got it several years ago from Joann’s, with those handy coupons.

Stencil printout over mylar, marked and ready to trace. Stencil printout over mylar, marked and ready to trace.

This photo shows my design as I had printed out, and marked up with a highlighter, and pencil marks. It is glowing because I photographed it while sitting on the lit light box. I wanted to be sure that the bridges I had created would be wide enough, so I decided that some parts had to be overlayed with a second stencil, so that the center bits wouldn’t get lost. I realized later I could have just made most of them all in one, but I’m learning.

Stencil traced out onto 7mil mylar, ready to cut. Stencil traced out onto 7mil mylar, ready to cut.

This image shows the 7.5 mil blank mylar (8.5″x10.5″ sheet) on the lit lightbox, with all the elements I want to cut out all traced with a pen. I was using a Sharpie pen, in purple ink, but I didn’t realize that their colored pens are not as permanent as their Sharpie fine point permanent markers. Ooops. You can see some smudging already happening, if you click the photo for a larger image (which you can do with all the photos here).

Now I am ready to take the drawn stencil, and get it cut out. For this, I needed some more tools.

Photo of most of the tools I used. Photo of most of the tools I used.

If you click on the photo above, you will find a list of all the tools I used, and some notes about them.

I had been informed when I was looking at the mylar sheets that some sort of heated stencil cutter or cutting knife would work best in cutting the mylar. So I read various reviews, trying to figure out what sort of knife would work best. There are a few options. And after testing, a regular X-acto knife would take much, much longer to use alone on this thick a piece of mylar, and it isn’t all that thick.

I ended up choosing the Dremel Versa-tip set, as it had the least bad reviews on amazon.com. Seriously. There were choices with a famous craft lady crafting knife that had two tips, and no extras available to be purchased. Another was an X-acto knife hot blade kit, but the reviews were really bad. And then there was this one that had both the fine tip stencil cutter, and the knife, too. For under $20, I knew it was not going to last. But I did not want to jump up to double that price or more, when I did not know if I would be doing more stencil cutting, or wood burning, or any other activity that can be done with this set. I just hope it gets me through this project before becoming a problem.

Partway through the cutting of the stencil mylar. Partway through the cutting of the stencil mylar.

So this photo was taken when I took a break for dinner. I learned quite a bit in my first tries on using the hot cutter on mylar.

First, make sure the cutter tool is well heated, but not too hot where you can’t touch the handle. There is no heat regulator, so it just increases in temperature until you shut it off. The instructions (which I read) tell you to unplug the device when the handle is too hot to hold, and keep on using the cutter. Most of the time I had no problem using the device. I found that when it was too hot to handle, and I did have to unplug it, I could continue cutting for less than a minute further, before it was too cool to cut. So, I ended up cutting the stencil in sections.

Second, as you are cutting, the vapors of melting mylar will make your head ache. So open the window! Seriously!! I was prepared for this, so I had sat in the dining room with my back to an open window, where I could plug in my cutter, and work in comfort. I still could smell the fumes, but with a cold winter breeze coming in, and out, it wasn’t so bad. If you can work outdoors, or with nice cross breezes, that would be better.

Third, as noted in the directions, make sure to use something heat resistant to cut on. I used my handy cookie baking tray, as I always use parchment paper when making cookies, so food never actually touches the top of the aluminum. It seems that the melted mylar never touched that surface, either.

Fourth, the cutter really does work through that mylar fairly quickly. But don’t rush your cutting. Work in a slow, smooth, downward direction, changing the mylar page position as needed so that you continue to cut downward. I soon realized that corners were going to be a problem, and the solution is to not worry about them with the heated cutter, or it makes a mess. That is what the X-acto knife helps with later.

Fifth, break the design up into small sections. Use the heated cutter until your device is too hot, then unplug, put it in or on your resting tool to let it cool off without burning you, and bring out the regular X-acto knife. Spend the next several minutes taking out the cut pieces, cutting through the corner bits, and cleaning up the edge a bit. When that section is cleared, plug in your hot cutter, and cut through more of your design. Repeat as needed.

Main stencil is cut... but there is a problem. Main stencil is cut! … but there is a problem.

And here it is, all cut up and looking pretty! Woohoo!! Uhhhhm. Hmmm. Seems there is a problem.

Yes, I made a mistake. I had forgotten that the design at the bottom is longer than the design at the top. You can see the alignment dots do not match up. When I put it on top of the design paper itself, I realized that yes, I had moved the bottom vines out a little to make room for the laurel wreath, but did not do so for the toy top. So, what should I do? I did not want to cut any more than I had to, because by this point, the fumes I was still smelling were starting to give me a headache.

Extra stencil section, to correct the placement of the secondary motifs. Extra stencil section, to correct the placement of the secondary motifs.

This was my solution. I had a practice mylar sitting nearby, so I used it to correct the upper design. I also added in a few more alignment dots around the laurel wreath, so that I could use the vines I had already cut, and be able to fit the wreath in between sets of vines. It is more work on my part to remember what to do and when to do it, instead of having a handy, all in one stencil as I had originally planned. But that’s ok. I’m planning to work on curved hems, so a straight lined up stencil wasn’t needed as I will have to adjust each section as I go along. I did mark in, with permanent marker, where the toy top will be placed, again to help align the motifs. Otherwise, it is confusing as I tried it once upside down, and backwards. Make notes, in permanent marker, so you know what is going on.

All stencils cleaned up and finished. Layers are now properly aligned. All stencils cleaned up and finished. Layers are now properly aligned.

This shows the two layers, one on top of the other, to show that when done right, they do line up pretty well. Not perfectly, but close enough.

And that is what I realized about making my own stencils. The lines are not cut perfectly. But the period woodcut design I took it from was also not perfect. It has been touched by human hands as a part of my art, not computerized laser machines. Those are available to those who want a custom designed perfect stencil. Just be prepared to pay even more for those. I’d rather have my own hand bring a little life to these stencils.

Tomorrow, I will cut out the smaller stencil for the neckline area. I’m going to see how well the hot knife works in this set. I’ll report a little more tomorrow on that aspect. I may even post a short product review at that time on the Dremel set, and offer links to interesting stencil sites. So stay tuned!

1501 to 1550, Clothing, Other Arts, fabric-painting, finish_it
(Cross posted from A Gentlewoman's Blog: http://kimiko1.com/blog/2016/01/stencil-creation-day/. Comments can be posted here or there.)