Monday, January 27, 2014

Closeted Stenciler

I’m just going to clear the air right at the beginning of this post- I stenciled a closet.  What madness produces someone to spend 5 hours working in a space which 90% of people entering your home will never see?  I’ll call it the DIY madness. 

I’ve been dying to stencil or wallpaper something since we moved into this house.  I have never really had an interest in it before but I think since this house is so devoid of character, I felt like adding some great wall art would add some much needed pizzazz to the place.  I’m a little intimidated by wallpaper- the cost, finality and seemingly messiness of the process so I decided to try my hand at stenciling first.  F's closet is a narrow cave closet with a slope.  We plan to open the wall to create a second door or double door in the future, but for now, we are living with it.  Andy first tore out the original shelving.

After patching and sanding the walls, he painted the floors with a coat of floor paint (oil based and glossy and the painted he used on the upstairs hallway floors) and the walls with two coats of wall white.

Once I saw that nice, gleaming fresh white, clean space, I went into my mind to the place where amazing-cutesee people do things like decorate closets (thank you Pinterest for putting that thought into my brain).  I couldn't help myself and felt like ultimately the small space was a perfect place to experiment with stenciling my first time.

To make my madness complete, I decided to make my own stencil.  I had seen a wallpaper sample I loved a while ago and decided to recreate it in stencil form.  I enlarged the picture I wanted and printed it out.  

Using a black felt tip marker, I traced the picture onto stencil sheeting (just picked up at Hobby Lobby).  

After I had my design, I used a very sharp craft knife to cut the stencil out.  I put the stencil on my quilting mat while I was cutting.  It worked best to keep the knife in the stencil and move the stencil as I was cutting to keep the cuts clean.  I was surprised that it only took an hour or so to cut it all out.

Once I was ready to work in the closet, I sprayed my stencil with a special stencil adhesive on the wrong side.  I let the adhesive dry (5-10 minutes) before positioning the stencil on the wall.  
My tools- Styrofoam bowls with the paint, foam brushes and stencil adhesive
I decided to start with the far wall and baseboard trim as my stencil guide.  Since I was using 2 colors for each row and the bird was pretty detailed, I decided to use a foam stippling brush instead of a small roller to apply the paint.  For the first row, I alternated with a dark grey and light grey for each bird (all the colors were from left-over samples I had in the basement).  Using my stippling brush, I dabbed into each paint color and then dabbed off excess (so the paint doesn’t bleed behind the stencil).  

I dabbed the paint on the stencil- using more pressure than paint.  Once I had all my birds painted on the sheet, I carefully peeled the sheet from the wall and positioned it above the birds using the last bird as a guide.  
This is toward the end of the project, but you can see how I used the last bird (in blue) as a guide and then painted the tan and next blue bird on top
The paint dries fast enough that I didn't smear the bird I was using as a guide.  I used the line where the ceiling curves as my ending point guide. 

Since I was using two colors for each row and alternating between rows (even rows with light and dark grey; odd rows with beige and blue) I decided to do all the even rows first, leaving space to go back to do the odd rows in different colors.  This way I wouldn't have to clean my stencil or wait for it to dry after every row.  To get my guide where I placed the next even stencil, I marked the edge of the stencil at the top and bottom on the wall with a pencil. I then placed my stencil on these marks and made another mark at the top and bottom on the other side.  Thankfully, Andy had a laser level so I used it to create a line from the top and bottom marks (otherwise you could use a straight edge and draw a line).  This actually took the longest of the whole process- just making sure the line was straight.  
You can see the laser line a bit on the floor here and see the space I am leaving between the rows
Now that I had a space in between and a straight line, I started the process over of putting paint on the stencil.  The stencil began to be less sticky, so I reapplied the stencil adhesive about halfway through.  The even rows took me 3 hours to complete (almost 4 episodes of the “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” marathon I have been watching lately while painting) and I washed the paint off my stencil once I was done.  Really the hardest part of the process was having to kneel most of the time which I initially relieved by putting diapers on my knees (always on hand in the Peterson household).  Once Andy caught wind of my brilliance and ingenuity (or ridiculousness as he called it), he brought me a foam pad to kneel one.

The second night I went back to do the odd rows.  I choose beige and blue colors for these rows (really I just chose colors similar to the original picture I liked).  These rows went faster since I already had my pencil guide lines to line the laser level up with.

I am seriously giddy at the result.  

It is actually a little sad how excited I got every time I walked into the room to see those silly pigeons in the closet.  I makes me think of warm summer days in Chicago, eating a hotdog on a bench with pigeons begging for scraps.  A little bit Chi-town in the country. 

Overall, stenciling was pretty easy and enjoyable- I would definitely do it again and try in a bigger space.  Based on my experience, here are a few pointers:
1.       Use stencil adhesive (as opposed to taping the stencil) but wait for it to dry completely- I jumped the gun at one point and it was pretty messy
2.      The key is little paint, lots of pressure.  Based on the demos I saw for using a roller, this seemed to be the case as well.

3.      Go for it- a year ago I never would have imagined having pigeons on my wall but now I am ready to pigeon the whole house!

Stay tuned for lots more updates this week with the final closet layout, finished quilting table and organized craft area.  We were busy bees  pigeons this weekend!

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