Customize Your Fabric with DIY Freezer-Paper Stencils

Be Your Own Fabric Designer!

One of the things I love about sewing is that it allows you to create customized projects. When you choose your own fabric and notions and are able to sew items that specifically fit your measurements or your space, you can create personalized things that you'd never be able to buy in a store.

Samples of stenciled designs from Print, Design, Compose.


In addition to choosing great fabric and modifying patterns to suit your needs, another way to really make a garment or home décor project unique is with surface design. Modifying store-bought fabric can really spice up a project, and it opens up a whole new world of customization possibilities. While many stitchers are familiar with embellishment methods such as handstitching and appliqué, we've been trying to dive a bit deeper in recent newsletters and explore more direct methods of surface design. Today we're going to explore a really simple technique: freezer-paper stencils!

I love freezer-paper stencils because they're low-tech, incredibly easy, and don't take many tools (you might have everything you need in your house already!). If you've thought about experimenting with surface design but are a bit intimidated by dyeing or other more advanced techniqes, freezer-paper stencils are a perfect first step. I've turned to the Quilting Arts Workshop video called Print, Design, Compose: From Surface Design to Fabric Art with Lynn Krawczyk for step-by-step instructions and screen shots. I love these videos because it's so easy to watch and follow along, so grab some fabric, get your mental gears turning on some stencil design ideas, and jump in!

Freezer-Paper Stencils


– Freezer paper (it's different than wax paper!)

– Cardstock or posterboard at least as large as the design you'd like to print

– Permanent marker for drawing your design

– X-Acto knife or small scissors

– Fabric

– Fabric paint, screen-printing ink, or other medium to print your design

– Paintbrush or foam brush

Trace or freehand draw a design onto your freezer paper and cut out.

Use an iron to adhere your stencil to the fabric.

Brush on paint (be delicate around the edges!).

Peel away the freezer paper and you're done!


1. Draw your design

Sketch your design onto the paper or cardstock. Freezer-paper stencils aren't re-usable, so if you'd like to use this design more than once, it's best to draw it on cardstock and then trace it onto your freezer paper each time. If you only want to print this design one time, you can omit the cardstock and draw straight onto the back of your freezer paper. (If you're feeling improvisational, you can skip this step and move straight to cutting.)

2. Transfer and cut out your design

Place your freezer paper plastic-coated side down over the cardstock. Trace your design onto the freezer paper with the pemanent marker, then cut it out. One easy way to cut out your design is to tape your freezer paper to a self-healing mat and cut with a sharp X-Acto knife. If you're using an X-Acto knife, keep a bit of pressure on the freezer paper as you cut to keep pieces from tearing. Or, use sharp scissors to cut out your design.

3. Press your design

Place your stencil plastic-coated side down on top of your fabric. Using an iron set to high heat, lightly press the stencil to the fabric. The plastic coating on the freezer paper will create a temporary bond and stick the stencil to your fabric. Be sure to lift your iron and move it to a new spot rather than sliding it back and forth so you don't tear your stencil.

4. Print!

Use a brush to apply your fabric paint or screen-printing ink to the stencil. Use a delicate vertical motion around the edges of your cut-out shapes to keep paint from creeping in under the edges. Experiment with color – use one color for the whole stencil, make each cut-out shape a different color, or blend many colors to achieve a gradient effect!

5. Finishing

Once the paint is dry, peel your stencil away from your fabric. Check your paint to see if it requires heat setting. If so, heat-set your fabric before use. Done!

With an easy technique like this, there's no reason you can't create your own custom fabric! Check out Print, Design, Compose to watch freezer-paper stenciling unfold step by step. You'll also learn lots more great techniques such as soy-wax batik and Thermofax printing!

Happy sewing,


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About StefanieB

I'm the Managing Editor of Stitch magazine. I live in Fort Collins, Colorado with one fat cat, one very active dog, and lots of books, crafting supplies, and video games.

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