How to Use Freezer Paper as a Stencil (Tutorial)

Recently, my sister and I ran a 5k for Hurricane Sandy relief. It was my sisters first 5k, and I wanted to commemorate it by making us matching t-shirts. I debated using iron-on letters, but that seemed tacky, and I thought about using puffy pant to draw on the shirt, but that seemed cheap looking, then I remembered learning how to use freezer paper as a quilting stencil years ago, and thought it could be applied here.

Freezer paper, believe it or not, has some sort of coating on one side that makes it iron-able (meaning, if you iron it, it will stick to fabric).  This technique has been used by quilters who cut out shapes from the paper, iron it to the fabric, and then cut out their fabric.

To make this project you’ll need the following:
-A surface to stencil (in this case, a T-shirt)
-freezer paper
-a method to cut your stencil (I used a Cricut Expression Electronic Cutting Machine, but you could use scissors or an x-acto knife)
-fabric paint

In this case, I used my Cricut machine to cut out the words (although, you could use a fine pair of scissors or an x-acto knife to cut out your design!).  For the sake of our 5k (and our quest to lose weight for my upcoming wedding) I decided that we were “sweating for the wedding”, and cut those words out.

I then centered the paper on my shirt (glossy side down), and began to gently pressed it with a iron set to medium-high heat and no steam.  I was ironing onto a t-shirt, so please set your iron according to your fabric content.

Iron away!  Make sure you apply firm, even pressure and that every square inch is firmly pressed down, especially around corners and small cutout pieces.  Make sure you are pressing and not ironing (pressing means you are lifting up the iron and pushing down for a few seconds, and ironing is the “sweeping” motion across the fabric.  If you iron, you may nick a piece of the freezer paper and tear it).


After you are done ironing, and the fabric has cooled to the touch, place a few pieces of newspaper inside your shirt. This will ensure that paint does not seep through to the back. Then, use a small brush to apply fabric paint over the stencil.  To ensure you cover everything, I brush all the letters in a horizontal motion, and then go back in a vertical motion.


Keep painting!


Let the shirts dry for a bit.  Since the paint was brushed on, it shouldn’t be too thick, and therefore it shouldn’t take too long to dry.  Once they are dry to the touch, begin peeling the stencil off.  The stencil cannot be re-ironed, so don’t worry if you rip or tear it.


Here’s our finished product!  (I suppose I should note here that it was a St. Patrick’s Day theme– everyone was asked to dress up in holiday spirit!)


As a last minute addition, I added “maid of honor” and “bride” to the back of our shirts.  We were such a hit at the 5k! People were running past us (yeah… we’re slow!) yelling congratulations and telling us they loved our shirts.  We were even featured in the local newspaper because the journalist loved the shirt.


And just for fun… 35 minutes in, we crossed the finish line! (Although, barely, for my sister, on the right)


*Please note that this post contains affiliate links for Amazon. I receive a small percentage of compensation if you purchase any items by clicking through my link.

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2 thoughts on “How to Use Freezer Paper as a Stencil (Tutorial)

  1. Pingback: Make Your Own DIY Flag Shirt {Tutorial} | Handmade Is Better

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