The use of the stencil has become a strong factor in the decoration of the home, and when the designs and colour are of exceptional merit it adds a distinctive and harmonious note. A study of the spacing and grouping of the designs will give many suggestions to the beginner in stencil craft.
Cutting A Stencil.
If dyes are preferred to paint, great care must be taken to follow the instructions given with each package. Only by so doing is there any chance of the colours being permanent. The dyes may be prepared by dissolving a package in a quart of hot water. If a small amount is needed, four ounces of water to as much dye as will lie on a ten-cent piece is a good proportion. The liquid must be strained through cheese-cloth. Add five or six drops of diluted carbolic acid in order to set the colour. Another way of making the dye permanent is to use the white of one egg with two teaspoonfuls of water, and mix some of this with the dye. Other makers give directions for the use of dextrine or gum tragacanth. This may be obtained in small quantities from any drug store, as little as five cents' worth lasting a long time. A tea-spoonful to a breakfastcup of dye is a good proportion to use. Some workers have more success with one dye than with another, but really it is a question of experience and getting good results, and then using the most convenient. However, none of the above-mentioned fixants will suffice in themselves, for they still require heat. When the material is stencilled and dry, it must be ironed on the back with a very hot iron, which must be used over a wet cloth. The hot steam sets the colour more effectively than any fixant mixed with the dye, so that this must never be overlooked. It will usually be found that people who are not successful with dyes are not particular about this most important detail. Some workers run a warm iron over their work, without using a damp cloth, and are then disappointed when after the first launder the stencil has lost much of its pristine beauty; they forget it is the steam which sets the colour.
Ivory Linen Curtains Stencilled With Green Grape Motif.
When a curtain or stencilled cloth has become soiled, it must be immersed in water to allow the material to thoroughly soak. A handful of salt to a bucket of water will be found a good proportion. This helps to set the colour before it is washed. A good laundress makes her soap-suds and rinses the material in this, rather than rub it in her hands, or on the wash-board.
To apply the colour pour some liquid dye into a saucer, and dip into it a stiff bristle brush sold for painting in oils. Wipe the brush on one side of the saucer and again on a piece of blotting-paper to remove all superfluous colour, and then apply to the stencil. It will be found that the best way to handle the brush is to go over the ties and work from the outer edge to the inside of the open part. By doing this, the colour cannot get under the stencil and run. A little practice soon makes a deft worker, and if these little points are remembered, it may save material being spoiled by the beginner.
When fine materials like swiss, bobinet, or cheese-cloth are used, sheets of blotting-paper must be laid underneath the material to absorb the extra dye, but this is not necessary when canvas, burlap,or other heavy materials are used.
While dyes are nicer to work with than paints, they are not as absolutely permanent in colour as oil paint sold in tubes; for they will not fade after constant washing. Sash curtains that are exposed to the glare of the sun should be stencilled with oil paint in preference to dye, If the tube paint is not moist enough, a few drops of benzine may be mixed with it, but it is best not to dilute it, if it can be avoided.
There is a wide range of materials for stencilling upon, linen being one that has affinity for following the coarse lines of the material, and it is therefore best to use paint for coarse linens and those containing much dressing. Tussore silks, bobinet, pongee, canvas, and unbleached muslin are all well adapted for stencilling with dyes, and when materials are selected that will not of necessity be constantly laundered, dyes should be used. Russian crash comes in a beautiful soft grey, and forms a neutral background for a stencil decoration. It also has the advantage of being one of the nicest materials to work on with any pigment.
A visit to the kitchen towelling department will disclose many charming weaves of handmade or machine-made linens, some in cream, coffee, white, or grey colourings. Some are very wide, and are well adapted for various uses in the home.
Scrim Curtain With Grape Stencil.
There is a charming new material known as monk's cloth, which is extremely well suited for portieres in country cottages. This is a domestic cloth sold at thirty-five cents; it is like the imported monk's cloth costing $1.40 a yard. The higher-priced material is 50 inches wide, while the domestic is only 36 inches.
Sailcloth is another material that can be utilized. It usually has a band of red or blue, which can either have a design coloured to tone with the strips, or the strips can be slightly altered in colour to harmonize with the decoration. This material is well adapted for screens, especially in the summer home.
A recent innovation is the introduction of stencilling on evening gowns. Stencilled in delicate colours their effect is most artistic. An attractive dress so decorated was shirred around the waist, and the shirring extended below the hips; the effect of the stencilled material shirred was most unique. The soft blending of colours, and the charm of the soft clinging material, made a dress that was most becoming and universally admired. A large bouquet of roses added the finishing touches to the toilet.
Any girl with a knowledge of drawing could make an extremely simple design for her evening gown. It could afterwards be traced on to stencil paper. Great attention must be given to making what are called the "ties," as there must be a number of them so as to give strength to the design.
For stencilling on dresses use round, stiff brushes, and apply the colour with firm, even strokes. After filling the brush, it is best to wipe it on a rag or piece of blotting-paper, so as to ensure a neat clean edge. Often very good designs are spoiled through neglect of this precaution.
Evening dresses of light gauzy materials call for delicate tones of applied colour, and most dainty and fairy-like effects can be obtained when the delicate filmy fabric is ornamented. If oil-colour is the medium selected, it is best to lay the colour first on blotting-paper in order to absorb the oil. If really fast dyes can be obtained, they are much easier to work with, and if the stencilling cannot be done at one sitting, the rest of the dye will not have changed colour by being put away over night. The same cannot be said of oil-colour, as it frequently needs remixing after standing a few hours. It is always a tedious process matching colour, especially to an amateur, so that it is best to use dyes for evening dresses.
White Brussels net is one of the daintiest materials for evening gowns. It must be a very fine quality, and must hang in voluminous folds. Worn over a lavender silk slip, with a trailing design of violets scattered in a powdered effect, and yet retaining a border suggestion, the effect would be charming. The design should run above the hem at the bottom of the skirt, and also above the hem of a deep frill around the shoulders, with two frills, one above the other, to form the sleeves; but, as I said before, fashion will govern how the pattern should be placed. White net used over a green slip and stencilled with blurred, soft pink roses - with a touch of green velvet of a pale shade - would make a most artistic creation.
Messaline is much used for more elaborate evening gowns. It is exquisite in quality, as soft as crepe de Chine, yet more substantial. The surface is peculiarly well adapted for stencil decoration, and many beautiful dresses can be evolved, especially when the artist bears in mind that the stencilling when finished must be shadowy and translucent in effect, giving a suggestion only of colour and design.
A beautiful dinner gown, worn by a debutante, was made of ivory Liberty satin. The decolletage was outlined by bands of Persian embroidery, done on separate bands; shoulder straps were made of the embroidery too.
The same effect could be given by stencilling, but in this case the design must be conventional and solid, following closely the effect of the embroidery, while the effect of the colour would be strong, and of Persian motif, but the colour must be applied just as sparingly as if a dainty appearance was being aimed at.
These suggestions can be developed by the girl with clever fingers and good taste. Her own ingenuity will suggest many opportunities for adding original embellishments to her wardrobe.