freezer paper stencils

May 12th, 2009

flower girls

This year for the guests at Annalie’s birthday party, we used freezer paper stencils to paint t-shirts! I’ve been wanting to do this craft for a while, but it was Brenda‘s idea to do it for the party favors. I had told her how Annalie had given me this very detailed description of what she wanted for her birthday cake: flower-shaped, blue frosting in the center, pink frosting on the petals. Brenda thought that was such a strong symbol that we should make it the party theme, starting with stenciled t-shirts. I said, sure, that sounds like a great idea—wanna help? So the weekend before the birthday party, we had a little crafting party.

gathering supplies for freezer-paper stencils

We gathered our supplies:

  • freezer paper
  • an iron
  • t-shirts (ours were 95% cotton/5% spandex)
  • cardboard for designing the stencil
  • exacto knife
  • cutting mat
  • fabric paint and paintbrushes
  • a fresh pot of coffee (What? We don’t do much of anything without coffee.)

cutting the stencil

I sketched a few flowers and decided on the design I liked best. Since we were going to be making seven freezer-paper stencils, we figured making a stencil out of cardboard that we could trace onto the freezer paper would be easiest. I drew the design I wanted onto the cardboard and then used an exacto knife to cut it out on my cutting mat. (If you don’t have a cutting mat, you could just use another piece of cardboard, and if you don’t have an exacto knife or utility knife, you could just use plain old scissors.)

cutting the freezer paper

We traced the flower onto the non-shiny sides of seven squares of freezer paper, then used the same exacto-knife/cutting-mat setup to cut out all the stencils. Well, I cut out one of them and I think Brenda cut out the other six. She’s a wizard with an exacto knife.


With all the stencils cut out, we moved on to the next step: ironing the stencils onto the shirts. I made sure all the water was out of my iron and that it was as dry as possible—steam will ruin things. I turned the iron on to the ‘cotton’ setting and positioned a stencil on a t-shirt, shiny side down.

ironing the freezer paper on

Once the iron was hot, I covered the stencil and shirt with a cloth napkin and ironed it, pressing hard for 20 seconds or so. Once all the stencils were ironed on, we got excited because the painting was the part we’d been looking forward to.

tower of fabric paint

We used Jacquard fabric paint, because I read in a couple of posts about freezer-paper stenciling that it was good. Also, it was an excuse to go to the Dick Blick store downtown and drool over all the pretty art supplies. But this craft will work with any old fabric paint.

pink palette

Brenda, being the experienced painter that she is, mixed up palettes for us in varying shades of pink and purple and blue and green. That way we could customize each girl’s flower, which was fun.


We painted the shirts with a thin coat of paint using cheap sponge brushes and Annalie’s paintbrushes. We made sure to completely fill in the spaces in the stencils, not being afraid to paint up onto the freezer paper. On some of the shirts we went back and added a second thin coat once the first coat had dried a bit because we wanted a brighter color. Oh, and we stuck a sheet of wax paper inside the shirts before we painted to make sure the paint didn’t leach through onto the back side. We actually forgot to do that with one of the shirts and didn’t have a problem.
mixing sticks

messy crafts are fun

We had a blast mixing and painting and generally making a big old mess. Then we had to wait at least four hours for the paint to completely dry before we peeled off the freezer paper.

trippy optical illiusion

The paper was a bit tricky to peel up, but it was so fun! It was really neat to see the design revealed as we pulled the stencils off.

peeling off the freezer paper

After I pulled the stencils off, I turned all the shirts inside-out, stuck the wax paper inside again, and ironed the back side of the painted designs because this particular paint requires fixing with heat. You don’t have to do that with most fabric paints, though.

flower t-shirts

Ta-daa! Pretty flower shirts for the party girls. The day of the party we wrapped them up in tissue paper, tied them with ribbon, and stuck them in a basket inside the treasure chest to await the treasure hunt.

I’m already plotting my next freezer-paper stencil t-shirt…only this one will be for me!

(Note: at least half of the photos in this post were taken by Brenda Ponnay.)

18 Responses to “freezer paper stencils”

  1. Sarah says:

    Such pretty shirts and thank you for the “how-to”. Suddenly freezer paper stencilling makes much more sense than it did before when I read about it elsewhere.

  2. K says:

    What an awesome craft. You two are so creative. I didn’t even know what freezer paper was until now… now I must go buy some and make a t-shirt. :)Thanks for the how-to.

  3. Kimberly says:

    So cute and what a great party gift idea!

  4. SAJ says:

    It was totally fun. You forgot the part where I took over the exacto cutting and shooed you away by saying, “Go bake something!” as a joke. AND then YOU DID BAKE SOMETHING!!!

    Because that’s what she does, guys! I was only kidding but she whipped up some gourmet cookie creation while I finished cutting. She’s crazy I tell you. Those cookies were good too!

  5. Bridget says:

    Adorable Idea!!

  6. Sonja says:

    I’ve been itching to freezer-paper-stencil for a while now… where did you find the freezer paper? I’ve looked in a few places without any luck.

  7. Keely says:

    What a fun project! I think I’m going to have to do this one soon! :)

  8. Oh my gosh, Bethany! These shirts are so gorgeous! Loved the tutorial. Thanks!

  9. jastereo says:

    you guys rule…

  10. What a fun birthday craft! I love how the t-shirts turned out, too =)

  11. Mysh says:

    Can I come live at your house? :O)

  12. Susan says:

    Wow! What a great tutorial! I’m printing it off and I’m going to make some cool things with my children now. Thanks for the creative lesson!

    Over at “RaisinToast

  13. Mrs. Wilson says:

    Those are amazing! I totally have to try that …

  14. BeachMama says:

    This is so awesome. Funny how just this week I have seen two or three posts about this freezer paper technique. I may try it for Christmas next year for the kids. Or maybe even the kids birthdays this year, it’s that great!

  15. [...] two different Blue Sun t-shirts from online shops and wasn’t happy with either of them. After freezer-paper stenciling the flower shirts for Annalie’s birthday party, I got the idea to try making my own. I already had a black Old [...]

  16. [...] Brenda immediately came up with a bunch of great ideas: Use a cookie cutter to make flower-shaped pb&j’s! Cut grooves down the length of carrots and cucumbers and slice them so they look like flowers! Float flowers in the fountain! Make flower t-shirts with freezer-paper stencils! [...]

  17. Barbara says:

    I love this idea. I will try it when I get all my girls together

  18. [...] blogged. Like this plate! I painted it green and used the same flower stencil that we used for the freezer-paper stencil t-shirts to trace a flower on the front. Then on the [...]