September 27, 2011

An Easy Stenciled Pillow How-To

There were some things in my design for Amanda's living room that just seemed obvious. The baskets for added storage, the hanging lanterns for light, a rug to anchor the space…All of these things required little searching on my part. They just presented themselves as part of the design right from the get-go. Some things, however, like the artwork and the design for the pillows, required a little more research. However, when I first saw this dog silhouette pillow from West Elm, I knew right away that I wanted to incorporate something similar into Amanda’s space.

I right away began searching the internet for the right dog silhouette. Since I planned making a long pillow (I think the dimensions were 12”x28”) I needed a longish silhouette. The obvious choice would have been a dachshund, but since Amanda and Kelly have one large lab-Great-Dane mix and a smaller Heinz 57 dog, I wanted something a little more playful and a lot more athletic. I eventually stumbled upon this one from

At this point, I had a rough idea of how I wanted to create this pillow, but it was really guess-and-check from here on out. First, I made the pillow cover. This was really easy since I bought a pre-made pillow form at Joann’s. Basically, all I did was buy some fabric, make some basic measurements (namely, mark out a half-inch less than the size of the pillow form on all sides, so the cover would fit nice and tight), then I sewed two of the sides and left the other open. I left the one side open so I could lay it flat to do the stencil and so that I could put a piece of cardboard between the fabric, thus preventing it from bleeding through.
Next, I printed off the silhouette at what I thought was the appropriate size. Then, I gathered some basic materials.

Something else that I used which isn’t pictured here (and which actually was the most interesting tool) is a small, fingertip razor from Fiskars. On, second, thought, I’d better include a picture of it…See? Very sharp and very accurate. I have to say, it was crucial to getting the stencil cut out properly.

To replicate the West Elm design, I had the idea that I’d use some leftover contact paper from my window project to create the actual stencil, which I’d then put directly on the fabric and paint the inside, creating the blurred sunset-colors for the dog while still maintaining a sharp edge. And, I’m happy to say, it worked better than I anticipated!

First, I cut out the dog print and then used some double-sided tape to stick it to the back of the contact paper. Something which I did not think of was that since my stencil was going to be adhesive, I’d eventually have to flip it over to stick it to the fabric. In hindsight, I should have mirrored the silhouette, which would have resulted in it being the way I had originally intended, but such is life! And, anyway, I think it turned out pretty well as it is. (In fact, up until now, I bet the only people who knew it’s actually facing the wrong way are myself and Denny! Oh, well—secret’s out!)
After sticking the silhouette to the contact paper, I traced it with a Sharpie. I then removed the original silhouette and voila! A dog shape on contact paper! Let’s hear it, people: “Ooooh! Aaaaah!”

Next, I got out my tiny detail razor and slowly and carefully cut along the traced lines. It’s worth noting that I did this on a heavy-duty cutting board. If I hadn’t, I definitely would have ended up with dog-shaped scratches on my table.
After I finished cutting the silhouette out, I removed it (carefully to ensure that I didn’t warp or tear the stencil) and ended up with this lovely template for my dog pillow!
Alas, this is where my handy photos end, because it was at this point that I got extremely excited and rushed along with the rest of the project without taking any more pictures. However, I can give you the verbal breakdown of how the rest of the project went.
First, I trimmed a little closer around the stencil with a pair of scissors, so there wasn’t quite so much contact paper going on. Then, I gently removed the paper backing and attached my stencil to my fabric. Next, I used some fabric paint (in orange, copper, and yellow) and some small foam craft brushes to randomly go about the stencil’s edge to create the outline. I was very careful about how much I moved my brush when it was in contact with the stencil because I wasn’t sure how well it would hold, but I’m pleased to say that the contact paper held very firmly and I probably could have been a lot more rough with it.
After getting the outline done, I used my paint to swoosh around the different colors, blending the edges and trying not to be too patterned. I wanted the whole thing to look very organic, not like I’d thought about color placement too much.
Once the dog silhouette was entirely filled in, I very carefully peeled back the stencil and threw it away. Denny almost had a heart attack when he saw me detaching the stencil while it was still wet, but I assured him that it was to create a more precise, crisp line—and he eventually saw that I was correct.
I let the paint dry overnight. The next morning I was still really excited…but I also realized that my dog silhouette didn’t quite fill up as much space as I’d originally thought. I instantly thought that I’d need to make some kind of border on the outside edges to cut the white-space down. I thought of a lot of different options, like painting a border, sewing the edges an inch in to create a flat border, or even adding some ribbon to the edges. However, when I got to Joann’s and started looking around, I found some flat carved-shell beads in the jewelry aisle that were perfect. I took them home and messed around with different patterns for about five minutes before deciding on this one.
To make sure that the border ran in a perfectly straight line, I used some two-inch painter’s tape to mark out a line, then began sewing the beads on right along the edge. I didn’t take any pictures because I did it by myself one afternoon and it was definitely a two-handed job. Once the borders were complete, I stuffed in the pillow-form and used a ladder-stitch to sew up the open end of the pillow and the rest is history!

PS: If you have any questions or if something seems confusing, please leave a comment or send me an email and I’ll try to clear things up. This is my first detailed how-to, so I’d really appreciate any comments you have about it. Thanks!


  1. I have a question.
    It is this: WHAT??
    Ha. Just kidding. I got it. Very well done dearest!

  2. Yay! We absolutely adore the woof pillow, and the fellow that looks like it rather enjoys it as well :) I am not sure that I have said it enough times, you are AMAZING. And every time I walk into the living room, it makes me smile.

  3. @Kaydeemcdee - Lol. Did you mean to "WHAT??" like a minion. Because in my head you totally did. And I'm glad it was clear. Long, but clear.

    @Amanda - I'm so happy that you love it! It was my favorite thing that I did for the room. Even Denny was kind of sorry to see it go. He kept asking if you love-loved it, like that would make it easier to give up. :)