One of the most versatile craft supplies isn’t found in any specialty store—it’s on the shelf in your local supermarket, next to the aluminum foil and plastic bags. Freezer paper! It’s almost magical, it can do so much. If you haven’t been introduced to the crafty side of freezer paper, please, allow me to take you on a little tour…
First off, here’s your basic package of freezer paper.
One side of the paper is coated with plastic—can you see the difference? You can definitely feel it. The plastic side is slippery and, by the way, makes a great surface for finger painting. No need for that special paper that’s marketed next to the finger paint—just tear off a sheet of freezer paper, tape it to the table, and let your toddler go. The slippery surface is fun to paint on, but try the papery side, too. The plastic backing ensures that no paint leaks through. (While you’re in the paper goods aisle, pick up an extra package of aluminum foil for the kiddos, too. It’s also really fun to paint on.)
The other thing you need to know about that plastic side is that it will stick to fabric when you iron it on. This is the magic of freezer paper! Place it shiny side down onto your fabric, iron with a dry iron, and it sticks—but it also peels off without leaving any residue. This makes it great for one-time stencils on t-shirts, bags, any cloth item you can think of, really. Both of my older kids have designed and created their own t-shirts using freezer paper stencils.
The method is simple. Sketch out an idea, draw it to size, and when you’re happy with it, trace it onto the paper side of the freezer paper. Carefully cut out the areas where you want the paint, leaving a good margin of paper around your design—sometimes this requires an X-Acto knife. Iron it in place on the shirt, and then paint.
Depending on the design, you might be ironing on more than one piece, as in the “Super N” shirt, above. We ironed on the circle first, then ironed the N in the middle.
Any fabric paint will work, but I like using Speedball Textile Screen Printing Ink, dabbed on with a foam paintbrush. When it’s heat set according to the directions, the paint melds together nicely.
We use a compass to make the circles and rulers for the straight edges, but you could create the design on a computer, too. I made this shirt, using a freehand design, for my daughter’s third birthday:
Have you seen how much those numbered birthday shirts can cost? This cost the price of a blank t-shirt (often on sale at craft stores), plus it’s unique and special and makes me smile every time she wears it. I can already tell I’ll be making a new edition for every birthday!
Don’t feel limited to t-shirts, though. I made these heart napkins to brighten up my kids’ school lunches on Valentine’s Day, using bought napkins, freezer paper, and heart hole punches.
The only limit is that a freezer paper stencil can only be used once, because once you peel it off, its magical sticking qualities are gone. But until I learn how to screen print, this is the next best thing.
I’ve also used freezer paper to stabilize the back of fabric so I can write on it without it wiggling all around; then I peeled off the freezer paper and embroidered my handwriting (although you could also use fabric markers and skip the embroidery, of course). And Wendi Gratz recently posted a video on how to use freezer paper to neatly appliqué using a sewing machine.
I’m thinking the craftastic possibilities just might be endless for this stuff. What else could you use it for? And what could you stencil, now that you know how easy it is?!