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Stenciled Pillows




Antique block-print endpapers inspired the intricate design used on throw pillows and bed linens. A single template cut two ways yields a pair of coordinating patterns: petal-like circles with V-shaped notches and leafy branches with strings of graduated dots. When the stencils are overlaid or chicly misaligned, and the paint color is changed, variations are born.

When stenciling, pat the sponge in a dab of paint, and blot excess on the palette. Then apply paint in thin coats, taking care that it doesn't drip or pool, until the area is covered. If a design requires several colors, use a separate sponge for each. You may opt to adjust a paint's transparency or mix hues.

When using thin fabrics, insert a piece of waxed paper inside the pillowcase before stenciling. The completed projects can be washed and steamed or ironed.

Japanese paper screw punch with 3 mm tip, plus 1 to 5 mm tips,

Colorless extender, by Jacquard,


  • 2 copies of template
  • 2 sheets of 11-by-17-inch waterproof paper
  • Drafting tape
  • Cutting mat
  • Craft knife
  • Japanese hole punch
  • Pillowcases
  • Small sheet of glass (palette)
  • Palette knife
  • 5 to 7 ounces water-based permanent textile paint in white, black, pink, and orange
  • Natural sea sponges
  • Colorless extender


  1. Step 1

    Affix each template to a sheet of waterproof paper; secure with drafting tape to cutting mat.

  2. Step 2

    On first template, cut out large circles and V-shaped notches with craft knife. On second template, cut out leaves with craft knife, and use Japanese hole punch (with attachments for different-size perforations) to punch graduated dots.

  3. Step 3

    Remove templates, and discard; the waterproof paper will serve as the stencils.

  4. Step 4

    Affix pillowcase to a flat, covered surface using drafting tape. Lay stencil with circles and notches on the upper-right corner of pillowcase; secure with tape.

  5. Step 5

    Prepare palette with white paint. Use a sponge to apply paint to stencil. Let dry 3 minutes.

  6. Step 6

    Shift stencil to the left until only a few painted designs register in the far-right holes. Paint as in step 2.

  7. Step 7

    Repeat until front of pillowcase is complete.

  8. Step 8

    Prepare palette with black paint. Lay stencil with leaves and graduated dots over painted white design, so leaves cover white circles. Use another sponge to apply paint to stencil.Let dry 3 minutes. Shift stencil, and repeat until front of pillowcase is complete.

  9. Step 9

    Prepare palette: Mix 1 part pink paint (we blended in a touch of orange for vibrancy) and 3 parts colorless extender. Align stencil with circles and notches over white design, then shift stencil slightly for an off-register look. Use a new sponge to apply paint to stencil.Let dry 3 minutes. Shift stencil, and repeat until front of pillowcase is complete.

Martha Stewart Living, September 2008



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