Years ago, when I first started experimenting with foundation piecing on muslin, I was faced with the problem of how to transfer the design onto the muslin square. I chose to make a stencil of the design.
First, I printed the design on card stock.
Then, I used spray adhesive to glue the card stock to the back (smooth side) of a sheet of medium-grit sandpaper. I chose sandpaper because it would grab the muslin and not slide around.
Next, I cut openings in the design using a rotary cutter and acrylic ruler as shown below. Note that I cut the openings shy of the places where two or more lines connected. This space was 1/4" to 1/2". These "uncut" places are called bridges and hold the stencil together. Otherwise, the entire stencil would just fall apart. The opening were wide enough to accommodate a pencil lead. I used a mechanical pencil, so the thickness of the lead would be consistent.
I made two of these stencils: one was a mirror-image of the other.
Now for the muslin . . .
I wanted the muslin to be stable, so I starched it. I used liquid starch, available at the grocery store alongside the laundy soap (it comes scented and unscented). I experimented with different strengths. Full strength was too strong: the muslin was more like cardboard, and sent up little puffs of powdered starch while sewing. I settled for a solution of liquid starch and water somewhere between "light" and "medium."
I could stencil a muslin square in a couple of minutes . . . it was the sort of activity I could do in front of the TV (back when I watched TV, that is). There were only two drawbacks: stencilling several hundred muslin squares added up, timewise; and, I realized that the longer I used the stencil the less accurate it became. The pencil lead was slowly wearing away the sides of the stencil openings, making them larger . . . uh oh.
I decided to go with a rubber stamp. A local company would make one for me from artwork I provided. They assured me that the stamp would be a photographic reproduction of my artwork, but the resulting stamp was larger than I expected. Since I didn't remember measuring my artwork, I couldn't say for sure that the fault was theirs.
I used a small, shallow cookie sheet with a sheet of felt as a stamp pad. I bought some indelible fabric ink and tried the stamp. The ink was thin (like water). Good thing the muslin squares were starched; the ink bled through the fabric, making the muslin squares reversible. But, the ink had a tendency to wick outwards, making thick lines . . . not good, but acceptable. The ink gave off noxious fumes, too. I could stamp muslin squares in a fraction of the time, but I wasn't pleased with the overall outcome.
I abandoned the rubber stamp and its smelly ink.
Recently, I decided to give it another try. This time, I DID measure my artwork . . . the resulting stamps came out smaller than my artwork.
I decided to use them anyway . . . as long as I was using them solely, and not trying to use other sized blocks, what did it matter?? I also found a supply of foam rubber to use as stamp pad and a better, slightly thicker ink. The ink still bled through the starched muslin, but it wicked outward much less (and didn't smell as bad, either). These stamps should last indefinitely (which makes it worth the investment).
I'm still getting the hang of stamping . . . sometimes, the lines don't show up as well as I'd like. I got a fabric pen to perform a little "quality control" on the possible rejects.
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