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Stenciling I know. Sewing, not so much. Taking Home Economics in middle school 30+ years ago can only help you so much. But how hard could this be to take a stencil and turn it into dolls? Famous last words.

The stencil used to make these art dolls was inspired by Henri Matisse’s The Dance painting. His figures were not about proper proportions or exacting realism so it’s fitting that these dolls each ended up with their own shapes. I am not the most skilled seamstress and making really small arms had consequences.

Stencil the figures on to white cotton fabric with Marabu’s Fashion Spray. The less spray you use, the crisper your image will be. The more you use, the more likely it is that the color will go under the stencil. That’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s just what happens depending on how much spray you use.

Once they’re dry, flip it over and pin a piece of plain fabric to it- with the right sides facing in.

After each color, blot the stencil dry using scrap fabric this way as you’re cleaning off the stencil, you’re also using the negative of the stencil to make patterned fabric. Every drop of Fashion Spray gets used!

Next, sew around the shape but be sure to leave an opening so you can turn it right side out. You might think it’s obvious to leave the opening, but I got so wrapped up in the sewing that I totally forgot to do that once.

I’m not a precise free motion person, so that means there were some interesting shapes in the end. The extra wide spots and extra narrow spots made each doll unique.

Smaller areas, like arms can get very narrow so it is tough to pull the arms out. So I started giving them some very wide arm pits- just to make it easier to get the arms out.

On those dolls where I accidentally made the arms extra narrow, they just didn’t have one or both arms. Let’s just say I was making them like the ancient Greek statues who always seem to be missing arms.

Once they’re sewn, trim off the excess fabric. Then the fun begins – turning them right side out. Needle nose pliers and a pin are handy to have for this process. It’s an exercise in patience and one I didn’t always have. That’s why some arms seem rather short or completely missing.

Now it’s time for the stuffing. Putting in little bits of it a time is best, but that takes patience so sometimes I did that, and sometimes not so much.

Once they are stuffed, then stitch up the opening with some hand stitching. After making these, I have a new respect for doll makers and anyone who can make 2 that look like!

One of my dogs thought I made new toys for him, so he secretly got ahold of one of the art dolls and took it outside. When I found it in the grass, a silly thought popped into my head- this would make a great piece of installation art!

So I turned a little portion of my backyard into a soft sculpture garden representing the feeling of getting lost in the weeds. But only temporarily, as my dog was way way way too interested in chewing on them!

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links are affiliate links which means I get a small percentage. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps keep the free tutorials coming! The colors of the sprays in the images below are a bit weird, so go by more of the colors in my video or photos than these thumbnail images for colors.


Does everything go as planned? No & that is the fun, this is play after all! You’ll probably laugh at how many times I redid the stenciling on this piece of recycled cardboard and why I chose to do the very last thing to it.

You can art on anything- including cardboard packing material. And you don’t have to do everything in one session, after all painted cardboard doesn’t have an expiration date.

Is there only one type of paint to use for this? Absolutely not! Use whatever paint you have- after all the best art supplies are the ones within arm’s reach!

Those 3 openings felt like windows but they needed something silly in them. They needed Silas and Sigmund.

Who are Silas and Sigmund? They’re like vaudeville stage managers of our lives who just can’t seem to take things too seriously. 

Silas, on the bottom of the stencil, is trying to coral all the everyday happenings, the feelings, the thoughts, while Sigmund is perched up top to get the best view of the show we call our lives.

This is one of my new stencils at StencilGirl and Silly Silas and Sigmund comes with not only the stencil but 3 masks as well.

The yellow gel print created the feeling of warm lights glowing in the window so it’s like we’re peering in watching a not so serious conversation.

Once Silas and Sigmund were positioned in the windows, tape was used to hold them in place. Use any tape you have or any glue you like, since nobody will see the backside.

To get the words on here, I used a quote by George Dorsey from my It’s Time to Play stencil. “Play is the beginning of knowledge.”

To stencil crisp images or text, use a small amount of paint and pounce in an up and down motion. But did I? Nope.

Even though I know this, and can do it, I don’t always. The first part was stenciled crisply, but the second part was a mess. O.O.P.S.!

This wasn’t a horrifying mistake to beat myself up over, it was just an O.O.P.S., an Outstanding Opportunity Presenting Suddenly.

In the video, you see how many times I messed with it from wiping it off, to stenciling in another color, but in the end it was finger painting that won out.

Before I understood the power of play, I would have beaten myself up senseless from having made so many mistakes, screwing so much of this stuff up as if I’d committed some kind of crime.

But once I understood the power of play there was no more beating myself up. There was no more of this crazy pressure to get everything right the first time. It became about the freedom to play, about the process, about the joy.

If you want to feel the freedom of play, I’ve got a free workshop called Permission to Play It’s got very specific strategies for how you can let go and let yourself play. Join in on the fun of play here.

I had to laugh at myself. The stenciling was finally all neat and tidy and I didn’t like it one bit. So I went and messed it up a bit with a nib pen.

When I chose the quote for this, I had no idea how fitting it would be. After all, every “mistake” I made was just the beginning of something better and I bet if you ever happen to make a “mistake” in your play.

Here are the supplies used. Some of these links are affiliate links which means I get a small percentage. It doesn’t cost you anything extra and it helps keep the free tutorials coming!


What secret have I been keeping? 4 new stencils! They’ve just been released at StencilGirl Products and there were 2 big influences on these, play and Henri Matisse.

When I saw The Dance by Henri Matisse at the Museum of Modern Art, I was speechless. Sure I loved the feeling of unrestricted movement and the youthful spontaneity, but there was something more about it that I didn’t understand until I did a little research.

This was a scandalous and rule breaking painting for its time. The ambiguous nudes were called barbaric, they didn’t fit the traditional conventions of drawing figures at all.

This painting represents freedom to me. The freedom to not follow the rules, to make art the way that you want to, instead of the way that you’re “supposed” to. That’s how I feel about scribble journaling after years of handwriting critiques, so I added a touch of rebellious with it to the figures inspired by his painting.

After learning what a rule breaker Matisse was, his quotes held even more wisdom. What he said back then is just as true now.

Imagine we were sitting down with Matisse, having a cup of coffee while chatting about the creative process and the artistic journey. These quotes of his are the words of advice Henri Matisse would give us. Oh to have a time machine!

There was a time when Matisse didn’t understand color. Hard for me to even wrap my mind around that the impressionist painter, John Russell, explained color theory to him. When Matisse said “an artist is an explorer” he was speaking from experience.

These figures revealed their personalities as I turned them into fabric art dolls. The Inner Child and the Guide holding hands, the Superhero who leaps over tall obstacles in a single bound, the Free Spirit who hears the music of the soul even in these noisy times, and The Adventurer is ready to head off and see what the world has to offer.

The inspiration for Silly Silas and Sigmund was dealing with the conversations that happen in our minds and finding a way to not take them so seriously.

These characters are like vaudeville stage managers of our lives who just can’t seem to take things too seriously. 

Silas, on the bottom, is trying to coral all the everyday happenings, the feelings, the thoughts, while Sigmund is perched up top to get the best view of the show we call our lives. Both are quite opinionated and of course, share those opinions freely!

This stencil set is all about options. Not only do you have these characters in different sizes, you also get 3 masks with the stencil. That gives you lots of ways you can add a touch of playfulness to you art.

It’s Time to Play is filled with quotes to remind us all that a little play is good for the soul! Play is powerful for your health. Yes, your health!

Studies show there are health benefits to play. It can help lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve memory, stimulate the growth of the cerebral cortex, and that’s all on top of having fun. When my family asks what I’m doing in my studio, I tell them I’m taking care of my health!

Who said all of these quotes?

  • My childhood may be over but that doesn’t mean playtime is – Ron Olson
  • Life isn’t as serious as the mind makes it out to be-Eckart Tolle
  • Getting old is when you walk around the puddle instead of through it-  adapted from an RC Ferguson quote
  • A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest- Roald Dahl
  • Play is the beginning of knowledge- George Dorsey

When you’ve got stencils with words and phrases on them, you can use them as they are & you can combine them together. Here I took a quote from Conversations with Matisse and combined it with parts of quotes from It’s Time to Play to create a custom phrase.

Thanks for stopping by for a bit of play! You can find all of these stencils at StencilGirl Products.

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