Summer has finally arrived in Brooklyn, and that is truly when the city is at its best. All the public parks become my extended living room — wonderful places to hang out, relax and to socialize. It is also where I can kick off my shoes, feel the earth, smell the grass and hear the rustling of leaves. Nature is a big source of inspiration for me in my work as a textile designer and maker, but it is also inspiration for a more healthy lifestyle in general. Being in nature calms and grounds me. It makes me a happier person, really.
Having picnics is one of my most favorite activities; I love food, I love spending time with good friends and, as you already know, I love hanging out in nature. Picnics combine all of that. (For whatever reason, the food ALWAYS tastes better out in the fresh air. Why is that?)
For the first picnic of this year I decided to invite my girlfriends for a sunday afternoon in the park. I wanted to make it real special, so I decided to create some cute picnic bags for my lovely friends filled with delicious handcrafted food. Fresh Brie and salami sandwiches, lovely and sweet strawberries, orzo salad, crisps, shortbread cookies and a small bottle of bubbly for us each all packed into a simple tote.

I created a simple two-color stencil design for the tote — a floral motif seemed rather appropriate. It is so incredibly easy to stencil print. You can print several bags in a jiffy and you do not need expensive or complicated tools or materials to get started. I used cotton bags easily found online. It actually would be real cute to also print some matching cotton napkins for this set. And if you feel ambitious, I bet you could print a nice border design on a table cloth turned picnic blanket!
We had a lovely day in Prospect Park that Sunday, one of many this summer. I hope you will enjoy some too!
Best wishes,
*Stenciling How-To
What you need
- These files: here and here, downloaded and printed
- Permanent marker
- Clear plastic (acetate) or stencil paper for making the stencils. You can also use self-adhesive clear plastic (contact paper) for making stencils for fabric printing. It is easily found at craft stores and some stationery/paper stores.
- an X-Acto knife
- Heavy cardboard or a cutting mat to use as a cutting surface
- Pebeo Setacolor fabric inks
- Old plate
- Masking tape
- Stencil brush or sponge: Stencil brushes will work best, but any flat stiff-bristle brush will serve the purpose.
- Cotton bags to print on
What to do
1. Start by printing out the design and tracing the design with your marker onto the clear acetate paper. (Some printers can print directly onto some acetate papers.)
2. Cut out your designs with the knife.
3. Pour a small amount of paint onto an old plate.
4. Place your template (stencil) on top of your material. Secure the stencil to the material using masking tape so it will not move during the printing operation. (This is why using self-adhesive plastic as a stencil is so handy — you won’t need to secure the stencil with masking tape.)
5. Dab an even amount of ink through the stencil with your stencil brush. Applying several thin layers of ink yields a better result than using too much ink at one time.
6. If you are printing more than one color: Print all of your designs in one color, and let the print dry before changing stencils. It is easier to use a separate brush or sponge for each color.
(*A version of this content originally appeared in Selvedge Magazine, 2011.)