How NOT to stencil on fabric

Stencil design
I’ve been working on a project for Aussie Hero Quilts recently and decided to stencil a design onto fabric, as it wasn’t really suited to appliqué. While the idea was fine, I made three bad choices in the process:

1. I ironed two layers of freezer paper together over a soft ironing surface, which caused the layers to wrinkle.
Stencil back, showing wrinkles
2. I compounded this error by using water-soluble PVA glue to adhere the design to the freezer paper so that the paper stretched when wet and shrank again when it dried.

3. Instead of using a brush to lay the paint onto the surface gently, I used a sponge and pressed it down on the stencil. (There was supposed to be a photo of the stencil sponge here but for some reason it won’t display properly, no matter how much I tweak the code.)

The result was absolutely awful, as you can see from this photo:
Result on fabric (very bad)
The wrinkled stencil didn’t adhere to the fabric evenly and the pressure from the sponge forced paint out under the stencil, so that instead of a neat design I had a splodgy mess. I had to throw it out (although I did salvage as much of the unpainted fabric as I could).

The freezer paper technique is valid, though – I was much more careful with this star (on a different project) that was also too small for appliqué:
Different stencil, much better result
I made sure that the two layers of freezer paper were pressed (rather than ironed) together on a hard surface, and then the design was drawn on top (traced around a small star template) and cut out. The stencil was pressed onto the fabric on the same hard surface and left to cool. The paint was laid onto the edges of the design very gently and allowed to dry before filling in the rest of the design, and there were three coats in total. The edge is about as clear as freezer paper edges get – there are tiny projections that serve to remind us that fabric is not actually flat and has a three-dimensional structure.

If you have a complex design and you don’t want to trace it onto freezer paper, you can use fusible webbing to adhere it instead since it doesn’t distort the paper as PVA glue does (I had temporarily mislaid mine which is why I used glue but given that the doubled freezer paper was already wavy I don’t think it would have improved matters much in this case).