With the rise of the tribal trend, the lively geometric patterns of “mud cloth” have been showing up in pillows, seat cushions, throws and wall hangings. There’s a pulsating energy to the patterns that draws you to them and makes it hard to look away. I was happy to notice that Royal Design Studio’s Tribal Vibe Allover Stencil looks much like mud cloth, and indeed it was inspired by these African patterns. So we can paint mud cloth designs in any color we like!
Also known as Bògòlanfini, mud cloth is made of cotton in Mali and it’s painted with a fermented mud mixture from local rivers, thus the name “mud cloth.” Its patterns are usually black, cream, yellow and brown.
Using the Tribal Vibes stencil, we can create our own mud cloth-inspired fabrics.
Supplies to make this project:
- Tribal Vibe Allover Stencil
- Stencil Cremes: Peacock Fancy, Copper Kettle, Frosted Lilac, Renaissance Red
- Stencil Brushes
- Stencil adhesive
- Smooth woven scarf and shawl – I found these at World Market
- Painters masking tape
- Paper towel
Instead of the contrasty black and cream colors you usually see in mud cloth, I wanted more subtle monochromatic colors. The Peacock Fancy Stencil Creme on the royal blue scarf and the Renaissance Red Stencil Creme painted lightly on the mauve scarf created that monochromatic feel. And you can see I added a twist! On each scarf, there’s a contrast band of a different color (copper on the blue scarf and lilac on the mauve scarf) that I placed so when worn, the contrast band would be off-center. Like a little unexpected surprise!
So let’s look at how to do this easy project…
First you want to secure your scarf fabric so it doesn’t shift around too much. The fabric I used was a slippery rayon and it took some care to not have the scarf twist and shift under the stencil. Some tips:
- Tape your scarf down onto your working surface with painters masking tape
- Spray a light layer of stencil adhesive on the bottom side of the stencil, then place the stencil on the fabric
The scarf fabric absorbed paint, so I left a bit more paint on the brush than I normally would when stenciling. Make sure you offload paint before stenciling on the fabric, by swirling paint off your brush onto paper towel until the brush is nearly dry. You’ll get a feel for how much paint to leave on the brush, as you see how much paint your fabric absorbs. But it’s always better to err on the side of less paint.
I usually shake the paint lightly so some paint gets on the lid, and then dip the brush onto the lid. This helps me not load too much paint on the brush in the first place.
Making a cool contrasting color band is easier than it looks! If you are new to stenciling, this neat trick will impress people! Just apply a line of tape where you want to switch from one color to another. Stencil your first color up to that tape line, and overlap paint onto the tape a bit so you make a nice clean edge of paint.
Then, peel up the tape. Once your first color of paint is dry, put the tape on top of the first color up to the edge you just painted. I always let a sliver of paint stick out, like 1/16″ to 1/8″ so your second color will overlap a tiny bit. This will ensure you don’t wind up with a sliver of blank space between the two colors.
Also, remember to put a second line of tape where you want your second color to end. You should be painting between two parallel rows of tape. Once you’re done stenciling the second color between your two lines of tape, repeat the step above and switch back to your first paint color. (Or, a third paint color if you’re really adventurous!)
I had an oops moment where some paint got where I didn’t want it. Some patterns overlapped when fabric shifted under the stencil. This was in a noticeable spot – where the copper and blue bands meet and your eye gets drawn there, so the mistake was obvious. So while the stencil creme was still wet, I dipped Q-tips in water and dabbed the paint away. The stencil creme that had already dried – the paint I wanted to keep in place – stayed in place. Yay!
For another tip, infinity scarves – scarves sewn into a big loop – are popular right now. The mauve scarf is an infinity scarf. Usually you would wear the scarf so the seam is at the back of the neck. So, start your stenciling at that seam. This way, when you get to the end of stenciling, if your patterns don’t match up perfectly, this will be hidden at the back of the neck along with the seam.
Today’s project was loaded with helpful tips! Which tip will you use in your next stenciling project?