I was lucky to have had a chance to paint and play in Marrakech with Melanie Royals during the Royal Design Studio tour last month. Inspiration galore followed me home! A swirl of patterns and colors danced like sugarplums in my head, pushing for a creative DIY adventure. I thought, why not put these ideas into holiday gifts. I often put as much thought and creativity into the package as the gift itself, so I decided to stencil leather gift boxes that look like little jewel boxes with Moroccan patterns. The boxes are as much of a gift as what is in them.
Many colorful leather goods come from Morocco so that’s where the idea to use leather boxes for this project came from. You can find small pieces of leather at craft stores. I found the Tiffany blue color leather at Michael’s. If you are looking for a bigger piece of leather, I’ve found everything from simple leathers to unusual decorative ones at an eBay store called Leatherwise. The dusty lilac suede used in this DIY was found there. There’s also Tandy Leather – mostly an online store, but if you’re lucky to live near one of their physical locations, definitely visit their store. You can also use “pleather” which is faux leather, often available at craft and sewing stores.
Supplies for this project:
- Royal Design Studio Stencils, lavender box — Marrakech Medallion, Jali Allover Indian Furniture Stencil, a border from the Sari Border Series Indian Furniture Stencil
- Royal Design Studio Stencils, blue box — Ankara Impression A Stencil, Jali Allover Indian Furniture Stencil, paisley shape from the Sari Border Series Indian Furniture Stencil
- Royal Stencil Cremes, lavender box — Aged Nickel, Frosted Lilac, Orange Ice
- Royal Stencil Cremes, blue box — Antique Gold, Peacock Fancy, Smoked Oyster
- Stencil brushes
- Paper maché boxes from craft stores like Michael’s or JoAnn
- Leather or suede
- Tassels – I found these tassels in the Marrakech souks but tassels are also available at craft and sewing stores
- Paper towel
- Ruler or yardstick
- Rubber cement
- Thread, needle and a button
First, decide what parts of the box you want to cover with leather. You don’t have to cover the entire box. You can just cover parts of a box as I did. Measure the areas of the box you want to cover, then measure and mark your leather. You can mark on the backside of the leather so pen marks won’t show. Then cut your leather pieces.
I found it’s easier to stencil the leather before gluing it to the box. The lavender suede was large enough to cut into one long strip to wrap around the box. The turquoise leather had to be cut and pieced together. So I stenciled those shorter pieces all together so the stencil design would flow around the box.
Stenciling on leather is similar to stenciling on other materials like paper or fabric. Be sure to offload paint from your brush. That is, swirl your brush on paper towel and rub all the extra paint off the brush, so that you paint with nearly a dry brush. You can always paint several light layers to build up color if the first coat isn’t dark enough.
As I chose stencils for this project, I thought of the intoxicating mixes of pattern and color that we saw in Marrakech during our recent Paint and Play trip. That inspired me to choose a more adventurous mix of color and patterns for each box – why not pair orange with lavender? I decided not to worry about what “matches” or “goes together.” Because from what I saw in Marrakech, random color combinations that I wouldn’t have ever imagined to put together looked simply gorgeous!
After seeing that, how could you use just one or two patterns! If you had to break this “Moroccan stencil mix” down into a formula, maybe this is it:
- Choose geometric stencils for the sides of the boxes that look like the geometric tiles on the walls.
- Choose a scrolly pattern for the tops of the boxes, like the carved stone on the walls above the tile.
The color palette for each box is limited — three Stencil Creme colors for each box — so the colors tie the different patterns together.
After stenciling the leather, paint the paper maché box. You can pull from one of the colors used to stencil the leather. You can even paint the insides and bottoms of the boxes.
Once the box is coated with a base color, choose contrasting paint colors to stencil borders and medallion patterns on the top of the box.
To attach the leather to the boxes, I used rubber cement. Rubber cement is easy to apply in a smooth light layer and if some glue smooshes out, it’s easy to clean too. A thin coat of rubber cement is also less likely to soak in and saturate the leather, which I was concerned about because the suede was very thin.
Finally, I topped off the boxes with tassels bought from the Marrakech souks. The tassels are removable in case the gift recipient wants to use them for something else. To attach tassels temporarily, simply use needle and thread to “sew” the tassels to the lid of the box. Try to pass the needle through just one small hole in the lid, so that it won’t show much if the tassel is removed. Loop the thread through a button on the inside of the lid.
This project was a bit “outside the box” for me, ha! It has a different color palette than I normally use (it is not red, black or gold), and a slightly crazier mix of patterns. But that’s what should happen when new things influence you! I hope this shows you how to be adventurous with mixing stencil patterns, even in a small space like a box.
If you have created a stencil project outside the box, we want to see it! Email your pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org or share them with us on our Facebook page. You can even Instagram your pics and tag them with @royaldesignstudio and #royaldesignstudio.