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Inspired by Obis: Stenciled Table Runner

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

Today’s how-to stencil tutorial shows you how to create your own vintage looking obi-inspired stenciled table runner using basic sewing skills and an easy layered stencil technique. The stencil patterns used are taken from Japanese family crest designs, known as Mon emblems.

We recently shared a blog post about the decorative patterns of the Japanese obi, and in it I mentioned that this piece of formal kimono attire is often used today for home decorating with you. Did you know that vintage obis make ideal table runners? Obis are about a foot wide and can be about 12 feet long, making them an ideal shape to run down the middle of a table. But if you don’t have a pretty vintage obi on hand, you can easily make an obi-inspired table runner by painting Japanese stencil patterns on shimmery silk fabric.

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

Supplies to make a Japanese obi-inspired stenciled table runner:

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

You can use any smooth fabric. Silk is ideal, but other fabrics like cotton, rayon or polyester would work fine too. My fabric is a patterned silk woven jacquard, but you can use a solid colored fabric as well. I thought it would be cool to play with pattern on pattern by stenciling other designs over it. If you do use a patterned fabric, choose one that’s a subtle pattern and monochromatic color, so that your painted stencil patterns will pop out enough from the background pattern on the fabric. You can see above how there is contrast between the bigger stenciled pattern and the smaller more subtle fabric pattern.

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

First, cut your fabric to the width and length you want. I recommend cutting it 14″ wide as that is the traditional width of kimono fabrics, and cut the length long enough so that both ends of the runner will drop over the ends of your table. As an optional step, you can decide whether you want to 1.) turn all the edges under and sew along them so they don’t unravel, or 2.) sew your fabric to a second fabric as a backing. I chose the second option because the silk alone was too lightweight. For the back side I chose a coordinating color polyester. The fabrics and fringe used here were from my sewing stash, but you can find similar fabrics at online and storefront fabric shops.

To attach the backing, just put the right sides of the fabrics together and sew straight lines along both of the long sides, 1/2″ in from the edges. When finished, turn the fabric right side out. It should look like a long wide tube. Your edges are probably “puffy” looking. They need ironing to press down all the layers of fabric in the seam. Iron along the seam edges so they lay flat. Now, turn the fabric under at the ends, and sew along the edges. Or you can attach fringe on the ends as I did. Japanese obi usually don’t have fringe, but I wanted a contrasting black fringy look on my table runner.

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

Now you have a table runner and it is ready to paint! The Japanese Medallion Stencil as show uses a two-step process. First you paint a solid color circle. Then you set a medallion motif on top of the circle and paint that. Before painting on the silk, I first painted some medallion designs on paper, with different color combinations. Then I cut the paper medallions out and set them on the table runner to see what looked good. Some definitely looked better than others! So it’s a good idea to test colors before painting on the fabric. They’re showing up okay in the photos here but in person, the darker backgrounds don’t stand out much from the fabric. Lighter color medallions showed up better on the silk.

My silk was slippery but there are a few methods that help you keep the fabric from sliding, and thus keep stencil edges nice and crisp. Here are tips for stenciling on a lightweight or slippery fabric:

  • Definitely use stencil spray adhesive. It gives your stencil “teeth” so it will hold onto the fabric and prevent the fabric from slipping and sliding around underneath the stencil, which can easily happen. I used stencil spray adhesive for every stencil, and every edge turned out fine!
  • Start by stenciling around the outer edge of the circle shapes first. Then fill in the middle. If the fabric pulls a bit while you’re painting the middle, you already finished the edges.

Stencil Spray Adhesive Tip

Spray in a well-ventilated and well protected area as the spray will travel. Hold the can about 12″ from the surface and just apply a light mist. Allow it to set up for a couple of minutes before laying the stencil on your fabric.

Sometimes on real obi, you will see medallions overlapping. How do you do this? It’s so easy! Here are the steps:

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

  1. Trace the plain circle stencil onto a piece of thick paper. Cut the paper circle out.
  2. Set the paper circle on top of the painted circle that you want to “protect,” you don’t want to paint over.
  3. Lay the stencil where you want to paint. It will overlap a bit with the paper circle and that’s okay, that’s what you want to see.
  4. Now paint your second circle.

Remove the stencil and the paper circle, and ta-da! You have painted overlapping circles! Use the paper circle again when you paint the medallion motifs on top of the solid circles. This is an easy trick with a final result that looks more complicated than it really is. Your dinner guests will be impressed!

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

I painted and stenciled the Japanese medallions randomly along the length of the table runner. I did not want to paint too many because I like the more austere and restrained Japanese designs aesthetic of “less is more”.

When choosing paint colors, it’s good to switch up the combinations of circle paint color and motif stencil colors, so that no two medallions are next to each other with the same color combos. You don’t need a lot of paint colors to do this. This stenciled table runner project was done with only three colors of Royal Stencil Cremes.

How to stencil an opi-inspired table runner with Japanese stencils. via Paint+Pattern

As an optional detail, you could add a little stripe near one of the ends. Why? Well, many Japanese obi have a thin solid stripe near the ends. You can paint a simple stripe by marking off a stripe about 1/2″ wide with two pieces of painter’s tape and then painting between them. I had a little Indian chevron border from the Sari Furniture Stencil Border Series on hand, so I painted a chevron stripe, and love the contrast of the geometric chevron against the pattern woven in the silk. Is that a sign of being a pattern geek?

The stenciled table runner is now set up on our dining room table and this pattern geek will be enjoying the view during meals. If you are a pattern geek too, share this obi stencil idea on Pinterest! While you are there, please follow Paint + Pattern’s pretty pinboards!

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