Folklorio Dancer 1: Cutting and Transferring a Vinyl Stencil

My big goal for my Personal Art Residency in Chapala is to learn to use my Silhouette cutter. I purchased it more than a year ago, but have done precious little with it since. I decided that my first task should be to cut a stencil and paint up a piece of fabric for a challenge that my small group is doing at home. I have to make a piece that is 10” x 15” and the theme is Movement.

I wasn’t worried about creating an original design, so I searched around on the web for an image that would work. I found an image with a dancer that reminds me of the Mexican Folklorio dancers. When I find an image on the web that I want to use, I purchase the image. This image happens to be from Shutterstock.


First, I used the Silhouette cutter to cut the images from sign-makers vinyl. I love that you can feed in a roll of this paper-backed vinyl and cut things that are up to 12” wide and 10 feet long!

Once the stencil was cut, I “weeded” out the sections of the stencil that I wanted to paint. One thing I learned is that this bright yellow is extremely hard on the eyes! From here out, I think a medium gray will be my vinyl of choice.


You can’t peel the vinyl off the paper packing and simply move it over to the fabric. It’s extremely thin and stretchy. So, we borrow another tool from the sign-makers called Transfer Tape.

To lift the stencil off the paper backing, I placed transfer tape over the entire yellow area. (My transfer tape is 8” wide, so I needed two pieces.) Then I used a squeegee to firmly press the tape onto the stencil and then lifted it up off the paper backing. (In case you are wondering, my polka-dot make-shift squeegee is one of my luggage tags!)

Next, I placed the stencil on the fabric and did the squeegee thing all over again. It’s really important to press each part of the stencil firmly onto the fabric.


Are you ready for the magic? The adhesive on the vinyl is stickier than the adhesive on the transfer tape, and that allows you to peel off the tape and leave the vinyl on the fabric. Cool!

At this point, it was late in the day and my dancer was ready to paint. So I hung her up on the design wall and called it a day.

This may seem like a lot of steps, but I love the flexibility. With a cutter that hooks to the computer, it’s incredibly easy to make stencils quickly and easily — from lots of different materials. I’ll be experimenting with the cutter during my stay in Chapala, so I’ll let you know how things work out. And next week, I’ll show you how I painted my dancer.


Terri Johnson (my friend who is the Silhouette guru) recommends vinyl and transfer tape from H&H Sign Supply.

Oracal Intermediate Vinyl comes in a variety of widths and lengths.

Clear Choice High Tack transfer tape is available in 100’ rolls.

Your Turn

Do you use an electronic cutter in your work? Do you like having this shortcut — or does it make your work feel less “handmade?”

Leave a comment below or over on our Facebook page. I would love to hear your thoughts.


  1. Colleen Wise on March 12, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Hi Shelley,

    Thanks for this tutorial. I bought a Silhouette Cameo last month and have been having sooo much fun!

    Enjoy your artist’s retreat–I look forward to watching over your shoulder (in a virtual way) while you play with your new toy.

    • Shelly on March 12, 2015 at 12:14 pm

      Thanks, Colleen! Yesterday I tackled a mylar stencil. Of course, things that work in vinyl don’t necessarily work in mylar. I sort of forgot that I need bridges to keep everything attached. Oops! I’ll have to modify my drawing and try again. 🙂

  2. Judith Turner on March 12, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    I love your dancer! I don’t have all of that equipment. I wish you would sell some of your design stencils. Any chance?

    • Shelly on March 13, 2015 at 11:00 am

      Hi Judith,

      I decided to get out of the stencil business a while back as there are so many companies doing really cool stencils. So I’m not in a particular hurry to get back into stencils. I’ll keep you posted if I change my mind. 🙂

  3. MichelleJ on March 13, 2015 at 7:56 am

    I have a silhouette cameo that is under-used – but I have used it for cutting applique pieces, and I’m going to watch your experiments closely, because I think cutting stencils would be too cool!

    NO! I do not think it makes my projects “less homemade” in any way. using tools like this allow us more time for more projects!

    • Shelly on March 13, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Oh good — I’m so glad that I don’t have the only under-used cuttier hanging around! I feel less guilt when I have company. I have found a number of good uses for the machine, and I am happy to devote some time to learning to use it. Finally!

  4. Sharon R on March 14, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Glad to see how you were having such fun with your Silhouette. This peaks the imagination about what else might be possible with such equipment.

    • Shelly on March 14, 2015 at 7:50 pm

      Hey, big sister! I am enjoying my dancer. I had a good giggle when I tried cutting her out of mylar. I sort of “forgot” that I needed bridges to hold everything together. With the vinyl transfers, you can cheat because everything transfers with the tape. No so with a piece of plastic! If a shape is not connected, it just falls off. Oops! 🙂

  5. Lindsay Chamberlain on March 19, 2015 at 3:55 am

    Hi Shelly
    I bought a silhouette about 2 years ago and I’ve had such fun with it. I use very thin plastic sheets and then use stencil glue on the back of the stencils to make them stick to the fabric. They can be moved several times, so far I have used fabric paint through them but I’m going to try out the paint stix now. Really enjoy your retreat. Love Lindsay.

    • Shelly on March 19, 2015 at 9:01 am

      I’m so glad you are enjoying your Silhouette, Lindsay. I think my issue with the mylar stencils is that I purchased plastic that is a bit heavier. I’m going to check back to see exactly what I ordered and try some that is thinner.

      Definitely try out the Paintstiks with your stencils. They are tons of fun!

  6. […] a previous post, I showed you how I made a stencil from sign maker’s vinyl using an image of a Folkorio dancer. […]