How to paint your vintage rug. .
1. Find a good base vintage rug in decent condition at a thrift store. I found this 7′ x 9′ loop pile wool rug. I would recommend the loop pile/berber style carpet for this project. It took the paint without clumping while providing a relatively flat surface for the stenciling. Don’t worry as much about stains (you are going to need to clean it next anyway and anything that doesnt come out can always be hidden with paint) look out for good quality wool with no tears or burns.
2. Begin with a clean rug. I rented a Rug Doctor from the grocery store for $24.99 + $6.89 for carpet cleaner to remove all the dirt and most of the stains from this find. This was my biggest expense on this project but it is an important step so dont skip it. There were still some unmoveable blueish stains probably from pen ink after the water ran clear so that is the primary color I went with for the remake. I would recommend steam cleaning over just vacuuming even if you are beginning with your own rug. This will remove more of the oils and dirt to help the paint stick. Be sure the carpet is completely dry before you begin painting.
3. In the mean time, you can gather supplies. First, choose your colors and stencils. I mixed 2 packs of these Martha Stewart stencils. I found the smaller stencils (those with openings less than 1″) in these packs more manageable on the carpet surface; the larger ones tended to warp and encouraged more paint under the edges. Next you will need fabric paint; this project took more than I expected at around 20 ounces of fabric paint total. To make sure I had some blue to cover the stains, I purchased a few new bottles of fabric paint in shades of blue. I went with Tulip Soft Matte Fabric Paint and ended up going through 3 4-ounce bottles of the 2 blue shades I incorporated. I also used some left over Tulip Slick Fabric Puff Paint and Folk Art fabric paint for the other colors I incorporated. All of the brands and styles worked fine. The soft kind, as its name suggests, ended up being a little softer feeling on bare feet whereas the slick fabric puff paint, even when applied with a stippling brush, ended up a little crunchier. Neither are particularly soft, you can feel the rougher areas where paint has been applied when you’re barefoot. I’m hoping it softens over time but I’m not too concerned. That said, I would not recommend this upcycle method where having a soft carpet is important to you. You will also need stippling brushes; I found these multi size ones really useful in the process and having more than one allowed me to work with more than one color at once which was great when I was trying to match up corners. And finally, gather: a paint tray/plastic plate, a yard stick or tape measure, a sponge or rag to clean the stencils and a dish rag to dry stencils (you will need to wash stencils often.)
4. Measure and mark the center of your rug. Starting in the center and working out will give you the best hope for symmetry in a project like this. If you are attempting a more sporadic design with no concern for symmetry, you can leave out this step.
5. Start at the center and work outwards. I had no plans for how exactly the final piece would look and would suggest limiting your planning energy to color scheme and stencil motif and choose each new element as you go. Use a stippling brush to apply paint to carpet using stencil. Move up and down with the brush and be sure to hold the stencil flat. I tried taping the stencils at first but once you’re working over a freshly painted section this quickly becomes useless plus it is really helpful to wash the stencils between each use which made the masking tape even more of a hassle. Holding down around the section I was stippling at that moment worked best. I used the existing pattern of the carpet to help me keep roughly square then worked within my existing pattern to square within itself. It did not always match up exactly. I suppose you could try to map it out first if you are so inclined but I would recommend staying flexible, standing back to check your big picture alignment often and be prepare to split the difference when things dont quite line up.
BEFORE & AFTER
- Work with existing pattern, don’t just try to cover it up. I left the majority of the outer rose band exposed on this rug and concentrated on the sparse center. For some of the stenciling I worked around the existing roses to reveal pops of the old design in with the new.
- Gently press down on the stencil around the 2″ square working zone while stippling, this helps prevent the brush from slipping under the stencil. You may want to wear gloves. If the brush isn’t hitting your fingers a little, you’re probably not holding close enough to the action.
- Less is more. Wet the brush with paint and dab off excess before stenciling. Heavier paint clogs up the carpet fibers and makes for a crunchy patch. Excess paint also tends to smush under the stencil making for muddles lines.
- Use thick fabric paint! I tried watering down a section (mainly because I was running out of that particular color paint but also to see if it made the end result any softer) While the end result was softer the bleed was out of control. Thicker paint gives a sharper edge. If you are using a larger stencil you could try stippling a 1-2″ band around the edge in a thicker consistency paint then thinning it for a softer center of the painted section.
- Dab the stippling brush straight up and down with medium pressure. Do not swipe! If you find the up and down approach is not resulting in a uniform application, go over it twice rather than swiping side to side. Too soft a touch will not get the paint down into the fibers of the carpet, too hard and your brush will start to splay and may slip under the edge of your stencil find a happy medium pressure!
- Wash the stencil between each use. I figured this would be true, but eventually I got tired of getting up the wash off the stencil in between each use; I learned the hard way. No matter how careful you are some paint will make its way onto the back side of your stencil (especially when you are laying it partially over freshly painted section). For clean lines, wash front and back & dry between each use. (This is a good opportunity to get up out of your squat position and stretch your legs!)
- Embrace the little defects. They’re going to happen!
Thanks for checking out my post, here are some more images: