Deck the halls with milk painted signs

In early October, my friend Eli from university got in touch - we have one of those lovely friendships where we don't see each other very often, but when we do, it's as though we only saw each other last week and it's comfortable and effortless.  Eli had some Groupon credit and quite fancied a sign painting workshop which just happened to be in Sussex.  We both had just one free weekend before Christmas, conveniently it was the same weekend, so this Saturday Eli drove down to stay with me.

I've never used Groupon before, and I don't think I've ever been to a workshop before - at least, not a Guiding-related workshop.  I was going to be doing a craft without lots of children requiring help!

We eventually found the venue (in the pouring rain) and found we were the only two people in the workshop, out of a possible 12.  Charlotte, the lady running it, said we might finish a bit early (we were booked in for three hours) and whilst it was a tad awkward at first (two people around a large banqueting people set for more) we were soon chatting away.

I'm really not an artistic person - I can do crafts, yes, but I cannot draw, let alone paint.  So I was a bit wary as to what the 'sign painting' would involve.  Turns out it involved stencils, and I can manage that!  The paint we used was milk paint which neither of us had heard of before - it has special properties and is chemical free and creates a crackled, vintage-y look.  Apparently, once it's made up it needs storing in the fridge unless used straight away and will eventually curdle.  Ewww!

Charlotte explained we would both do the same sign as a trial go, before we could choose our own sign.  The boards are plain 9x9 inch boards and the first step was to mix the paint - it reminded me of powder paint from my childhood.  You stir out the lumps, paint it on to the board then dry with a hairdryer.  Add another layer of paint, dry that.  Then we sanded it a bit to remove any lumps before adding the stencil, the first one we did said 'love': it's an acetate stencil you stick over the top (we gave up on getting things straight pretty much straight away) and press gently into place.  The third layer of paint is in your different top colour, so when the stencil comes up the base colour is seen.  But before adding this layer you dot hemp oil around the board, as any paint put on top of the hemp oil won't stick, so when you sand it again, more of the base colour is revealed.

For the second sign we could choose our design - there were quite a few stencils to choose from, lots for weddings, babies, sentimental saccharine quotes which aren't my cup of tea.  But then I found the Christmas stencils!  I went with words in the shape of a Christmas tree.

This is the stage at which I'd painted the board in two layers of green, the base colour, sanded it (a bit) and then stuck on the stencil.  Wax is run round the edge to help create a border, then hemp oil is dotted about (although to be honest, I forgot this step.  Whoops).

I added my top colour and dried it - it dries really quickly, especially where the paint is over the stencil.  When it's dry you have the fun task of peeling off all the stencils.  We'd both chosen designs with lots of little bits to pick off but we both found it quite satisfying! The edge of a craft knife was used to lift up an edge and then it was pick pick pick until it all came off.

Because milk paint is mixed, everyone who uses it is going to mix it differently and have different consistencies - the trick is for the top layer not to be too runny as you don't want it to run under the stencils.  I think I did reasonably well at this, the stencils have come off pretty cleanly:

Then it was time for a bit of sanding (which didn't really work for me as I hadn't put any hemp oil on between the layers) and a layer of hemp oil as a top coat (which I did remember).  Overall, I'm really pleased with both signs I made - whilst the 'love' one isn't my personal taste, I really like the Christmas one and I intend on hanging it up somewhere (although that dark splodge of hemp oil in the top left corner is annoying me).  There were lots of milk paint kits available at the workshop and I can see how they would make good presents, but I have enough crafty things on the go so I resisted the temptation.

We left Charlotte to do the clearing up (which felt so odd, as it's normally me picking bits of craft stuff up after the Rainbows) although she insisted she had a system and we would probably just get in the way!  So we headed home, and showed off our handiwork to Ben, who I think was impressed.

The workshop cost £19 each, which I think is pretty good value, especially as we got to make two signs (I thought we'd only make one).  It was also lovely in that it was just the two of us - we did finish a bit early, but we had taken our time and didn't rush or have to wait for Charlotte to help us!

Eli and I both had colds this weekend (urgh) so Saturday night was spent on the sofa, sitting under a blanket and eating takeaway whilst catching up on everything that's been going on.  A great weekend, and I have a handmade Christmas decoration to add to the collection!


  1. I agree with you; your Christmas sign is really good! And it must be good for you to do a craft when you don't have to be the teacher or the tidyer!


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