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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

How to Make Lace-like Stepping Stones

For a complete tutorial, but with many more pictures, visit my Instructable!

When I found fifteen square stepping stones buried beneath the soil from a checkerboard garden project of mine from years ago, it reminded me of the wonderful creative things I used to do when I worked at home. The gardens were beautiful, things were in bloom, and weeds were in short supply.

While strolling through a second-hand store, I happened upon a vinyl doily for a mere fifty cents. Meh, I thought. Went home, plopped it on the dining room table and sort of forgot about it. A few mornings later, hubby and I were having coffee at the table. Where I sat, I could see where the plain stepping stones were. My gaze shifted to the doily, then to hubby, and then... a Eureka moment arrived!

Put on your work duds and let's make something nice for the yard!

Step 1: Supplies and materials needed...

Stepping stones - Choose a stone color that is in contrast to your paint color
A lace doily, or better yet, a vinyl / rubber doily (See step 6 for other options)
Outdoor / Exterior Spray paint - You'll want the paint to stand out.
(Choose lighter or darker than your stone)
Outdoor / Exterior Clear spray sealer
A large piece of cardboard. Even poster board will work just fine.
A pen, pencil, heck, even a crayon will work
A pair of scissors or a serrated knife.
A scrub brush
A source of water (bucket of, or garden hose)

One can of spray paint is typically enough to spray six or seven stones. Take into consideration the size of your stone, and the amount of paint required to cover the areas without 'lace'. While paper doilies are available, they would not be a wise choice, as the slightest breeze or even the spray of the paint would move the doily around.

Though most doilies are crocheted, it is easy to find vinyl table covers, place mats and other items to use. Please don't use an heirloom treasure your grandmother made by hand! Be sure to choose one that will give a pleasing result with a lot of coverage. If you have a large project in mind, consider table covers by the yard, which are found in many box stores.

Step 2: Let's go shopping! (Or use what you already have)

You are not limited to square stepping stones. In fact, if you enjoy working with concrete, you could even make your own, in any shape you desire!

Round stones, square, rectangles and so many other shapes are available in large home improvement centers. Try to choose a stone color that will be in contrast to the paint color you choose. Dark stone, light paint. Light stone, dark paint, and so forth.

You might even consider edging pieces. Lay them on their side, paint, and put into place. :-)

Step 3: Scrub the stones and allow them to dry...

The best weather for this project would be a nice, sunny day, maybe even with a bit of a breeze. You'll likely want to scrub or rinse off your stones to remove any concrete residue that may prevent the paint from adhering properly. Please note, you don't have to purchase a specific scrubbing tool for this, you could use an old hairbrush, a dirty old rag, an old toothbrush or such. And no, not your significant other's toothbrush, even in a moment of anger.

Rinse the stones off well and allow to dry thoroughly.

Don't be impatient. Let them dry.

Step 4: Trim away weeds before placing the stones...

Because this project was completed using items I already had in the garage, afterthought mentioned that weed barrier fabric would have been splendid, but...

We're used to weeds around here, but if you are not, consider laying fabric on the path where you will place your stones. I actually enjoy the more natural look, and not one that is so refined. We do, after all, live in the country.

Trim, yank, pull or do whatever is necessary to clear weeds from the area where your stones will be. Keep in mind, you don't want to fight with things getting in the way when painting. As for the Vinca major shown, take my advice. Don't plant it. We'll talk about that later. Maybe.

An easy way to do this is to place the stones as you wish, then run a weed trimmer over the tops and sides of the stones to clear away any plant growth.

Step 5: Make a painting shield...

If you have a work table available, a small stack of newspapers should suffice to keep the paint off your table.

If you are working directly on the ground, a painting shield may come in handy.

Simply lay one of your stones on top of a large piece of cardboard or poster board, then trace around it with a pencil. Remove the stone and cut the traced shape out of the board. The cardboard should now fit snugly over the stone.

This method allows you to spray only the stone, and not the surrounding materials and plants. It also helps to keep the spray from landing on stones you have already completed if you are working on a walkway that is already set in place.

Step 6: Decide on a doily or a stencil...

As a very devoted fan of the doily, I would like to mention that I don't necessarily approve of the damage and / or destruction caused to crocheted doilies should you choose to go that route. However, if you simply must, try to sacrifice one that is stained heavily, torn, etc. and not a nice one. If hand made, quite a bit of work went into it. Personally, I do not know how to crochet (yet) and am envious of the talent.

If you can't find a vinyl doily, don't fret. There are so many other options! Some of the larger box stores sell lacy plastic or vinyl tablecloths or table runners in rolls or by the yard.

Plastic stencils work great, too, and can often be found in hobby stores in so many shapes, and even alphabet stencils are a thought, too!

Consider using word stencils to spell out one of your favorite short quotes, placing one word on each stone. Or choose a quick and easy project and make three stones with "I Love You" or "Live, Love, Laugh". You have already thought of ideas, haven't you?

Step 7: Paint the stones...

After you have placed your painting shield over the stone, lay your doily of choice on top of the stone and give it a good coating of spray paint. Be sure to focus on the tiny holes, but don't hold the paint too close, or there will be blobs seeping underneath. A light mist around the edge, then the center, then back around again, giving good coverage, but not too heavy.

Allow the paint to dry a bit, then carefully lift the doily out of the way, draping it over something to allow any residual paint to dry on the doily.

Paint each stone, being careful not to step on them until they are completely dry.

Step 8: Paint, dry, then seal the stones.

After you have sprayed the stones with the lace, allow them to thoroughly dry. Using an exterior sealer, spray the tops of the stones to protect the paint finish.

If you have the funds available, opt for a small can of outdoor polyurethane. Your stones will look twice as gorgeous and the paint will last a lot longer, not to mention the cool beading effect rain will have on them.

Step 9: Add mulch for effect...

Mulch really does wonders for the garden. Consider adding some around and in between the stones for a wonderful effect!

I chose a nice pine bark nugget, which looks lovely next to the white stones.

Step 10: Before, during and after...

Although the lace stones provide quite a decorative effect, the dark mulch really sets it all off. I cannot wait until the rains come, which will darken the mulch even more, wetting the stones, enhancing the look.

This is a favorite place for our cats to hang out, so now that it is photo-worthy, we'll probably be likely to find one of the stinkers on a stepping stone. In fact, if you look at the top of the photo below, you can see Libbie walking on the stone I have yet to paint. But would she take a moment to pause, posing pretty? Nah.

For those with a keen eye, yes, Libbie is sitting on a stone yet to be painted.

Step 11: And finally...make them glow in the dark!

Oh, but you thought this project was over, yes? Not so. One final idea. Make your stepping stones glow in the dark!

Once your stones are dry to the touch, place the doily back onto the stone in the same location. If you used a doily with a specific pattern and contrasting color paint to the stone, this should be an easy feat.

Spray just as you did before, only this time, spray over the sections that have already been painted. The neat thing about this paint, you can't really see it in the daytime that well.

Come night time, grab a flashlight, charge up the stones and then turn out the lights. Lovely!

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, and perhaps garnered a few ideas of your own.

Happy gardening!



  1. I think this is such a great idea. Plus tutorial was great
    Will be trying this.
    tks Kathy

  2. Absolutely love the glow in the dark look. I want to try the glow in the dark paint on a solid walk-way using a vinyl lace tablecloth. {:0)

  3. I have been looking for an idea for a small but ugly concrete patio. Thank you! This is simple but brilliant!

  4. Absolutely inspired. Thanks so much for the ideas. Can hardly wait to get out of hospital (not life-threatening just long and difficult) so that I can beautiful my new garden in my new home. I really appreciate your willingness to share.

  5. this is awesome I will be trying this