I decided that my first blog post is going to be a tutorial about how to paint a silk scarf. I am going to go through the process step by step, starting from stretching the silk scarf on stretcher bars and finishing by steaming the scarf to fix dyes.
I am going to use the Serti technique. It is the silk painting technique where designs are formed with gutta (resist) which is applied to silk. Once the gutta has dried, it acts as a barrier for the dye or paint—keeping the color within the outlined areas of the design.
Here is a picture of the scarf design I am going to paint:
I called this design Floral Dream in Sky Blue and Ocher. The idea of the scarf was to combine the vibrant colors together in one scarf and to show flowers in two different moods. The background gradually goes from bright ocher on the one side of the scarf to the deep sky blue on the other side. I use two sides of the scarf to represent the idea of duality. One side of the scarf features the sunset light, warmness and tranquility, while another side represents the vibrancy, energy and joy of clear colorfulness of the sky.
This design is pretty complex, but I decided to start from it because I want to give you overall look to the process of painting such a sophisticated scarf.
List of Materials
Here is the list of materials and tools I used to create the scarf:
1. White natural silk scarf.
For this scarf I use 8 mm China Silk of 15”x60” in size.
Here is the link where I am buying scarves which have already finished hand-rolled hem:
2. System of stretcher bars to stretch the scarf.
I use easy fix stretcher bars frames available here:
3. Silk dyes (need to steam silk for fixing dyes) or silk paints (silk could be ironed to fix paints). In this tutorial I use silk dyes and later I will discuss the steaming process.
The silk dyes I use are Jacquard Red Label silk dyes. (There are green and red label, red label is more concentrated, and I prefer it). Here is the link for the Jacquard:
I like Jacquard brand because they are cheaper compare other brands like Tinfix and Dupont, but the quality of Jacquard is still great!
Actually on my photos you may see bottles with Pebeo silk dyes. Pebeo was my favorite brand, but unfortunately they discontinued two years ago. I really love their bottle design with the dropper like cap. When I finished Pebeo I decided to keep empty bottles and now I use them with other dyes (Jacquard). Otherwise I will need to use a dropper every time I want to take some color from bottle and mix it in a palette.
4. Brushes and mixing plates.
I like to use synthetic brushes number 8 and 6 available from here:
Also I have some larger brushes (from Hobby Lobby) which are great for large area painting.
I use some regular ceramic plates to mix colors. I have about dozen of plates. They are great to mix large quantities of colors enough to work with large areas of silk. And when I am working on small details I use mixing plastic palettes like here:
5. Resist and Tjanting Tool.
I will use colorless solvent based resist in this tutorial. I have a great ventilation in my studio and it is important when you use solvent based resist! There are many brands of colorless resists available, solvent based as well as water based.
Solvent based resists:
Water based resist:
I use a glass Tjanting Tool which I bought in Russia. We call it just ‘Glass Tube for Batik’. I can’t find it available in USA, but there is a great alternative – Tjanting batik tool from Indonesia:
There are also bottles which are designed for resist application:
And there are resist which are already in tube and ready to apply:
I really like these pebeo resists/gutta in tubes. They are very convenient to use!
6. To fix the dyes on scarf after it is finished I have to steam it for several hours in steamer. I know that there are options to make a steamer from regular large pot, but I never did it. I personally use this stove top steamer:
Also blank newsprint paper sheets are needed to wrap a silk for steaming:
Stretch the scarf on the stretcher bars.
As I said that I use a stretcher kit system. It is very easy to use. It allows size adjustment. The red suspensions hooks (very sharp!) are great to stretch a silk on stretcher bars frame.
So below on the picture the scarf is stretched.
Background – first layer of colors.
According to my idea of design I will mix deep cyan blue color and beautiful vibrant ocher. I will be making a spread of one color to another over the length of the scarf. Here on picture I have 4 plates for mixing colors.
In two upper plates I have very concentrated colors and I stat applying them from both ends of the scarf. I use another two lower plates to make the colors more diluted at the time I am approaching the middle of the scarf. And when I am at the middle I am blending colors together. As a result I have such background:
I like to make my background look uniform, for that reason when I apply color to silk I try to work fast and don’t allow color to dry till I finish. Otherwise the background can show some kind of stripe like texture and other effects, which sometime are very pretty, but for that particular design I want the background to be uniform and gradually changing from one color to another. This is just my idea for that scarf!
Before the background dried I like to spread some table salt over it. I personally like to use salt because it produces such an interesting rainy or snow flake like texture to the background. Note, silk has to be just painted and wet for salt to work.
After silk dries the salt effect will look like this.
And now my background is ready for first resist application.
I draw the design with colorless resist. I do it free hand, but for beginners I recommend to make a sketch on paper before starting to draw with resist. I don’t really recommend to make sketch with pencil on silk, but when the particular design is very complex, the sketch could be done on silk with the use of soft fine pencil.
After I finished with resist I use hair drier to dry it.
Painting with silk dyes.
Now I mix many colors that I am going to use and I apply them with brush to the outlined by resist areas of silk. It is so fan! Again the hair dryer could be used to dry the painted areas. By the way, I don’t really recommend using hair dryer to dry large areas of painted silk (like whole background for example). It takes time to dry large areas and drier always become overheated and automatically turns off before the silk is completely dry. That will make the paints from wet area to flow to the dry area and it may produce some undesired effect. Actually, from my experience, large areas dried naturally always look better (more uniform) compare when they are dried by hair drier.
Here I apply resist one more time over the painted design. I draw some details over painted regions. What I really like in this silk painting process that it usually starts form whole general forms and then goes to tinier details.
So here I draw small details of flowers, grasses, leaves and so on. Again I do it free hand, but preliminary sketches can always be helpful for beginners.
Application of colors to details.
Here again I work with brushes on small details. This step makes my design look very detailed and so cute! I like this step a lot!
I like to paint a stripe (or couple stripes) coming through the whole length of the scarf. I use it for composition proposes. It unites the motives of both sides of the scarf. Also I like how stripe looks on draped scarf. So here I draw a straight resist line along the one side of the scarf with the use of 1 yard metallic ruler. Note that at the border of silk scarf I apply resist like this:
to prevent the color bleeding when I will be painting the stripe.
Now I paint the stripe.
I put my signature. It is just my initials in small black square.
And now scarf is almost finished!
The only thing I have to do is to fix colors by steaming.
I put my silk scarf between the layers of blank newsprint paper.
I roll it on the metallic tube (this tube is part of stove top steamer). Then I wrap that roll in couple more newsprint sheets just for additional protection. And I use small piece if type to fix the outer sheet from unrolling.
Then I go to my kitchen and put the steamer on the stove top. I fill water in it and then I put the tube with rolled silk on it into the steamer. I close the lid tightly and turn the heat on. Now I wait couple hours till the scarf will be fixed (when I have many scarves in the roll then I wait longer, 4-5 hours).
After steaming is done scarf could be hand – washed in water with spoon of salt and spoon of vinegar. First washing may take out possible excess of colors and will make scarf fabric softer. I recommend to dry flat after washing.
Now scarf is finished!
Here are some pictures of finished scarf! I think it is cute and pretty unusual!
I really hope you liked my tutorial! You are more than welcome to leave a comment or ask any question! I will be happy to answer!
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