Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

How to Create a Beautiful Designer Silk Scarf Using Your Microwave

That’s quite an odd title coming from me, isn’t it? If you’ve been following a lot of my writing here and on other sites, you’ll know that I’m a real believer in good quality steaming for silk painting. But….in view of the fact that not everyone has the time, space and funds for this whole process, I thought I would share with you some of my escapades with microwaving. So here’s how I’ve been doing it.

The first problem I had with microwaving was that I didn’t own a microwave oven. I’m not going into the details here, but I prefer to cook all my food by conventional means. Okay, so that meant I had to go off to Morrisson’s and luckily they had a really basic model which suited my needs. Two dials for timing and heat. That’s all you need for what I’m going to share with you.

Materials for microwaving a silk scarf

You’re also going to need some silk dyes, remember, the ones that are specifically for steam fixing. Not the paints which you set by heat. Read the labels on the bottles if you are unsure, or ask the shop assistant for help. You’ll also need a plain white scarf with rolled edges that you can add the dyes to.

Before you start you’ll need to get a bowl, add a mixture of 2 parts water and one part vinegar, then soak your silk scarf in this for at least 15 minutes. This will improve the dying process and ensure you get lovely bright colours that last.

You then take the silk out of the bowl, squeeze it out gently and lay it out on a surface covered with plastic sheeting. Have the dyes and brushes you’d like to use at hand, and you’re ready to go.

Tie some knots into the wet silk

There is one other thing I need to point out – you will get very messy hands doing this unless you put on some rubber gloves. Which I never do, but I’m passing on this tip to you if you don’t want to run around with ghoulish fingers and nails for the next few days. 🙂

What you do next is completely up to your own imagination. You are going to start adding dyes to your heart’s content. Pick a nice colour range that would suit you and this will ensure the colours don’t clash. Splash them on with big brushes randomly. Or you can scrunch the silk up and dribble the dyes into the silk. Or what about folding it up and then painting the colours on in patterns? The example I’ve shown here is tying loose knots in the silk before applying the dye. The good news is that I’m in the process of putting together a video we took of me demonstrating this technique at a fair back in the summer, so you can copy what I did to get you started, if you like.

The important thing is that you keep the silk nice and wet so that you can properly ‘cook’ it afterwards.


Place the silk scarf in the bowl ready to microwave

Right, now you’re going to lift your silk and place it into a microwaveable dish. Don’t worry if the silk gets a little scrunched here too as your finished scarf will have an abstract pattern to it anyway. What I do next is get a piece of clingfilm and stretch this over the dish – I think it’s called Ceran wrap in the USA (that’ll save a few emails).  – ah, thanks Muffy. It’s Saran wrap. 🙂 One thing you need to do at this point is prick a hole in the foil. And if you don’t do this? The foil will bulge up and may explode….making a bit of a mess.

Now we’re going to place the covered dish in the microwave for 5 minutes at a medium-high setting.

Use this time to go back and wipe your plastic covered surface clean. The last thing you want is to have dye spillage messing up your finished scarf. Or you can just lift the sheeting to one side and put it out of harm’s reach. This may sound like Kindergarten stuff, but it’s one of the main causes of people messing up their lovely silks after all the work is done. So, I just thought I’d throw it in again here.


Finished effect of tying knots in the silk scarf

Right, the 5 minutes are up, so remember to use some sort of cloth or glove to lift out the hot dish. Carefully remove the foil and lift out the wet scarf.

Yes, it will still be totally wet at this point but the dye is fixed so the wetness only comes from water.

Now all that is left for you to do is hang up the silk to dry. Later you can rinse it in warm water with a touch of mild shampoo to remove any excess dye and then dab it with a towel. Iron the silk dry from the reverse with a medium hot iron. Another thing you can do for a really fashionable look is twist the wet silk and leave it to  dry. That will give you the look you can see in this final photo.


A gorgeous designer silk scarf

And there you are, ready to go. You’re now the proud owner of your very first original silk scarf. I don’t know about you, but I think this is a great way to make yourself something gorgeous in such a short space of time.

Do watch out for the video I’ll be posting in the next day or two, so that you can see the whole process in action. Have fun and let me know how things work out for you. I’d love to see your designer scarves.

December 12, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | 40 Comments

How to Stretch Silk onto a Wooden Frame

Here’s a video for those of you who are completely new to silk painting. It shows in detail how to stretch your silk onto a wooden frame so that it is taut enough to begin working on. This is the first in a long series of footage that will help you on your path with this wonderful artform.


December 1, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silk Painting with Om and Soya Wax Part 2

So here we are bringing the om design to completion. As you have probably just read in the last post (part 1), I painted the design onto the silk fabric with soya wax and then allowed it to dry.

Next I unpinned the fabric from the frame and very gently scrunched it all up so there were cracks all over the hardened wax. I then attached it again to the frame ready for the second layer of dye.

Crinkled wax ready for the next layer of dye

And what was the purpose of doing this? Well, when you apply some more dye to the picture, the dye sneaks inbetween all the cracks and creates a wonderfully textured image. So I mixed two shades of dye and then took a medium sized brush and just washed one of the colours all over the outer area and the second one on the circle. It was repelled where it met the wax, but where it got into the cracks, it reached the silk beneath, adding more colour to it in a lovely pattern.

If you are doing this yourself at home make sure you take time at this stage to use some cotton swabs and dab away all the pearls of dye sitting on top of the wax. The reason for this is that, if you don’t, it will all seep through onto the silk when you come to the ironing stage. So just take a few minutes and very carefully wipe it all off.

The second layer of dye painted over the wax

Okay, so far so good. Now you need to be a bit patient and wait for the new layer of dye to thoroughly dry before you can start to remove the wax. With other techniques it’s possible to use the hairdryer to speed things up, but since we are working here with hardened wax, I wouldn’t recommend it.

Alright, now the dye has dried you can begin to iron out the soya wax. You can use some newspaper for this. Put a few sheets on your ironing board, lay the silk on top and then put a few sheets of paper on the top of the fabric. I use a relatively hot iron and just start to push it back and forth over the paper. Soon you will see the wax melting through. Just keep going until you have removed as much as you can. You might want to replace the sheets of paper with clean ones if a lot of wax is coming off.

At this point a lot of the wax will have come out but the silk will still feel quite stiff. When you steam your fabric, you will find that a lot more comes out onto to the steaming paper. But the silk still doesn’t feel super soft. So just fill your sink with some warm water and add a dash of gentle shampoo. This will remove the last remains of the wax. Rinse until the water is clear.

Completed picture with gold gutta embellishment

I ironed my silk dry and then pinned it once again onto the frame. You can see the results of what I did next. I outllined lots of the interesting shapes and edges with gold gutta, giving it quite a mystical look. Then I ironed the gutta into the fabric. The silk is really vibrant but the turquoise doesn’t show up nearly as well in this photo as it does here in my workshop.

I love the final look of this piece and have yet to decide what I would like to do with this piece of work. I’m sure I’ll come up with something fitting. So now it’s your turn. Why not have a go. I’d love to see what you make if you do try it out. Be sure to send me a picture. Have fun!

September 23, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Silk Painting with Om and Soya Wax Part 1

Pastel background and Om template

Yes, I’m painting with soya wax on silk again because I had such fun the first time I tried it a couple of weeks ago. And this time I thought I would try using a template I had instead of just drawing the pattern free-hand like I did last time. As I write the wax is still hardening properly and so I’ve decided to document what I’ve done so far.

I began by stretching a piece of silk on the wooden frame and applying some

Tracing the Om symbol onto the silk

pastel shades of blue, turquoise and fern green. I really watered them down so that the effect would be very light and diluted. This was because I wanted to get a stronger contrast between the first and the second layer of dye I applied. If you read the post on my first soya piece, you will remember that everything was a lovely medley of fuchsias and purples with all the tones blending into each other.

I chose to use the Om symbol for this piece and looked out a computer printout I had that I could use. The next step was to trace this symbol onto the silk. I very rarely trace things, only for designs that I want to repeat such as greeting cards or very small pictures but when I do, this is how I do it, so to speak.

The soya wax granules in the hot water bath in the saucepan

I place one or two books on the table and the pattern on top of the books. Then I lay the frame over this and position it so that the design is nicely centred.  Using one of those magic fabric markers, I trace the lines onto the silk. Mine is purple and fades within a day or two of using it. The greater the heat in the room, the quicker the lines disappear.

Okay, so far so good. Next I got out my soya wax granules and popped a handful of them into a metal bowl which I placed in a saucepan of water.  I turned the heat on and watched while the granules melted, ready for me to start painting. It’s surprising how little wax I have needed for my work so far. I had some solidified wax left in the bowl from last time and added more granules for today’s session but at the end I still had some left!

The last time I used a flat brush but this time I used a finer round one which

Painting the Om symbol with soya wax

was great to work with filling in the pattern I had traced. I kept the wax really hot, dipping my brush in again and again  to avoid the wax cooling and therefore ensuring it penetrated the silk properly. I had to keep watching that my fingers didn’t brush against the parts that I had already painted as this would smudge the wax.

I was aware that I was creating work of a very different quality from usual gold gutta lining. With the wax I found my first picture was full of movement and different textures and so the individual outlines were not key to the overall look of the painting.  We’ll see how this one turns out when I have completed work on it.

Okay, so I completed outlining and filling in the symbol I had traced. It was already beginning to solidify and turn white where I had applied the wax. When you paint the wax on, it should be dark and make the silk look see through. That tells you that the wax was hot enough. In fact, you can see here a picture I have taken holding the frame up to the light to show you what the design looks like. And when I turned the completed frame over, the reverse actually looked as if I had applied the wax to that side. Excellent. No worries about the wax not fully working as a resist. This is satin silk I am working on and it appears to be very well suited to this sort of work. I have yet to try out crepe de chine which could turn out to have very different results due to the twisted weave of the fabric.

The waxed silk held against the light

When I had completely filled in the Om symbol, I decided to add some squiggly lines to give some substance to the background of the picture. This would give a lovely interplay of colours after adding more dye.  I’m having a break at this point and will continue

The completed picture with squiggly lines on the background

with applying the second coat of dye tomorrow.

The last picture here shows the frame from the reverse and you can see how

The soya wax lines on the reverse of the silk

the wax has completely come through the silk, creating an effective barrier for further painting. I’m intrigued as to how this will look when finished and so will probably get going with this soon after breakfast.

I hope this was of some use to you and hope to see you for part 2.

September 15, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Painting on Silk with Soya Wax Part 2

This post is meant to follow on from the last one I made about painting on silk with soya wax. I had painted the wax onto the silk and left it to dry before scrunching it up to create lots of cracks.

Silk painting before steaming

Next thing I did was  to stretch it back on the frame. It was now looking very odd with the wax crumbling all over the place but this was all intentional so that the following step would be effective.  I mixed a few shades of darker fuchsia and purple and applied these with thick brushes, spreading the dye all over the silk and the waxed parts. That was good fun as it was quick, messy and uncontrolled.  What a contrast to my normal way of working with gold resist and my fine brushes. 🙂

When I had completed that, I then took some kitchen roll and carefully dabbed all the drops of dye which had accumulated on top of the wax. There’s a very important reason for doing this. If you leave them on, when you come to the ironing, the dye will then pentrate the silk, leaving marks. So dab them off.

Where the wax has cracked, the dye will penetrate through to the silk, creating lines and making a very interesting pattern.

Okay, so far so good. The droplets had been removed, the second layer of dye was completely dry. Now it was time to iron off the wax. I laid some sheets of newspaper down on my ironing board, placed the silk on top and then some more newspaper sheets on top of that.  I took a few minutes to iron my silk, allowing the heat of the iron to melt the soya wax and get dabbed up by the newspaper. When I had finished, I removed the piece of silk. It still felt a bit stiff but the remaining soya wax would come out onto the paper during steaming.

Then, 3 hours later, the silk came out of the steamer, glistening, shining, looking positiviely gorgeous.  The leaves had an amazing marbled effect due to the darker dyes coming through the cracks in the wax.  Very nice indeed and very exciting.

Soo then I had the idea of adding some gold accents. I grabbed my bottle of resist and drew around a few of the lines and added dots. When this had thoroughly dried, I ironed it from the reverse and then gave it a very gentle rinse in some warm water with mild shampoo to eliminate the final traces of wax.

Leaf detail of steamed silk painting showing cye through the cracks

And here it is. Now it may sound like a lot of work but to be honest, it didn’t take nearly as long as it would for me to create a mandala. When you are absorbed in a creative project, the time just passes anyway, doesn’t it? So, why not have a go? Just get yourself some of these soya wax pellets and a little pot to heat them up in. You’ll also need some newspaper and your iron and ironing board. And off you go.

If you try this out, I’d love to hear from you.

September 5, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Painting on Silk with Soya Wax Part 1

I’ve been having a bit of fun over the past 24 hours playing with my latest toy – a kilo bag of soya wax pellets. 🙂

You know what it’s like when other people are having a discussion on a thread about their experiences with something that you have no idea about. You’re just dying to join it but can’t. Well, that’s exactly how I felt when I was reading about the fun some of my fellow silk painters were having on a forum that we meet up on.

They were all experimenting with soya wax and silk, something which I had never tried. Until now, that is.

Those of you who follow my blog will probably know that I have a preference for low toxicity when I paint on silk as my health is

soya wax fiona stolze silk painting

Soya wax pellets for silk painting

really of utmost importance. So whenever I hear of products that are healthy options, I always open my ears wide and pay attention. There is no need whatsoever to expose yourself to harmful chemicals when painting on silk. It’s always down to choice.

You can imagine my delight when I read all about soya wax. It was just perfect. First of all, it melts at a lower temperature than other waxes. There are no fumes coming off it, so no worries about breathing in anything that could make you feel unwell. And when you want to remove it from the fabric, you put newspaper top and bottom and iron it well. The remains will come out on the paper when you steam your silk and then when you wash it afterwards.

That puts it top of the league for me.

The only thing was, that it was slightly harder to find than the normal batik wax. I eventually found a supplier that sold candle-making supplies and had all sorts of unusual waxes, including rapeseed. Now that’s something I’d love to look into at a later point. I was able to buy a kilo bag of pellets at quite a reasonable price – £5.99 plus shipping.  So do be wary of just buying in the first shop you find. You shouldn’t have to be paying a lot just because it comes in dinky little bags.

soya wax fiona stolze silk painting

Silk painting with crinkled soya wax

So how do you use it? I put a metal bowl inside a saucepan with a little water and turned on the heat. I added a desertspoonful of the pellets and slowly stirred them until they had melted and we were ready to go. They recommend 45 degrees for candlemaking, but as I was advised, you have to make sure the wax is hot enough to penetrate the silk.  When this is the case, the silk looks sort of transparent and just glides on.

I found it very easy to apply using a brush. Once I got the hang of it, it was really enjoyable.

Afterwards you just leave it to dry and then you have the option of crinkling it so that you get cracks in the surface. When you apply the next layer of dye, the colour will seep through the cracks and give a lovely effect. Another tip I was given here was that you should take a piece of paper towel and carefully dab the pearls of dye away from the wax surface otherwise these will go into the silk when you try to iron the wax out later.

Well, I’ve been playing with my soya wax and have created my first ‘masterpiece’. It has been fun and I have already learned some useful things which will help me to make the next piece even better. These first pictures show you a bit of what I’ve been doing. The silk is due to be steamed either tonight or tomorrow morning. I’ll be posting the final thing after that and you can hear all about what I did, step by step, in putting it all together. It’s much easier than it looks and doesn’t cost much to do.

I hope this has been of some help and I look forward to publish further findings.

P.S. Big thanks to my lovely friend Joanna Reid Cotter who inspired me to get going with this and who has been helping me with great tips. Check out her amazing blog. xx

August 19, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

How to Stop Brick-Hard Gutta from Blocking Your Nibs and Keep Your Blood Pressure Down

Oh, yes. This is one that affects us all, regardless of how long we’ve been painting on silk. We take out the bottle of fresh gutta, give it a shake and then fill it into the smaller plastic bottle and fit it with a nib. And that’s us ready to go. The first lines come out beautifully smooth and easily. What a joy!

However, we get called away to tend to something and forget to put the gutta bottle away safely…….and the damage is done.

It might be the next day before we come back to pick up where we left off.….oh, dear. The gutta bottle. We forgot to put the lid on, or the long pin in the nib to seal it. And no matter how hard we try, we just can’t get the gutta to flow out of the bottle. It’s all jammed up.

So we take off the nib and start to poke around inside it with the metal pin to loosen up any solidified gutta. Some rubbery bits and pieces fall out. We scrape around further and think we’ve got it free. Quickly pop the nib on again and give it another go. Not the slightest bit of difference.  Okay, next step is to take the nib and put it in some very hot water and using the pin again, scrape around inside to loosen up the guilty bits of gutta. At this point I turn on the hot tap and work under the flow of water with the pin.

And it still doesn’t work. Nothing is coming out of the nib. Okay, I’ve had enough. This is where I cheat, unpack a new nib and get on with my work before I totally lose my nerve. The blocked nib gets put into a pot with boiling water and left to simmer for a while until everything really loosens up.

When I have completed my line work, I can then tend to the boiled nibs (sounds like some tasty dish I’m preparing). I remove them from the water and lay them on some kitchen roll to cool down slightly. But I still have to use the pin to remove the last, by now soggy, remains of gutta. Whew, what a job.

Despite my good intentions, this does keep happening every now and then. So I just make sure I have quite a few nibs on hand to grab when I need to keep going with my work. They’re really so cheap that you can afford to have a big supply of them.  One of my standard phrases is: “I don’t have any time for this nonsense!” There are certain things which just get silly and spending half an hour on cleaning a nib falls into that category. I’ve seen me saving them up and boiling as many as 8 or 10 of them at once. I dream of having an assistant who has nothing better to do than stand beside me, keeping my bottles filled and the nibs free for me to paint to my heart’s content.

One tip I would like to share is to only put small amounts of gutta into your bottle and to use them up as quickly as possible for ultimate freshness. I used to like working with very full bottles but constantly ran into difficulties with this. Now I try to estimate how much I will need and only work with that. It’s a fact that the room temperature has an effect on how quickly the gutta dries in the bottle.

If you are going to be leaving your work for whatever reason, always make sure you put the pin in the nib again or push the plastic stopper back down on the nib. That at least ensures you can work for another session without it all drying up.

And that brings me to one last point. The elusive pin.

Just be aware of one thing. No matter where you lay it down, it will not be there when you go to pick it up again.

It’s a shape shifter and that’s a fact. Every silk painter will testify to this.

So, how to ensure that you find it again? Here’s a golden tip. When you take the pin out of the nib, get a piece of masking tape and affix it to the corner of your frame. Brilliant! No more crawling around on the floor with your hands spread out, looking like you’d just lost your contact lenses.

I just love the hi-tech solutions in the world of silk painting. I could fill a book with them. They make it all so much more fun. Anyway, I hope that you have a bit more fun and manage to cut down on the gutta blocks. Happy painting.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

How to Paint One of Those Lovely Little Silk Window Pictures in a Flash

As many of you who have seen my work will know, I am rather fond of those lovely little round silk window pictures. They really are so handy as presents and relatively easy to work with.

I just wanted to share with you a few tips on creating your own beautiful works of art using one of these premade silk discs. Some of you have asked me how I manage to glue the silk onto the metal hoop. Truth is, I don’t make these myself at all. They are ready to buy in most craft and hobby stores that sell silk painting supplies. You can

Double happiness silk window picture by fiona stolze

Double happiness silk window picture

get them in different diameters but the size I prefer to work with is the 15cm (6″) one.

Okay, let’s look at the technicalities of painting one. First of all, I only use the silk paints on these, not the dyes. And that’s for one very important reason. You’re going to find it very difficult to roll one of these up in your professional steamer. In fact, it’s pretty impossible.

Another thing I’d like to mention is the use of gutta. I would strongly recommend using metallic or coloured gutta, as it’s easier to use one that stays on the silk. If you try using clear gutta, it could be very tricky to wash it out. Wetting the silk could cause the glue to dissolve and this would mean the silk detaching from the hoop which is something you really don’t want to happen.

You might now be asking yourself how on earth you fix the paints on the disc. I’ve just told you that you can’t steam the disc due to the shape, but isn’t it hard to iron the disc, too? Yes, that’s a difficult one as well. So we’re not going to bother with the iron. All you need to do it give the picture a blast for 2-3 minutes with the hairdryer. Keep rotating it as you go. This will fix both the gutta and the paint.

When you’ve finished, remember to attach a thin thread at the top so that you can hang the picture up. And there you are, ready to go.

The one you see here is a stylised Chinese symbol used in feng shui called Double Happiness. It’s one that is traditionally given to the bride and groom at weddings, or couples who are getting engaged to be married. It can also be hung in the relationship corner of your home to attract a new partner if you are solo or used to enhance any existing relationship you have.

I’ve just had a great thought. How about enhancing creating double happiness in your home by silk painting with your partner. Give it a try. It could be a lot of fun. 🙂

August 1, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Wash Out Water-Soluble Gutta

I just wanted to say a quick few words about gutta or resist. It’s a topic which comes up time and again and just needs to be gone over when it does.

The resist technique in silk painting is when you use substances to create a barrier in the fabric which hinders the flow of the dyes. When you apply dye freely to your silk, it flows in an uncontrolled way, giving you a pattern without form, so to speak. In order to give structure to your design, you can use any of the resists available to gain this effect.

Technically speaking, gutta is a rubbery type of resist which has to be removed by dry-cleaning. For those of you who don’t like fumes or paying for dry-cleaning, there is a water-soluble version available which should not be called gutta even though it does get called this. This is what we are talking about here.

It is only the clear version that you can wash out of the silk after the colours are set. After ironing or steaming setting, hold your silk under the running tap and gently squeeze the fabric until all remains of the resist have gone. Roll your silk in a towel and dab it dry. It’s as simple as that.

The other types of resist cannot be removed after application. These are the coloured and metallic versions. When they have dried, ideally over night, you iron them into the fabric using a hot iron and then proceed with either more painting or fixing. These are an integral part of the design and the lines you create with them remain in the pattern. This is the case with my gold gutta lines on the mandalas (you see, I’m calling the resist by the name gutta – it’s a bad habit). 🙂

If you are using any of the solvent-based guttas, then you will have to remove them via dry-cleaning.

So, that was it. Hope this helps.

July 31, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Gallery Wrapped Silk Pictures

Return of the Sister Bride as Gallery Wrapped Silk Picture

I’m always being asked by people what’s the best way to present your artwork. Well, to be honest, there is no one answer to that. The good news is that there are many possibilities available and you just have to pick the one that best suits your needs.

I have traditionally backed, mounted and framed my paintings behind glass but more recently(in the past couple of years) I have begun to offer hand embellished silk prints gallery wrapped on chunky canvas frames. This has the added advantage of being really touchy, feely. The painting has all the characteristics of silk and at the same time is easy to hang up and look after.

Another great advantage for me is that they are easier to send through the post. The glass makes the painting much more vulnerable in your home as there is always the risk of it breaking. And the painting is so much lighter when there is no glass. But again, it totally depends on what effect you want to achieve.

One thing I advise people to watch out for is hanging your silk against a dark background. Any darkness will soak up the light and make your painting appear much darker than it really is. That is why you should hang banners against a light-coloured wall or indeed back them with a piece of white cotton or the like to reflect as much light as possible.

And that brings me to yet another advantage of the gallery wrapped silk paintings. They are

vesica pisces silk picture by fiona stolze

Vesica pisces gallery wrapped silk painting

attached to the white canvas which is just perfect for bringing out the best in your vibrant silk dyes. Don’t be tempted to skip a stage and just attach your silk to a wooden frame with nothing behind the silk. I always advise to just invest in a ready artist’s canvas and stretch the silk over that. The results speak for themselves and you’ll be glad that you did.

But now I’ve started to gallery wrap my handpainted silks, too, not just the embellished prints. Today I completed one of my small vesica pisces silk pictures and gallery wrapped it around an artist’s canvas. It’s actually rectangular, not square, for a change. I like the look it has and it’s a very interesting alternative to the usual framed version which is a bit smaller. I think I’ll be experimenting with a few more like this in the weeks to come but I must admit that I’m not a ‘natural’ with the stapler. I’ve put an electric stapler onto my shopping list as I heard from a very lovely silk painting friend that it saves a lot of hassle. I’ll be sure to keep you posted as to how I get on.

Oh, and I nearly forgot. For those of you who would like to have a go at stretching your silk pictures on artist’s frames, have a look at my tutorial on this blog: How to stretch your silk painting on a canvas frame... It might make things a bit easier for you if you haven’t tried it out before. Good luck.

July 18, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Better – Silk Paint or Silk Dye?

The bottom line here is that there is no right or wrong answer. It’s important for you to know the difference between the two and then be able to make your own decision on which to use.

I’m sure you’ve heard that only the professionals use the silk dyes and the beginners use the paints. Well, that’s no really true. There are many so-called professionals who heat-fix their paints on silk, just as there are many starting out who prefer to use the dyes and fix them in a steaming pot.

So let’s get right down to brass tacks and see what the difference between the two is.

The first ones are the paints. These are sold in bottles and have very matt looking colours. They are made from pigments and are applied to the silk using watercolour brushes. If you need to dilute them, they can be mixed with water to give lighter shades. If you don’t want them to run, then you can apply watercolour base to your silk before painting to give you more control over the process.

To make the colours permanent, you have to fix the paints into the silk using heat, normally applying an iron on the reverse for 3 minutes. Afterwards you are able to wash the silk without the paints washing out.  The paints ‘stick’ to the silk, forming a layer on top. This means that the silk loses a bit of its softness and original tetxture, resulting in the fabric being a bit stiffer.

The dyes, often called professional dyes, are acid-based and are very transluscent. It’s difficult to tell from looking at the bottle what colour the dye will be when painted on the silk. These dyes can also be diluted, either with water or with a special dilutant, which helps the dyes to flow better on the silk as well as allowing you to create any shades you choose.

These dyes have to be steam fixed so that they chemically bond with the silk. When the process is complete, the silk retains its original softness and takes on an incredibly beautiful sheen. The dyes are now light and water resistent.

Always check with the retailer that you have the correct type you are looking for. Iron fix paints cannot be steam fixed. If you try to do so, the colours will smear and mess the silk. Likewise you cannot ironfix the dyes. They will just wash out of the silk afterwards.

So why choose one over the other? If you want things to be quick and simple, go for the iron fix. You don’t need any special equipment and so it’s more cost-effective if you want to have some fun. However, if you make your own steaming device (and there are plenty of tutorials on the web), then by all means treat yourself to some dyes .

As I’ve mentioned before, don’t try to paint a picture mixing paints and dyes as you will only have a mess in the end. The one thing you can do, however, is to paint with dyes, steam fix them and then later add some details with paints which you then iron fix. If you have to. 🙂

The most important thing is to give it a go if you want to get started. Don’t worry about what’s better. If your local supplier only has paints, then paints it is.

Whatever you do, enjoy.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can I Mix Iron Fix Paints and Steam Fix Dyes…???

Believe it or not, this is one of the most common questions I get asked. It’s really important to know what you can and cant’ do with silk paints and dyes so it’s good that this question has been raised yet again as it can’t be said often enough.

So what is the answer? Well, it’s yes and no. Depending on what you are doing.

First of all, a quick definition of what iron fix paints are. They are bottles of paints for the hobby silk artist, made of pigments. You apply them with your brush, dilute them with water and fix them using a warm/hot iron from the reverse for 3 minutes. The paints sit on top of the fabric, leaving a matt finish. The silk loses some of its softness and sheen.

The steam fix dyes are acid-based, can be diluted ad infinitum and are steam fixed so that they bond with the silk, allowiing the fabric to retain its silky sheen and drape.

So basically the paints give you a quick fix. 🙂 If you dont’ have a steamer, or someone who can steam for you, then you need to opt for these.

And can you combine the two types? If you are painting with the acid-based dyes and then steam them, it is possible to add some iron fix paints afterwards which you would then iron to fix. So create your artwork with the dyes, steam it, and then add highlights with some favourite iron fix paints but don’t put it near the steamer, whatever you do!

What you musn’t do is paint with both the iron fix paints and the acid-based dyes and then try to steam the silk. This will just get really messy. And ruin your artwork into the bargain. The paints cannot bond with the silk and so leak all over the paper and down through the layers.  They will also leak over your artwork and mess it up. You will get pale and blotchy patches where the paint was originally applied.

And remember that you cannot iron steam fix dyes into the silk. They will wash out in water as I found out much to my surprise in the very early days.  I had a couple of bottles of what I thought was paint. I lovingly painted a picture and carefully ironed it for 3 minutes, thinking I was fixing the colours. When I held it under the tap, a constant stream of vibrant colour gushed out of the silk and rushed down the plughole. Lesson learnt.

Please always check at your supply store what you are buying. Read the bottle label or ask for assistance in buying the right kind if you are unsure.

And don’t worry if things do go wrong. It happens to us all.  And you won’t be so quick to do it again so it’s a very effective way oflearning.

Happy painting. 🙂

June 10, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

How to Keep Your Silk Painting Brushes Clean

This is one that many of you ask and  it’s actually a really fundamental one. We all get swept away applying a wide palette of gorgeous dyes to our silk but when it comes to keeping the brushes clean for the next time, that’s when difficulties can arise.

How often have you started a new painting with some pastel pink only to find that the first brush stroke is tinged with dark blue from your last session. Mmmm…not really the sort of thing you want happening during your creative spells.

Well, all is not lost because there are some basic things you can do to ensure that this doesn’t put a permanent damper on your enthusiasm and spoil your works of art.

The first thing I would recommend is to keep separate brushes for lighter and darker shades. I’m not saying you need one for each individual colour but it does make sense to keep the pastelly shades for one brush (or set of), the reds and oranges for another and your blues and greens for another one. If you use browns and blacks, they definitely deserve a brush of their own, too.

But I still suggest getting used to giving your brushes a thorough clean in between painting sessions. And this is what I do. I take my dirty brushes and plunge them into a large jar of clean water and really swish them about for a minute or two to get the worst of the dye off and repeat this if the water gets really dirty. Next I take the first brush and hold it under the running tap, gently rotating it on the palm of my hand in the full flow of water. Then I turn it upside down to allow the water to penetrate the wrapped upper part where the bristles are wrapped together. This is where the dye accumulates and is hard to get out. When you paint later the residue gets reactivated by the water and slides down the bristles onto the silk.

And then I take clean jar of water and a clothes peg. I suspend the brush with the water level parallel with the beginning of the wrap around and leave that over night for the dye to work its way out again into the water. Next morning I swish the brush around vigorously for a moment or two, run it under the tap and then squeeze dry between my fingers. I mould the bristles gently into shape and lay the brush down to dry on a sheet of kitchen paper. Your brush should be ready to go again and any remaining excess dye can bleed out at this stage.

This is about as good as it gets without using anything abrasive. I find it works if I do it thoroughly. See how you get on. 🙂

March 3, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , | 1 Comment

How To Avoid Getting Dye On Your Gutta Lines

As if it wasn’t enough working at creating your gutta design without any hitches, but then you have the task of applying the dye to complete the picture. It’s true that you can achieve really great looks by just putting in a minimal amount of effort, but sometimes when you go that extra mile, your artwork just looks so much better.

One thing you have to take into consideration when applying your silk dyes is the possibility of the dye discolouring the gutta so that it’s only partially or not at all visible afterwards. I’m talking about the coloured and metallic guttas here which don’t like being painted over very much.

I wanted to share with you my experience. I used to draw my gutta lines and then leave them over night to thoroughly dry. Then next day I was always keen to get on with the painting and sometimes got a little too excited. If I wasn’t careful enough with my brush, I would get some of the dye on my gutta which immediately made it become dull and lose its sheen. This wasn’t something I was able to remedy afterwards by putting some more gutta on top. This can be a messy procedure anyway and it always looks as if you’ve been trying to give your work a make-over.

But then I came up with the following idea. Whenever I needed to do a lovely wash of colour and the gutta was “in the way”, I turned over my frame and applied the dye from the underside. This gave (and still gives) me a lovely flowing look and left my gutta lines completely intact and bright. All I do is place 4 juice or milk cartons underneath the corners of the frame and I’m ready to go.

However, I don’t recommend using this all the time. I have found that my detailed precision work on my mandalas looks better when I have painted right way up. I would suggest keeping painting on the reverse for “messier” painting. 🙂

Hope this has helped and let me know how you get on.

February 16, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , | Leave a comment

How to Stretch Your Silk Painting on a Canvas Frame in 10 Easy Steps – a Tutorial with Photos

Here at long last (without any real desktop publishing tools) is my response to the request for more visual material on how to stretch your silk painting onto a canvas frame. As many of you will know I have already published an article which describes this process. However, a picture speaks with such clarity, doesn’t it? So here I have a small tutorial for you with pictures and words.

To get started you should have the proper tools at hand so that the process flows as easily as possible. This is what you need: a large board or surface to work on, a roll of masking tape, a stapler (not the small sort you use in the office), a measuring stick or tape, a sheet of paper to protect the silk when working, a chunky artist’s frame of your choice which should be a approximately 15 centimetres smaller than your silk painting in both width and breadth, a Stanley knife and of course, last but not least, your beautiful work of art.

As you can see we are busy framing a one million dollar note reproduced in silk. If you’re at all into Feng Shui, then you’ll know that this is ideal for the prosperity corner.

Step 1

Step One:

Place your board on the floor or table, lay the sheet of paper on top of this and finally place the artist’s frame on top. . Now lay your silk art face up around the canvas frame. Lightly fold it over the edges. You don’t need to worry at this point to centre it as you are only taking the measurements. Now lay your measuring stick across the top surface to measure both the height and width of your picture.

Step Two:

Now remove your silk painting again and lay the frame to one side. You will be needing it again in a moment so have it to hand.

Step Three:

Step 3a

Step 3b

Lay your silk painting face down on the paper and using the measuring stick and masking tape, measure out the dimensions of the frame. If your frame is 50cm wide, then make sure that you have an equal amount of background both left and right of your image, and mark these with the masking tape, so that the frame will sit nicely centred. You can see from the photo that our picture had 4cm on both sides. Do the same for the top and bottom, placing pieces of masking tape to show the outer edges of the frame.

Step Four:

Step 4a

Step 4b

Now take your canvas frame and gently lay it down on the silk, taking care to align the masking tape with the edges of the frame.

Step Five:

Step 5a

Step 5b

Now you’re going to start the actual stapling of the silk onto the wooden frame. You can see quite clearly why the silk needs to be a few

Step 5c

Step 5d

centimetres wider than the frame for the wrap around. Start in the middle of the

edge nearest to you and pull the

Step 5e

silk firmly up and over the frame. Holding it down flat, staple the silk firmly in place. Proceed with the opposite edge. Repeat this for the remaining two edges. If your work is on the floor, it’s quite easy to move around in a circle. Next add staples halfway between all the ones you have already attached and repeat this process until the silk is snugly stapled all the way around the frame. Don’t staple too close to the corners.

Step Six:

Step 6a

Step 6b

Next you’re going to attach the silk at the corners. Tuck the excess silk underneath and fold an edge

to make a 90 degree angle, with the fold of silk lying along the edge of the frame (see photos 6a and 6b). Firmly staple the silk in place.

Step Seven:

Step 7

The remaining excess silk gets folded back in the opposite direction (to the outer edge of the frame). Fold so that the silk is flush with the corner of the frame (Step 7) and on the top tuck the last silk in diagonally towards the middle of the picture. Firmly staple in place on top. DO NOT staple where the silk is visible. Repeat on all four corners.

Step Eight:

Step 8

Lift the picture up to check that everything is nice and straight from the front. The million dollar note needs to be very straight due to the straight edges in the painting. You may get away with less precision with other images. Should  you decide that anything needs altering, ie. the image is a bit squint, then  carefully turn your picture back over, undo the staples and readjust your silk.

Step Nine:

Step 9

If you are satisfied with the result, place your measuring stick along the four edges and trim the excess silk off with a Stanley knife. Please only do this if you are wide awake.

Step Ten:

Your picture is now ready for hanging. The beauty of this method is that you only need 1 nail as the picture is so light-weight compared with a traditional frame. You may need 2 for larger pictures. In this case we used two. Knock in the first one, hold up your spirit level and mark where the second one goes. Knock it in too. And now you can hang your picture.

Step 10

Eh, voila. You have a beautiful work of art, framed to perfection which shows off your artwork wonderfully and it hasn’t cost you a fortune to do it either. Enjoy.

January 20, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Making Silk Cushion Covers – Using Ready Made Ones or DIY?

I was prompted to write this article after an exchange with a lovely silk painting colleague about painting silk cushions. So thank you Christine for your inspiration.

It was about the question of using the silk cushion covers which are ready made or making your own from scratch. Well, this one may seem like a no-brainer. Those of you who like sewing will make the cushions from scratch and those of you who don’t like sewing or just can’t be bothered will go for the premade ones.

However, I am one of those artists who does both. And I wanted to share some pro’s and con’s of using either of these methods to create your gorgeous works of art.

So let’s start with the ready made ones. For those of you unfamiliar with them, I have a photo here of one for you to look at. The front and back panels are sewn together which means only one seam is closed. That’s where the zip is and you can make this either the top or bottom. You can stretch the 3 sides open cover on a frame and paint it to your heart’s desire. One advantage is that the shape is extremely easy to stretch (being a rectangle). Another advantage is that the zip is already sewn in which has to be a huge plus. The only thing that you have to do after fixing the dyes, is to fold the cover in half outside in, pin the edges and then sew the remaining 3 seams to complete your work. Iron the seams into the silk and then that’s you finished. You can turn it the right way round and pop a cushion pad inside.

That all sounds great and it is. However, I have found one or two niggly things that can spoil the look of the finished cushion. When you are painting the area around the zip you will find that the dye doesn’t get absorbed very cleanly into the silk, due to the double thickness of the fabric and the metal teeth lying underneath. I always put something inbetween the zip and the double layer of silk above it so that there is less marking.

Something else that can be a little bit messy is the area alongside the zip seams – the little holes where the needle punctured the silk. When you paint here, the colour can become uneven.

Tip: So this is what I do. On both sides of the zip close to the stitching I draw a straight gold line going full width of the cover. If there is any blotchiness and unevenness this stays within the enclosed area around the zip and doesn’t spread onto the rest of the cover. You can see this quite well in the photo.

There is one last thing to watch for. These covers are mass made and you will find the odd one that is rather irregular in shape which means that when you fold it over the two sides don’t match. That means you’ll have to take a ruler and measure out new edges to keep it all straight. It gets a bit tricky when the piece looks more like a rhombus than a rectangle. 🙂

On the whole, they cut down assembly time. No frustration at the overlock machine not performing correctly. So there’s a lot to be said for them.

And what about the other option, making the cushion cover completely from scratch? I rather like doing this. You can freely create your front panel in any way you choose. The back panel can then either be made in the same material or in something contrasting. I like brightly coloured dupioni silks for quite a classy look and durability.

As for the zip, you can pay someone who is well-versed in sewing to insert it into the panel for you. It’s a job that shouldn’t take more than 15-20 minutes for someone who knows what they are doing. And this won’t cost much at all. They might then even quickly overlock the 2 panels together for you. If you’re a hobby person who enjoys doing this sort of work, then it is no great hardship to do the complete sewing job yourself.

So the downside is that it takes quite a bit longer to put together and it involves sewing in a zip. The advantage is that the completed cushion is quite robust if you have chosen to use a sturdier silk for the back panel. And it will have a really unique look to it.

Whatever you choose to do, hand painted silk cushion covers are a beautiful addition to your living space and are certainly a topic of conversation when friends come around. And they are a great joy to create.

January 12, 2010 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Free Mandala Templates for Silk Painting

Those of you who read my December newsletter will know already. I’m starting a new series of free mandala templates for silk painting.

Just subscribe to the Silk & Art Newsletter and I will send you by return the latest edition which contains the first free template. And with each consecutive newsletter I will be giving you a further mandala design to download absolutely free to colour or paint.

And it gets better. I am inviting you to paint it any way you like, take a photo and send me the file. I will then be publishing all your entries on my website for everyone else to enjoy.

And…..two entries each month will receive a small prize. A gift voucher towards the purchase of a pack of mandala greeting cards and the other one towards the purchase of a larger silk product.

So if you haven’t received the Silk & Art Newsletter yet, follow this link to subscribe now and take part. I look forward to hearing from you and sharing your artwork.

Happy New Year!!!!

December 31, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Dry Gutta Quickly When Silk Painting

If you’ve ever created a silk painting using the resist technique, applying gutta, then you’ll know that it is very difficult to get it to dry quickly. That is, if you are using water-based gutta. So we’re going to look at one or two ways of speeding up the process so that you can on with applying your colourful silk dyes.

There is one point I would like to make clear here before we go any further. There are two main types of gutta. One is solvent based and this type dries almost instantaneously which means you can apply your dyes straight away. I never use these guttas for two reasons. Firstly I don’t consider healthy to be inhaling the fumes from them. And secondly, I have to run off to the drycleaners to totally remove them from my silk artwork. This is both time-consuming and expensive. The second type is water-based and technically isn’t gutta at all, but “resist”. But for the purposes of this article we will be using the word gutta to refer to them both.

So, I use water-based guttas which unfortunately don’t dry immediately. However, when you know this, there are some things you can do to make sure your gutta dries quickly.

I would recommend that you get yourself a set of those small plastic bottles which can sit comfortably in your hand as if you were holding a thick pen. You can buy them from most craft shops that sell silk painting materials. Or you can order them online from any website selling them. You can then pop a fine nozzle onto the end of the nib which will ensure that the lines you draw are not overly thick. The nozzles come in different sizes. I use 0.5mm and find this thickness works very well. These thinner lines dry quite quickly at room temperature. If you use any tubes you can buy over the counter, the disadvantage is that the gutta can bloop out with air bubbles and this is going to make an awful mess of your work. Also, the lines are going to be so thick that you’ll really have to wait until the next day before you can start painting. I’ve seen some tubes create the effect of an iced cake.

When I do workshops I always have a hairdryer to hand so that we can blow dry the gutta lines to get them dry enough to move onto the next stage of applying the dyes after just a short break. Just switch on your hairdryer and give the silk a quick blast, taking care to keep the hot air flow moving so that the silk doesn’t over heat.

In fact the hairdryer is the standard method of drying objects with gutta that can’t be treated any other way. This could include round window pictures which consist of silk stretched over a metal hoop. These cannot be ironed if you are using iron fix dyes.

I have often guttaed my mandalas in summer months when the temperature was very high. This is ideal for getting your work to dry quickly but on the other hand you have to work quite quickly. So if you turn up the heating this will dry the gutta faster than if you work in a cold room. When you have completed the design, place your work near a radiator or even over it if this is possible. Take care that your silk doesn’t come into direct contact with the heater. Place books under the frame to raise it a bit higher.

Always remember, too, to fix your gutta into the silk when you have completed the painting. The gutta gets fixed at the same time as iron-fix dyes. For steam fixing, iron the silk on the reverse for up to 3 minutes.

And if you have the time to spare, I would always recommend that you leave the work overnight to allow the gutta to thoroughly dry at room temperature.

If you have any further questions on this topic, just post them at the end of this article. I look forward to hearing from you.

December 20, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to Steam Fix Silk Dyes for Best Results

I was very recently asked a question about steam fixing silk dyes and this prompted me to write the present article. We’re not talking here about iron fixing as that is quite a straight forward process and needs no further explanation. It’s the French dyes which need to be steam fixed and that’s what we’re going to be looking at here.

One thing that is important to remember when you are painting with silk dyes is that both your gutta (if you have used any) and your dyes themselves will need to settle into the silk fabric, so it’s really recommendable to leave your work on the frame until the next day before attempting to fix it. This will ensure your work is completely dry. As the fixing process takes around 3 hours, it’s best left until the next day. That is the main reason why I offer to steam fix any work done by my workshop participants and to send it on to them a few days later.

But what about the actual steaming itself? How is that done? Well, I have always used a professional steaming device to do this. Mine is a horizontal one and has a roof-shaped lid as you can see in the photo here. The advantage of this is that any condensation can easily drop down to the sides and past the silk without harming it. I find it fantastic and haven’t had a piece of ruined silk in all the years I have been painting. It is electric and has a thermostat, ensuring a constant temperature all the way through. You may well have seen vertical models which are basically the same but most of them have to be used on top of your cooker on or electric plates.

These professional steamers are quite costly and the average hobby person will not be wanting to make such an investment. You can, of course, look on the internet to see where the nearest steaming service is. Many artists offer to do this for a reasonable fee per metre of silk plus postage. But there are ways of reaching similar results by making up your own steaming device at home. It is tricky to do it with constant good results and there is always the risk of drops of water getting onto your silk and spoiling it.

If you are attempting to do this at home, you will need a vegetable steamer of a decent size. You can wrap your silk artwork up by laying it flat on a piece of muslin and then on blank newspaper (or similar quality) and carefully rolling it up, taking care to seal the ends. You will have to fold in the ends to make a little parcel so that it will fit inside your steamer. This is where the difficulties start because ideally the parcel should not touch the sides. Your package really needs to be suspended freely in the steam for best results. Also, be careful not to package too much because then the steam won’t penetrate the wrapping in order to effectively fix the dyes. There are many artists who have developed their own methods for doing this so you might want to use your search engine to have a closer look. I have read time and again of disappointments when, despite this, condensation ruins the final effect of the silk.

One thing to bear in mind is that creases and marks tend to get fixed into the silk. So if you are not very careful in wrapping it up, it can come out with some permanent creases in it, depending on the silk quality. Satin silk is particularly sensitive so take a bit of time to ensure a smooth rolling up.

When you have steamed pongee or habotai (often used for wafty, translucent scarves), it is quite easy to rinse them in lukewarm water until the bleeding stops. Satin silk loses part of its sheen when you do this, so be warned. Also, make sure that you only swirl it about in the water and then lay it flat on a tea towel or the like to dry, as any squeezing or wringing will result in creases which will often not come out again. Ironing creases in satin silk often just irons them in. I paint my mandalas on satin silk and since they mostly get framed behind glass, I do not wash them afterwards. They just get ironed carefully and pat in a safe, dry place. Anything that is intended for wearing gets thoroughly rinsed.

When I prepare my work for steaming in my electrical device, I use a length cut off from a huge roll of blank newspaper which I have specifically for this purpose. One end of the paper is taped to a metal pole. I then begin to roll up my silks, taking care that both the paper and the fabric are completely flat and straight. I also allow for a good few inches space at both ends of the tube as well as at the start of the roll and the end. A few pieces of masking tape hold the roll closed. I then suspend it in the steam bath, close the lid, set the thermostat and leave it for 3 hours. When the time is up, being careful to use oven gloves or tea towels, I open the lid, lift out the pole and package and lay it down on the floor on plastic sheeting to cool. After a few minutes I unroll it and let the pieces of silk cool at room temperature. They look gorgeous, really glossy and translucent. Mmmmm…..the best part.

If the paper is not too messy, I recycle it in the next steaming. Any bleeding on the paper depends on how concentrated the dyes were when you painted and how liberal you were in your application of them.

And you don’t ever have to worry about overdoing things. When you are steaming your artwork, the process completes and if you forget about it and go off to do something else, leaving your silk in the steamer for even double the time you intended to, this doesn’t have any adverse effects. It’s not like overcooking veggies in the steamer. 🙂

You might find it worthwhile searching for sites that sell steaming devices because there’s nothing to beat them in simplicity and magnificence in results. I never have to worry about whether or not my work will turn out good . I paid more for mine because it is electric however you can get the version that you can warm up on your cooker for quite a bit less. You could also watch out on Ebay to see if you can pick one up at a good price.

One last word on this topic. There is also the “microwave” method. This is how it works – If you have painted a silk scarf in the wet in wet technique, you place it on a plate and put it in the microwave for a few minutes to fix the colours. You can only do this if it is very wet and there is no gutta. Since I originally posted this article, I have delved into this area and found it to be quite enjoyable. What you can make with it is very limited as the silk needs to be very wet before you pop it in for ‘cooking’. If it’s too dry, it’s just going to singe and burn…not very nice. I’ll be exploring this more and hope to have something in writing quite soon. 🙂

So, good luck with your work. I hope this article helps. Let me know how you get on.

December 12, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , | 15 Comments

Resist Technique – How to Put Gutta on Silk Without it Flooding

Okay, once you’ve decided which type of gutta to buy,what on earth do you do with it? Knowing how to put gutta on silk is not as easy as it looks but with a bit of practice and some useful tips, it should all start to flow a bit better.

If you’ve had a look at my post on which type of gutta to choose, then hopefully you’ve invested in some gutta that you’re happy with.

Now you may have bought a tube of gutta. In which case, all you have to do is take off the cap and start to apply it to the silk . But in actual fact, you may well find that the hole is a bit big and the gutta comes out really fast and thick which makes it difficult to control. These tubes are intended for beginners who want to just get started on some very basic patterns without worrying about finer details.

What if you want thinner lines? Well, the solution is to buy bigger bottles of gutta, small plastic bottles to refill and a set of nozzles to apply to the plastic bottles. It can be a tricky business filling the little plastic bottles but once you know how, it becomes a piece of cake.

First of all you have to match the nozzle to the plastic bottle. And this is how you do it….

You have to get a sharp pair of scissors and cut the tip off the top of the bottle. Be really careful only to cut off a small piece to start with. Next, try to fit the metal nozzle on top of the plastic. If it is still too wide, cut off another small piece. Try on the nozzle again. Do this with a twisting motion until the nozzle hugs the plastic. If it is still not perfect, slice off yet another piece of the plastic and try the nozzle again.

It’s really important to make sure you don’t chop off too much at the start as you may find that the nozzle just falls off and then you have wasted your money! So do it bit by bit.

Okay, so now the nozzle fits. And why is it so important to make sure it fits snuggly? Because when you are applying the gutta, there may be moments when you press the plastic bottle a bit too hard. This is when any badly fitting nozzle is likely to come flying off leaving you with a big puddle of gutta on your silk. And that can be rather off-putting to say the least.

Now, I’ll be perfectly honest. Your nozzle can still come flying off even if it fits perfectly. I overcome this by checking the fit every few minutes. I gently press it into place, twisting it firmly onto the bottle. But yes, I have had a few crises which ended up with a gooey mess of gutta on my beautiful masterpiece. 🙂

Right, you’ve cut the top off the plastic bottle. Now we need to fill it with gutta. And this is how you do it. Press the plastic bottle until all the air goes out of it and then hold the nib down into the gutta. Let go of the bottle and you will hear the gutta being sucked up into the plastic bottle. Now take the plastic bottle and gently bang it on the table to let the gutta settle. Repeat this procedure a few times until the bottle is at least half to three quarters full of gutta. You don’t want it to be completely full as that increases the risk of everything bursting out onto your silk.

Now you’re reading to start applying the gutta to the silk. Okay, so you are holding your bottle with the fitted nozzle in your hand, giving gentle pressure. You’re making sure that you are keeping the nozzle in contact with the silk, much the same as if you were writing your name, but with a little less pressure. An important thing to note is that you are putting pressure on the bottle itself with your thumb and forefinger so that you have an even flow of gutta. You are not pressing on the silk itself. Just maintain very gentle contact.

There is a chance that the gutta can ‘bloop’ at this point. This is when an air bubble comes out and the gutta makes a mini explosion over your silk. It can make a bit of a mess of your artwork. But you know what? This happens to me at regular intervals, too. And what do I do about it? I just make a creative feature out of it.

What do I mean by creative feature? Well, just pretend that it was meant to be that way. Turn the bloop into something that makes your design look really cool. Repeat it a few more times. Really, there are no mistakes in silk painting. Have fun and get creative.

I remember a few years ago when I was holding a workshop in Glastonbury. One very lovely participant suddenly lost her nozzle in the midst of a very creative phase. So I came over to the rescue. We made a golden butterfly out of it and added a few more for good measure. You would never have been able to tell from the result. And she was very pleased with it.

Now there is something I want to mention about resist technique. When you are drawing your lines, you want to make really sure that they stop the dye from ‘escaping’, so to speak. Hold your frame up to the light and you will be able to see easily where the weaknesses are and where the dye might be able to flow through when you begin to paint. Make sure all areas are properly closed and touch up any lines that seem a bit thin. It will be worth it when you come to apply your dyes as they will remain intact and keep the dye within its boundaries.

Have fun, then. And do let me know if you have any further questions or need any guidance on anything relating to this.

February 17, 2009 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | 2 Comments