Inspired Art and Living with Fiona Stolze

Silk Painting Competition – Paint a Mandala

This blog post is all about having a bit of fun and having the chance to get a nice reward for it into the bargain. And that can’t be bad.

So here’s what I want you to do.

I’m publishing here one of my mandala templates. In fact I published this in my newsletter quite a few months back but I decided that these templates would be of more use if I published them directly online for everyone to access.

All you need to do is right click on this image, ‘save image as’  and download it to your computer. From there you can print it out and create a lovely

Free mandala template

piece of artwork from it. Obviously I would love you to paint it on silk but if this isn’t your forte, why not just trace it onto paper or any other medium you use, and colour it brightly as it takes your fancy.

Next, take a photo of it and send it to me at info@silkandart putting ‘Mandala competition’ in the subject line. I will post every entry that is submitted to me on this blog.

And to make it even more interesting, I’m going to select one of them and the person who painted it will receive a pack of my mandala greeting cards as a gift.

Does that sound like something you’d like to do? Remember, you can use any medium you like – felt pens, watercolours, oils, silk paints, or crayons. I’ll accept anything you choose to work with.

So how long do you have to submit your artwork? Until Friday February 18th.  I’n really looking forward to getting email from you and seeing what you’ve created.

And in the meantime it would be great to hear from you if you’ve painted mandala artwork before. How was it for you? Please share your experiences with us.


N.B.: I just wanted to point out that you are very welcome to use this free mandala for your personal use. Please do not use it for commercial purposes. Thanks so much.


January 30, 2011 Posted by | COMPETITIONS | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Buying Silk Painting Supplies at Low Cost

I recently posted an article about how to do silk painting on a shoe-string budget and not long after that a friend asked for some help on how cheap this whole thing can be.

Well, I had a look into this and came to the conclusion that you really can do it for very little money if you are prepared to just start with the absolute basics and not invest in lots of fancy equipment. Why spend a lot if you don’t really know if silk painting is going to be up your street. Wait until you are hooked (which will happen very quickly) and then think about spending on some of the more specialist products.

Okay, back to the silk painting supplies.

When you are starting out, I would recommend you buy the silk paints, not the dyes. The paints are fixed into the silk using your household iron whereas for the dyes you’ll need a steamer of some sort and it can be a bit trickier. There is one exception and that’s silkpainting with the microwave which I wrote about a few weeks ago.

Get yourself 3 small jars in red, blue and yellow so that you can mix whatever shades you need. If you’re in the USA the store to contact is Dharma Trading. And if you’re in Europe, try out Rainbow Silks. These will cost around $3.99 or £3.95 per jar.

The next item is a square blank silk scarf which you can tear up into 4 smaller pieces. If you buy a 90cm x 90cm one made of habotai or pongee 5mm, you might pay around $5.19 or £6.00, so each piece costs a quarter of that. This is the thinnest quality shops sell, but it’s perfect to get started with.You can get these at the stores I mentioned above.

Next you’ll need some pins or tacks which you’re bound to have lying around the house. And finally, instead of a frame, you can stretch the silk over the top of a cardboard box. There is a delightful little video by Yanghaiying which shows this silk painting technique.

Use any watercolour brushes you may have in the house and if you need to buy some, you can pick up a couple at very low cost from any hobby or craft store.  Old mugs or empty jam jars are perfect as mixing pots or water jars.

And finally you might want a tube of water-based resist to draw some lines with, but it’s not essential. This will cost around $2.89 or £3.75.

So adding all of that up we come to a figure of around $12.00 or £22.00. That’s enough for four  45cm x 45cm pictures, which makes each one cost $3 or £5.50. Oddly enough the US prices are much lower than the UK ones,

I hope this price list helps. It is just an approximation so you’ll need to check things out for yourself. And if you have, how did your calculations go? I’d love to hear if you managed to kit yourself out for this or less.

Oh, and don’t forget to let me now if you got hooked after the first go.

January 22, 2011 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

How to do Silk Painting on a Shoestring Budget

How many of you sigh when you hear the words “silk painting” and think that it’s something that you’re going to have to dig deep into your pocket for? Well, in a way you could be right but actually you might be quite relieved to hear that it’s possible to create some fabulous work without having to break the bank. This article is going to talk you through how to do silk painting on a shoe string budget.

And this is what you need to do:

Buy yourself a piece of silk yardage  that you can paint on. One quite good way to do this is to buy a large blank square scarf and divide it into four so that you can make 4 smaller pictures. You might be lucky enough to have a bridal outfitter’s near you that you can visit and barter with for lovely silk off-cuts.

You’re going to need some sort of frame to stretch the silk on. Special frames for silk painting can be costly, so what I would suggest is to go to your local DIY shop and buy 4 lengths of wood which you can nail together to form a square or rectangular in the desired size.  You don’t need to invest in those 3-pronged pins at the start. Drawing pins would make a great substitute. For more info have a look at a video I made on how to stretch silk on a wooden frame.

Pin your silk all the way around the frame, making sure that your fabric is quite taut as it will tend to sag as it gets wet during painting.

As a beginner opt for the small bottles of silk paint which you can heat fix with your iron afterwards. Any watercolour brushes are perfect for applying this so have a good dig through your art materials and see what’s already there.

Now depending on what you’d like to paint, you might want to buy a small bottle of gutta which creates the lines that give structure to a silk painting. When you’ve drawn the lines you want onto the plain silk, let them dry and then you can get out the paints and silks and have a ball. If you choose to just use the paints on their own, it’s important to know that they flow freely on the silk. A great effect for this is the salt technique. Sprinkle large grain salt onto the very wet paint and just watch the wonderful effects manifest before your eyes as the pigments get drawn out.

And for those of you who love to mess and splash, how about laying out some plastic sheeting, wetting the silk and then scrunching it all up before sprinkling different paints on it. When it’s dry, just iron on the reverse to fix the paints. The great thing is that you save on a frame. It’s really important to remember to buy the paints for now as you can fix them easily with your iron.

So please don’t think you have to go spending huge amounts of money to be able to indulge in silk painting. You don’t. But remember that after the first attempt you are most likely to get hooked… beware.

I’d love to hear back from any of you have tried this out for the first time. Did you manage to use things that were lying around? What creative ideas did you come up with?

* This article first appeared on the UKHandmade website as a winning article in a competition they ran. The above version has been adapted.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | INSPIRATIONS | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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

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 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

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


This space is intended as a silk painting forum offering help with the various techniques you can try out when painting on silk. I will be discussing all sorts of materials you can use when painting on silk as well as giving various tips and descriptions techniques.

I want to encourage you all to ask any questions you might have and I’ll help you in any way I can.

In fact, you don’t need to wait for the upcoming posts. If you have any questions you’d like help with, just go ahead and post your questions now. I’ll do what I can to help.

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September 17, 2008 Posted by | SILK PAINTING TECHNIQUES | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Taking the Challenge, Holding the Balance, Living My Truth. Join Me on the Spiritual Quest for Personal Power as an Artist, Teacher and Coach

My name is Fiona Stolze and I believe that we are totally responsible for creating our own reality and that we have the life of our choosing. There is huge empowerment in realizing this and taking it on board and yet there is so much that holds us back from stepping into that power.

My work is about coming to terms with our inner strength and utilising it to break through our limiting beliefs to start creating a life that brings us joy, fulfilment and growth.

It’s time to embrace absolutely everything in our lives and take responsibility for it. The posts on this blog address many topics that will hopefully spark thought and reflection within you.

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September 14, 2008 Posted by | A WARM WELCOME | , , , , , , | 7 Comments