May 022014

Spring fever for me often means starting lots of new projects and not seeing anything get finished for a while. So to switch up the startitis pace, I’m digging into my personal crafty archive and sharing something I made last fall!

One perk of my job is that occasionally I can take one of the art classes we offer. After a few weeks of sitting in on a silk painting workshop, I came away with this:

Silk bonsai scarf

Design: I spent almost the entire first class thinking about the scarf design. The leaf image in our instructor’s templates was one of my favorites, and I wanted an interesting, curvy tree to go along with the leaves. After class I found a stained-glass bonsai tree image online, which I enlarged and modified – adjusting the number and size of the stained-glass panels, etc. The color scheme developed organically, with cobalt blue as the starting point.

Process: First you iron the silk scarf and stretch it onto a square frame, using clips or pins to attach it. Draw your design elements on paper in pencil, and then trace over with black marker (or use existing templates). Then draw the line-work onto the scarf using a gutta resist. Silk absorbs dye reeeeally well, so you need something to stop the dye from spreading if you want to have any defined color sections in your work. The resist creates a barrier so that the fabric will resist taking the dye. Dry the resist with a hair dryer.

Test the “French dyes” on scrap silk and mix colors as desired. To begin with, all dyes were diluted with a 50/50 alcohol/water solution. You can dilute the colors even further, but I skipped this step since I wanted highly saturated hues. Apply dyes to the scarf with paint brushes.

The instructor took students’ scarves to her studio and set the dye for us by steaming. After the silk was steam-set, I washed the scarf in cold water until the water ran clear, washed it again in warm water and mild detergent (Eucalan wool wash), and laid it flat to dry.

Silk bonsai scarf closeup

While I’m usually more drawn to wearing head-to-toe color than a solid black dress, it’s a great blank canvas for showcasing the scarf as a focal point.  I threw in some pops of ultramarine and cobalt blue, to tie it all together and because I can’t help myself. Here’s a shot of the scarf in action:

Silk bonsai scarf

How I usually wear the scarf: folded in half into a triangle and tied around the neck bandana-style

And a silly, blurry shot of me hanging out inside one of the office’s art supply closets:


Materials: 21″ square 8mm silk habotai scarf, Dupont Silk Dyes and Sennelier Tinfix Design Silk Dyes

Resources: Lots at Dharma Trading Co: Silk painting techniques, and learn more about guttas and resists. Check out my instructor’s Etsy shop for silk painting inspiration: Leslie Silk Studio

  2 Responses to “Hand-painting silk: stained glass bonsai scarf”

  1. Love it! Painting silk is on my list of crafts to try someday too.

    • Thanks, Jana! It was really fun and rewarding. Please share your eventual silk painting, no matter how far down the road someday is :)

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