Triumph for the first-timer … painting silk Essay

Triumph for the first-timer . . . painting silk Easier, faster, safer with new ready-to-apply colorants Let color flow: the new liquid dyes for painting silk are so easyto use that even a novice can produce a richly colored design in just afew hours. These ready-to-apply colorants, now arriving in American craftsstores, are available in many shades, and they’re much safer thantraditional fabric dyes for home use (still, don’t use dyecontainers afterward for food or drink). Some are in applicators sosimple you just draw with them, as with a felt-tip pen.

The latestproducts–those we used–come with their own fixative, so youneedn’t steam the silk after dyeing to set the color as required bysome types of silk dyes. In contrast to the multiple applications needed for batik, you cancomplete a painting in one sitting. The interaction of the dyes withsilk, salt, and alcohol will surprise and delight you, and the dyedfabric retains beautiful suppleness and sheen. Your creation can becomea scarf, wall hanging, lampshade, or pillow. An informal workshop with friends is an enjoyable way to start andto minimize the initial investment in materials. Under supervision,children as young as nine got good results in our testing. Plan your design–it can be something as simple as parallel bandsof color.

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A rough sketch on paper may help. Then set up a practicestretcher so everyone can experiment a bit and see how colors look. The new imported dyes Liquid dyes for silk come in a wide range of colors, sold in4-ounce bottles costing $2.60 to $3 each. Tinfix and Super Tinfix (more concentrated), made in France bySennelier, now come in a version with fixative already mixed in the dye,as does the French dye Prince Fix by Le Prince. These can be thinnedwith a mixture of equal parts of water and alcohol.

P$aeb$aeo’s S$aetacolor, also French, is used with a fixativebath; you can buy this dye in bottles or in flow-pen applicators withwhich you draw directly on the silk. Seidicolor, a German product, requires that you brush a thickliquid fixative over the finished work. Dyes are sold at crafts or art-supply stores. If you need helpfinding them, write to Silk Painting Report, Sunset Magazine, 80 WillowRd.

, Menlo Park, Calif. 94025. Silk: what kind, where to get it Available in craft or fabric stores, lightweight Hobutai or Chinasilk is suitable for beginners. At a width of 45 inches and weight of 8momme (or 4 lb.), it costs about $5 a yard. With more experience, youmay want to try more expensive silks of different weights and textures.

Do not cut silk; tear it to desired size for your project. Prewashit in lukewarm water with liquid dish detergent; rinse; allow toair-dry, flat, until damp, then iron at “wool’ setting. Assembling the supplies Besides the silk, here’s what you’ll need to get started. Wood stretcher bars. Available at art stores in many sizes, thesefit together to make frames to hold silk flat; four 24-inch bars costabout $4. You could also make your own stretcher frame. Masking tape (change with each painting) to keep dye off stretcherframe.

Push pins or tacks to fix silk to frame. Apron to protect clothing. Clear gutta, a resist with the consistency of liquid rubber, usedto keep colors from bleeding together. Water-base gutta, ready to usewithout dilution, is also available; this takes longer to dry, and, ifretouches are needed, you must wait until it dries before you continuepainting. Washing removes either kind.

Colored gutta (optional) tinted gold, silver, or black. Note:colored gutta survives washing but disappears in dry cleaning. Rubber-cement thinner (solvent) to thin gutta and cleanapplicators. Omit this if you buy water-base gutta. Wooden skewer for mixing gutta, thinner. Plastic squeeze bottle with (optional) metal-tipped applicator forspreading gutta in thin lines of uniform consistency. Liquid dyes. Only a few colors are needed; you can mix and dilute.

Experiment first to see how colors react when applied to silk. Small plastic containers to hold mixed dye colors. Plasticcocktail glasses cost about 5 cents each. Spray bottle of water to dampen silk. Glass or plastic bottle with cap for storing a mixture of equalparts water and alcohol for diluting dyes. Rubbing alcohol for diluting color and for special effects. Glass jar or plastic bucket for washing brushes. Dropper for measuring dyes and for applying alcohol.

Watercolor brushes, foam brushes, and long cotton swabs forapplying color. Salt of various kinds (rock salt, table salt) for special effects. White vinegar to help set dyes. Getting ready to paint Work in a well-ventilated room, and use plain newsprint of aplastic drop-cloth to protect work surface from spills. Assemble your stretcher, cover top edges with masking tape, thenrip silk to fit inside dimensions, plus 1/2 inch on all sides. Pinfabric to frame at corners, then spray water on the fabric, stretch ittightly over the frame, and tack it down about every 2 inches. Let thesilk air-dry.

Working with the gutta resist You use lines drawn with the gutta fabric resist as an outline toseparate colors and keep them from flowing from one space to another.Be sure to practice a little before you start your design. In the squeeze bottle, mix 3 parts gutts with 1 part rubber-cementthinner (unless using water-base gutta).

Let mixture stand for 15minutes, then stir with a wooden skewer. Using a needle, poke a smallhole in the plastic tip (or use metal tip for a thinner line). Keep theneedle or wire in a safe place to stop the bottle after each use sogutta won’t dry.

Start with the squeeze bottle in one hand, a paper towel in theother to help you catch drips when you lift the bottle. Hold bottlevertically and press gently but firmly, as with a pencil, to make aline. Draw with an even, flowing movement. To be effective as a resist, gutta must penetrate the silk’sfibers; pick up your frame and check reverse side for a wetlooking line.Close and gaps in the gutta outlines (from above), or colors will bleed. There are several ways to outline your design with gutta: you cantrace shapes (as we did with leaves); position fabric over a design andthen trace it in gutta; deaw freehand; or use a rule to guide theapplicator as you create a design composed of straight edges. Let guttadry for about 10 minutes before you paint.

Water-base gutta may takelonger; you can use a hair dryer if you get impatient. Painting the fabric Use colorants from the bottle or dilute them with the water-alcoholsolution, but prepare and test them on a fabric swatch first. Allcolors intermix, ofter with stunning results. Colors dry quickly. To avoid a stiped effect created when fresh brushstrokes overlappartially dried ones, work quickly when painting large areas. If youcut the background into bands with gutta lines, you won’t have toolarge an area to paint as once.

Dampening silk with a foam brush helpscolor spread faster, though you may have to restretch fabric afterdampening to keep it taut. You can use several colors for thebackground; they will bleed and fuse, producing subtle gradations. Special effects with salt, alcohol If you sprinkle a bit of dry salt on wet dye, the salt absorbs someof the liquid, changing the color in an interestingly irregular way.Try coarse or fine salt: each reacts differently, larger crystalsgiving a more dramatic look. Don’t use too much or you’llmuddy the color and get less effect. Use a salt configuration as the center of your design, or scattersalt on the background or around certain shapes.

It’s moreeffective used on a dark color or on several colors overpainted. You get lighter (less color-saturated) lines or circles by drawingon dyed areas with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or letting alcoholfall from a dropper. Eixing the colors Let your work air-dry on the frame away from direct sunlight forthe amount of time indicated on the manufacturer’s directions.Then rinse in clean, cool water to which a capful of white vinegar hasbeen added (use a basin or sink not employed for food).

You’ll seesome discharge of colors, especially dark ones. Rinse again until wateris clean. Lay flat on a towel, damp-dry, and iron at a low setting. Hem silk, if desired, after ironing. Photo: Ten-year-old sports silk chicken she chose to frame.Feathers took patience, but color-shadowed background went quickly Photo: Grownup made scarf with persimmon design. Outlines areblack gutta; orange dye fills in Photo: Introductory workshop starts silk painters. She’sfilling in background around traced leaf designs.

Youngster puts on afew debs with cotton swab, while Dad works on long stretcher (it’ssupported by two chairs) Photo: They triumph with leaves and waves (above); on wall behindher is improvised chart to help select dye colors and dilutions. Pressedand draped searves (right) look simple or subtle but glow with richcolor Photo: 1. On stretched silk, draw freehand or trace shapes withgutta. Press down gently with squeeze applicator Photo: 2. Paint small areas of design with swab or small brush. Tofill in fast, use a foam brush on damp silk Photo: 3. For lighter lines within dyed areas, apply alcohol withcotton swab (use dropper to disperse color in circles) Photo: 4.

For a marbled effect, carefully sprinkle salt over wetdye. Coarse and fine kinds vary final pattern

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