My Silk Painting Processprocess

All scarves and garments are individually hand-painted on 100 percent silk. I paint on white silk that I purchase from Thai Silks and Exotic Silks Co. Most of my silk scarves are already hand-rolled.

First I stretch the silk on a special frame that has adjustable wooden panels, that have special pin hooks that hold the silk tight. I use a combination of techniques to create my scarves, from a fluid watercolor method to a more controlled resist technique.

Using a watercolor brush, I paint on the silk using silk dyes by Tinfex or MX Reactive Dyes made by Pro Chemical and Dye Company. Tinfex dyes are diluted with a solution of water and isopropyl alcohol to obtain lighter pastel tones. When the dye is applied to untreated silk it will run and spread in beautiful but unpredictable ways. Sometimes I sprinkle salt or alcohol onto the wet dyes to create starburst effects after the dye dries. Sometimes I lay the silk flat and paint using thickened dyes.

But gaining real control, when I need it, requires the use of a resist of some sort to either create a linear barrier or simply restrict the flow of dye within the silk. A common characteristic of silk painting is the use of a clear gutta resist line to delineate areas of color, which sometimes gives an almost mosaic effect. I use a water-based gutta called Resistad and also Jacquard’s new water-based resist. I gain more control when I pour the gutta into an applicator with a pipette with a nib of a size suitable for the width of line required. Then I draw my lines on the silk the same way you might use a pen, making a barrier in the fabric that the dye cannot pass. This process is the known as the Serti technique, or faux batik, and I create many of my most complex designs this way.

Sometimes I apply a clear or colored resist (made by thickened dyes) to the white silk to control the flow of dyes or as a highlighter in my designs. Often I will reapply lines of clear gutta to dry dye color to create interesting effects and depth. After the dye has been properly set through steaming, I remove the gutta or resist by washing with synthrop0l detergent, which removes excess dye from hand dyed fabrics. A defining line that is the color of the original fabric remains.

I also occasionally use thickened dyes to control the flow of my designs. I thicken my dyes using a print paste made from sodium alginate, a gum extracted from the cell walls of brown algae. Sodium alginate is often used in reactive dye printing, as a thickener for reactive dyes (such as the Procion cotton-reactive dyes) in textile screen-printing. Alginates do not react with these dyes and wash out easily.