The other week a few friends and I got together to play with silk and dyes. Dharma Trading Company is a great place to look for supplies. They have blank materials; scarves, shirts, hats, bags and even things for dogs. These items are available in silk, cotton, rayon, bamboo, you name it. Pretty much if it can be dyed, Dharma has it.
I ordered some silk scarves and a Setasilk Starter Kit and we made it a party. Dressed in our grubby clothes we mushed and painted and soaked dozens of scarves until they were covered with color, then set them in the sun to dry.
Normally folks that hand paint scarves stretch them out flat in a frame. Doing this allows more precise control of the paint process. We wanted to get a lot done fast and didn’t want the extra expense of dozens of frames, so we opted for another technique.
This process of dyeing is very free form. We stared with no more than 3 colors of dye and colored the scarves. First you wet the scarves and squeezed out the extra water. You can crunch up the fabric like a rag and sop of the dye like you were cleaning a spill. Turn the balled-up fabric to expose more white and sop up some more dye. You can dip the fabric in different colors every time you turn it. Then open up the scarf to see how much color you have. If there’s too much white, you can use a paint brush to add more dye or just mush the fabric around to allow the dye to travel throughout the fabric.
You can also lay out the fabric on your work surface, either flat or scrunched up, and apply the dye in a more controlled way onto the wet scarf. Always be careful when working with the dyes., the more colors you add and the more you work them, the more likely the colors will blend too much and create a gray/brown mess.
When the scarves have enough dye on them then they need to be laid out to dry. Wherever the sun is exposed to the fabric surface the dyes dry darker. You might think the sun would fade the paint/dye, but it is exactly opposite, it intensifies the colors. So when we laid out our scarves to dry, we scrunched them up to have ripples and folds.
The results are amazing. Its like a combination of tie-dye and batik. Sometimes the colors faded a little too much or the results weren’t as inspiring. When we were less then pleased with the results, we waited for the scarf to completely dry, then we dyed them again, first wetting them in water, then applying dye however we thought they needed. This is how we were able to add more than 3 colors to the scarves, applying the additional colors through the second dye/paint process. The last step is to heat set the dye with an iron (follow the manufacturers instructions).
We painted over 24 scarves and still have plenty of dye left from the kit. We’re preparing for another scarf session, hopefully we can get it done before the holidays, because these beauties make great gifts.