1. Stretch the silk on a frame so that it is taut. There are many frames that can be used and many ways to attach the silk. An easily available way is to use the wooden stretcher bars used for stretching oil painting canvas. They are available from any art supply store.  Buy them slightly (2”) larger than your silk piece. Use push pins to stretch the silk on the frame. It works best if the silk is damp when you stretch it as it will become more taut when it dries.        
  2. The silk must be completely dry when you apply the resist – otherwise the resist will not penetrate the silk and actually form a barrier.        
  3. Draw your design on the silk with a disappearing pencil. You can put a design under the stretched silk and trace it – or draw a design freehand.        
  4. To apply the resist and the silk dye, the stretched silk must be flat on a table or other support so that the surface is horizontal (parallel to the floor).        
  5. Put the resist into a squeeze bottle with a narrow tip.        
  6. Follow the lines of your drawing with the resist, keeping an even pressure on the squeeze bottle to create an even flow (to avoid a big drop as you first start the line, you can squeeze the first drop onto a piece of scrap paper and then continue onto the silk, throwing away the paper).        
  7. When done, check all your lines to make sure that there are no breaks or skipped places anywhere. Silk dye has a way of finding each break and escaping! Be sure to clean your resist bottle – otherwise it will dry in the bottle and have to be thrown away.        
  8. Allow the resist lines to dry somewhat – or allow them to dry completely.        
  9. Using a brush and Silk Dyes, touch the dye to the silk within the resist lines – but not too close to the resist line itself. If it is too close, the dye may jump the line. Notice that the dye immediately begins to spread out. You can blend colors by placing drops of color in the same area and allowing them to bleed together.        
  10. To use the salt technique, sprinkle salt on the wet dye (it won’t work once the dye has dried).  Allow the silk/dye/salt to dry in place. The salt pulls the dye to itself, leaving interesting patterns. You can use any kind of salt (rock salt, sea salt, kosher salt, etc.). Each will create a different design. Coarse salt is more interesting than the finely ground table salt (which tends to look like measles).        
  11. Allow everything to dry completely. If you have used salt, brush it off before proceeding (you can re-use the salt if you don’t mind that it will add some color the next time). Remove the silk from the frame.        
  12. Steam the finished piece according to the dye directions (simple steaming techniques can be found on the web).        
  13. After steaming, leave the piece for 24 hours, then wash it with a mild soap and cool water to release any loose dye.        
  14. If you have used solvent-based resist, have the piece dry cleaned. The water-based resist will come out when you wash the piece.

For the piece shown, Fray-Check was used around the outline of the leaves, and the silk was cut to follow the lines of the leaves.

Salt sprinkled on wet dye

Silk Painting & Salt

Lucilla Warren

The silk painting technique is called “Serti” in French, with Serti meaning “fence” or “border.” A resist is used to contain the free-flowing silk dye on the fabric.    

If you are using silk that is other than PFD (Prepared for Dyeing), wash the silk in a mild soap and warm water to remove any finishes on the silk – which will interfere with the dye adhering to the fabric. Rinse well and allow to dry to a slight damp before stretching.    

Resists (also called “gutta”) come in two types – solvent-based and water-based. The solvent-based must be dry cleaned to be removed, but often gives a more secure resist line. The water-based variety can be washed out with water.  

In both cases, the resist is removed after the silk has been steam-set to fix the dye.    

Use a light-weight silk – between a 5 and 20 mm (mm = “mommie” – a measure of silk weights) to allow for easy penetration by the resist. A wide variety of silks will work with this technique:  organza, chiffon, flat-weave (such as Habotai), crepe or crepe de chine.

There are many excellent silk dyes on the market: DuPont, Sennelier, and others. Most of those companies also make resists.  All resists will work with dyes from other companies.

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