Hand-Painted Silk Scarf

Tara Lin Reightler from Alexandria, Va., loves doing her work at home, as she is constantly surrounded by her inspiration — dogs.

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Materials and Tools:

silk scarf
wax resist
Gutta applicator
plastic wrap/large plastic sheet
chemical water
rock salt (optional)
baking soda
ice cube trays
assorted containers to hold paint
cotton swabs
16-20 fabrics in 3"-4" strips
straight pins
push pins
7' x 2-1/2' rack to stretch silk
steam pot
extra pots to boil water for wash out
wire forms to hold scarf away from water during steaming process
blank newsprint
ribbon/ rubber bands
wooden spoon
clothes line
fabric markers


1. Draw design for silk on paper. Line the image in black marker — the darker the better — so you are able to see the lines through the silk.

2. Iron silk. Place paper design on table top, top with either plastic wrap or plastic sheet, and place silk on top of both.

3. Holding the Gutta applicator vertically, apply the wax resist to silk, tracing the design. The wax will act as a type of "gate" to hold the paint in specific areas. Allow resist to dry.

4. Attach fabric strips to silk using straight pins, every 6 inches around the perimeter of the scarf.

5. Stretch silk in frame, attaching strips to frame using thumbtacks. Make sure when stretching the silk that it remains taut but not so much that it tears the silk. During painting, the scarf has the tendency to sag and you may need to readjust the tension as you go. It's also important that the scarf is suspending a few inches above the table, so that it does not touch anything.

6. Pour paint into ice cube trays. Create different colors by mixing the main hues and also creating different values of color with the chemical water. Add a small amount of baking soda to the paints.

7. Painting silk is much like watercolor. You can add more chemical water to the paint to create designs; also salt rock added to wet paint creates interesting patterns. Chemical water can also be used fix mistakes, by saturating an area with the chemical water and using cotton swabs to soak up the unwanted paint.

8. Allow paint to dry for 24 hours.

9. Remove scarf from rack, wrap in blank newsprint, and roll up into small package.

10. Fill steam pot with a small amount of water and bring to a boil. Place wrapped scarf on wire forms. Place towel over mouth of pot and top with the lid. It is very important that no water comes in contact with the scarf. Steam for 30 minutes.

11. Remove scarf from pot, making sure it doesn't come in contact with any condensation from pot or lid. Quickly unwrap silk from newsprint.

12. Wash out scarf using extremely hot water. This creates more brilliant colors on the scarf. Washing out removes excess paint and the resist.

13. Pour one capful of soap into bucket, add hot water, and drop in scarf. Swirl the scarf, dump the old water, fill up another bucket with hot water and put scarf in other bucket. Continue to wash scarf in new batches of water until the water runs clear.

14. After scarf is washed out, add softener to bucket of hot water and allow to sit for a few minutes. The silk loses its "hand" while it is painted. The hand is the softness of the material. The softener is a dry-cleaning product that gives the silk back its softness.

15. Rinse scarf in lukewarm water. Allow scarf to dry on clothesline. When dry, press with warm iron.

16. Fix any blotched colors, reinforce lines, etc., with fabric markers as the last step.

Web site: www.taraart.com

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