Hand-Painted Silk Scarves
Learn Karen Carnegie's technique for how to create beautiful hand-painted wax-resist silk scarves.
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Project by Karen Carnegie from West Hollywood, Calif.
Karen Carnegie is a playful, upbeat, girl-next-door type that works in the animation department for The Simpsons. Bored with quilting, Karen was looking for a different craft to try when a friend turned her on to hand-painting silk. Last year, she and a friend decided to exchange homemade holiday gifts, so Karen made her a hand-painted silk scarf. The scarf was a hit, and soon all her friends wanted one of Karen’s colorful scarves. Spurred on by her friends' encouragement, Karen decided to sell her creations at a few local craft fairs. The designs are inspired by her love of animals and strong attraction to rich, bold colors.
Materials and Tools:
12mm Crepe de Chine silk
Jacquard silk colors
clear Contact paper or other laminate
canvas stretcher bars
electric wax pen for batik or Russian-style egg painting
Kosher salt (optional)
stovetop steamer or paper towels and clean newsprint paper and large pot of boiling water
1. Pre-plan what you'd like to draw with paper and pencil. Laminating your design with clear contact paper makes it easier to use again. Designs can be illustrative or simple shapes, blocks or stripes. An alternative, of course, is to just do a free-flowing design without drawn pre-planning.
2. Stretch out a clean piece of silk (or scarf) on the stretcher bars using the silk tacks. You only need to pull so that the silk is taut and without wrinkles — it doesn't need to be super tight (it's not like stretching canvas). Start with one tack on the center on one edge, then tack the center of the opposing side. Next do the same with the remaining two edges. Work in this order from the center to the corners, a couple of tacks at a time. If you chose a larger scarf, you may need to tack it and paint it in two pieces.
3. Place the design under the silk and on top of a hardcover book. This will press the design against the silk, and you'll be able to see through it. Pre-heat the wax pen, and when hot (be careful), place a small piece of wax in the barrel. I use a craft knife to cut pieces of wax off of the beeswax block; then I use my fingers to roll it out into smaller pieces.
4. Draw on the silk with the wax pen, using your drawing underneath as a guide (or make a free-flowing design). The wax will act as a resist to the dye. The silk will remain white wherever the wax is placed.
5. When you're finished, remove the drawing and the book (it will peel off the Contact paper). Lift the frame and look at a light through the silk. You'll be able to see where the wax is drawn — fill in any lines where there are gaps.
6. You're ready to paint. Use watercolor brushes to apply the dye. You can apply the dye directly and undiluted to the silk, or dilute it with water first to lighten the color. You can also apply water to the silk first before applying the dye. You can also mix the dyes together to create new shades. I use watercolor palettes and small eyedroppers to assist with this. Each option will affect the shade of the color on the silk. You can also mix the colors directly on the silk (i.e. apply yellow to an area; while wet, apply a touch of a darker color to a corner of that area).
Note: If an area bleeds inappropriately, or to correct errors, apply water and soak it up with a piece of paper towel. For larger areas of color, keep the edge wet while you're painting to keep the color consistent. Sprinkle some salt onto wet color for a speckled look when dry. This works particularly well with the blue dyes.
7. Let the dyes dry. You can then apply more wax and more layers of color. Or, if you like, you can skip the wax steps and paint a scarf only with areas of color that blend into each other.
8. When finished, let the dyes set for 24 hours. Be sure to keep your finished piece away from water.
9. Remove the scarf from the tacks and iron (with dry setting) between sheets of steamer paper, blank newsprint or paper towels. This is the first step to heat-setting and removes some of the wax.
10. Set the dye by using a DyeSet (submersion into a liquid dye setter — this is the easiest method; dulls the colors a little bit) or by steaming. Without a steamer, use a big pot half-filled with water and bring to a rolling boil. Roll your scarf between multiple layers of paper towels, making sure that the silk doesn't touch itself and it doesn't creep out the edge. Fold roll into a small bundle. You can tape or tie the paper towels into place. Next, wrap the bundle in plastic wrap or place into a plastic zipper bag — check the zip carefully because you need to make sure it is water-tight. Suspend the bundle over the pot, in the steam, but not in the water. Use a metal sieve or another suitable tool to suspend it over the pot. Cover with another paper towel. Steam the silk for about an hour, flipping the bundle over every 15 minutes.
11. Have the scarf dry-cleaned and pressed.
Karen Carnegie Contact Information No Longer Available
These beautiful scarves are really fun to do because they are so easy to make and the results are so elegant.