Tips and Frequently Asked Questions
People often email me with questions that come up as they are painting. Remember, these are just my opinions and experiences. They are based on using Jacquard Green Label Silk Colors. Other dyes may work differently.
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Where do you get your designs?
How do I frame/paint a long scarf?
Dealing with the Jacquard Metal Can of Gutta
Use of Gutta Applicator Bottles and Tips
Resistad Water Based Gutta Resist
Where do you get your designs?
Well, some of my patterns are from books, some I trace and then enlarge from photos or other paintings or greeting cards. Some were brought by students and left for me. There are some good silk painting books out there. I have a few. Susan Moyer's book is good for inspiration and technique. Mandy Southan has several good project and pattern books out. You could Google either of these people for specific titles and resources. Then there are the Dover books if you are looking for a certain topic. Stained glass books have appropriate designs. And any books that Dharma Trading has would be good, I bet. There are new ones coming out all the time and searching online for “silk painting patterns” will give you more than you want.
After you have painted your piece . . .
1. Leave your finished piece on the frame. It's easier to handle. Dry your piece very well. Let it sit overnight or use a hairdryer on it. Pay special attention to the rolled edge which holds more moisture.
2. Paint on the dyeset. (I TBS Dyeset Concentrate to 1+ cup water) I use a big wide brush and just go at it like I'm painting the house.
3. Let it sit for 5 minutes. It doesn't have to get dry. (But it doesn't matter if it does dry.)
4. Take it off the frame. Rinse it under running, comfortably cool, water until the rinse water runs clear. Sometimes this takes a while, sometimes it doesn't. It depends on how much "over painting" you did. This is the stage to watch for spots of dye appearing on light colored areas. If they do, rub them out between two fingers. A little of the undiluted Dye Set Concentrate helps on stubborn spots, too, for some mysterious reason.
5. Towel blot the silk just so it’s not drippy. Iron the damp silk until it's dry. I always use a press cloth to help the iron glide smoothly over the fresh gutta lines and also to keep the gutta from getting on my iron. If you accidently iron in a crease, re-wet the spot and iron again. Always dampen silk to iron it. It works way better.
When problems do occur, it's almost always because of overpainting. That means you put more dye on the fabric than the threads can absorb. That extra rinses off in the setting process, naturally, and can bleed over onto your painting.
Common causes of overpainting are:
1. Too much dye on your brush. If the dye puddles up and looks shiny, that's dye sitting on the surface. Dry your brush off well on a paper towel, touch the tip down in the puddle, and it will soak up the extra.
2. Painting layer after layer to try to get a certain look. Yes, you can put color on top of color to blend and adjust the color, but there is a limit. After a 2-3 layers, you are probable just layering it on top and the surface dye is all going to rinse away anyway, leaving you with whatever was absorbed into the threads in the beginning.
3. Small spaces. Small spaces hardly take much dye at all. Develop a light touch, using just the tip of your brush, or find some really small brushes to use.
4. Those dark shadow edges. When you layer colors and get those neat dark edges, don't get too carried away. Sometimes those shadow become big piles of pigment washed up against the edge. When you are rinsing and those shadows touch another part of the silk, you may get a print of that shadow shape. Again, rub those stray marks between your fingers and/or use a little undiluted dyeset.
Slow down. Learn to paint allowing the dye to spread itself out. Paint near, not up to, the edges. If you paint every square inch, there is no where for the extra to flow to.
Jacquard Black Dye seems to run the most. Maybe it's because we tend to overpaint to make it look really black. Also, when using the chemical dyeset fixative, the final result is a dark gray. You have to steam it to get a solid black. I have had no problem with it when mixing it with other colors for dark blue, purple, etc.
Red seems to run more than yellow or blue. Be careful.
When your piece seems to "lose color" when you rinse it, it is often because when you overpaint, the air spaces between the threads are bridged with dye. At that point, the colors look more intense because you are seeing color instead of the empty space. It is also true that all colors look darker when they are wet. Imagine a drop of water on your jeans, etc. It is not normal for a color to change much, except in the above cases.
When I pre-wash big pieces, I use Synthrapol or Dharma's Professional Textile Detergent and wash them in the washing machine using the gentle cycle. The fast spin cycle will leave wrinkles that are kind of hard to get out. Iron pieces while still damp to get them smooth and shiny again.
I am not a knowledgeable trouble shooter on steaming because I have not tried all the homemade stove top steamers I see in books. Here is what I know from using my big steamer.
I did some testing, comparing steaming with chemical dyeset setting and found that there was a little difference in brightness, but not much, at first. The main difference I found was after washing the pieces two or three times. Then the steaming was noticeably better. And some dyes require steam setting.
Steaming does make the colors “pop”. I steam for items that will be washed a lot and when I want colors really bright. I chemically set most of my paintings where I want the colors to meld. I had some nice rusty red fall apples “pop” into magenta ones - not what I had in mind.
For steaming, the silk is rolled between layers of clean newsprint or cotton sheets around a center core. It is hung inside the steamer, and steamed for . . . . . I’m not sure what to say on timing. Different books, different dyes, different steamers all seem to say different things. Heather, my steaming partner, and I usually have a thick roll of yards of fabric, so to be safe, we let it go three or four hours. I understand you can’t oversteam.
On some areas that are overpainted, the excess dye bleeds through the paper separating the layers in the roll. We now use cloth sheets and put extra layers between suspicious areas.
During steaming, if any of the silk roll gets wet by touching the sides of the steamer and soaking up condensation, the colors smear all over the place.
You still wash the pieces after they have been steamed. I haven't had trouble with getting bleed spots when rinsing. I don't overpaint too much anymore, and the cotton sheets absorb some excess.
When finished steaming, I wash the protective cotton sheets in hot water and detergent and reuse them. Any color remaining is set and does not come off on the next pieces.
How do I frame/paint a long scarf?
You can buy or make frames that will accommodate the length of scarf you want.
If you have my 36" wooden frames, here are some tips.
1. Take two of the 36" sticks, place them end to end on the table, giving you 72" of length. Duct tape them to the table so they can't move.
2. Take the other two 36" sticks, place them end to end on the table parallel to the first two. Duct tape them to the table as far apart as the width of your scarf. You don't have a cross piece to hold them apart (unless you bought a 24" frame, too) but you usually don't need it, or you can use cardboard or something.
It is best to stretch the whole scarf. The problem with doing one end at a time is the background. If you are painting a solid background, the dye on the first end will dry while you're moving it and you'll probably get a water mark line when you paint up to it.
1. Design your piece so that there are gutta lines going clear across the silk, giving you a stopping place(s) so you can move the silk and do a section at a time. For example, there could be stripes or big flowers that go from edge to edge.
2. Paint your foreground motifs using a smaller frame. Remove the silk from the frame and stretch it between two chairs to paint the continuous background.
Dealing with the Quart Jacquard Metal Cans of Gutta
Pouring from the big metal cans of gutta can be a pain. It used to come in plastic bottles like in the starter sets. But then I understand the powers that be said that it is so flammable or something that they had to go to the cans.
Here is the best way I've figured out so far to pour and store the gutta.
Find another bottle with a neck that will be easy to pour into and out of -
not too big, not too little. Glass is good. Some plastics will work, but some don't. Some will let the gutta evaporate/thicken right through the plastic. The lid must seal very well. I use empty bottles left over from the gutta solvent.
Pour as much as you can into the new easypour bottle. You might lose a little at the beginning, but once you get the metal can tipped clear over, it will pour all right. I suppose you could try using a funnel, but I've never bothered.
When you are ready to paint, pour some into the little gutta applicator bottle. See the information below for details about using the applicator bottles. If the gutta is too thick, buy their solvent or use "white gas", the kind that goes into camp stoves, to thin it to the consistency of honey or even syrup if you want it to flow very easily.
After painting, pour any unused gutta back into your storage bottle. The applicator bottles are not the right kind of plastic and the gutta will thicken in them through evaporation right through the plastic.
Use of Gutta Applicator Bottles and Tips
The plastic top of the applicator bottle pops out. Push the plastic nozzle part over to the side and the whole thing should come out fairly easily. It's a tight fit so it won't leak. Then slowly pour the resist into the bottle. If the metal tip is already on the plastic tip just leave it there permanently. If not, kind of screw it on so it digs into the plastic part. When you finish painting, pop the whole top, with the metal tip attached, off again. Leave the tip on permanently. Pour the unused resist back into the original container. It is more airtight. I just let the bottle sit upside down for a while on a paper towel, and then set it upright and let it air dry. A thin film of the resist dries on the inside, but doesn't hurt anything when you use it again. If using gutta, I store the tips in a jar of solvent or white gas so they soak clean. If using the waterbased resist, wash the tip in water, blow any water out of the nozzle, and dry it as best you can. I have had some get rusty inside. If you decide to use some colored resist, buy a separate applicator bottle for it.
To thin gutta, you can buy a solvent from Jacquard made for the purpose, or white gas (campstove gas) will work. The gutta should be about the consistency of syrup. To thin the waterbased resist, use water.
Resistad is the brand name of a water based resist that is superior to other water based products. It has been around for quite a long time, but Jacquard has recently bought the rights and improved the formula. We now have a resist choice that is strong, holds the line even before drying, and washes out easily. It is a thick paste that is diluted with water or dye to the consistency you want. A little pricey, but worth it, I think. No fumes, no sticky lines if you get a little heavy handed, no thickening through evaporation when stored for a long time.
More tips coming. Check back soon.