I go through seriously obsessive craft phases. I think you’ll all remember the last cable knitting/crochet one that lasted a good couple of months right? I’m still kind of in that obsession but I had to take a little break after completing some really big projects. In the mean time I decided to try something that I hadn’t done since I was at school: silk painting!

I loooove silk scarves. In fact this craft combines my two favorite things in the world: silk scarves and painting. But I didn’t really have any supplies for it and I didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on something I wasn’t sure would last longer than the obsession stage. So after googling around and looking for different techniques I discovered something fun: alcohol based markers like Sharpies and Copic markers can be used to permanently colour fabric and you can create interesting designs by breaking them down with rubbing alcohol. Did I want to try this? HELL YES!!!

Unfortunately in Australia you can’t buy straight rubbing alcohol (because apparently the government thinks people want to drink it… seriously). You can buy Isocol but it’s not a high enough percentage of alcohol (and super expensive). As it turns out though, alcohol gel hand sanitizer is just high enough for it to work and you can water it down to liquid or use the gel consistency to create a water colour like effect. YAY!

Let’s do a really basic design to start with:

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So let’s get started!

You need:

  • Fabric to paint on. Silk is best but you can use satin, blends, cotton, whatever
  • Sharpies, copic marker any alcohol based marker. Test it out on scrap first
  • Hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol
  • Water based resist if you want to control where the colours go, more on this in a minute
  • A frame to hold the fabric tight.

First thing to do is pin your fabric to your frame. You can buy fancy special silk frames but I didn’t want to spend the money so I used some old packing foam and hot glued it into a square shape. Pin the fabric to it so it’s completely taut and the back isn’t touching anything. If the back touches a table/whatever the inks will bleed through any lines you make.

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For this design I’m using water based resist to draw lines. Sometimes it’s called Gutta but actual Gutta requires you to dry clean the fabric to remove it later. This one washes out in warm water.

Resist does what it sounds like, the fabric it touches will resist the dye and stay it’s original colour (in this case pink). You can use it to create barriers or several layers for details. In this design I’m using it to make the actual pattern.

Rather than buying actual resist I experimented with a lot of things before I took the plunge including water colour masking fluid and wash out glues. They kind of work but it’s really better to just spend the $6 and buy real resist because it’s SO much easier to work with.

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So use the resist to paint on diagonal lines. Make sure you use enough to soak through the fabric.

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I wasn’t careful with my application because I thought it would make it look rustic and special etc but you can get some really clean lines if you take the time to do it well.

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Wait for the resist to dry completely… or be impatient and use a hairdryer to dry it quickly.

Now break out your markers. I’m using a set of Sharpie knock offs from Bic.

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Colour in each square.

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You can get fancy and use several colours blended but I just did the basics here.

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In itself this is quite a pretty finish but I really wanted to do more water colour stuff so time for hand sanitizer.

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Apply it over the entire scarf using a paint brush. You’ll notice the dye trying to run away from the sanitizer as it breaks down so you can create really interesting patterns. Try not to leave it wet for too long or the resist may get wet and not be an effective barrier anymore.

I removed mine from the fame and crumpled it in a ball to dry to create even more interesting shapes.

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Allow it to dry then dump it in the sink with some warm water. If you find your markers run in warm water, heat seal your silk with an iron before washing.

Wash thoroughly and you should see all of the silk resist coming out.

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Let it dry then iron it flat.

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Taadaa! Done!

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Some close ups show the patterns in the dyes and the way they blended together.

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The resist leaves really clean lines once you get the hang of using it.

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Really, this is just the beginning! I am completely in love with this way of painting. I want to buy real supplies now and make amazing silk scarves.

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Here are some of the other ones I’ve made so far:

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The blue areas were done with Copic markers, they really react heavily to the alcohol and make beautiful patterns.

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I did a little random bee one to try a combination of resist and then ink over the top of it:

 

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This one was my biggest project so far but it was on a different fabric type so the results weren’t as impressive as I’d hoped.

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I’m going to use this design again though and keep trying!

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My favorite piece so far as been this mini one with little flowers. I love using a lot of shading to get great texture.

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Now that I’ve played around I can safely say I’ll be doing this for a very long time to come so I’m planning on taking a trip to an actual silk supply store and buying traditional supplies. You guys should give it a try too, it’s really so much fun!

What do you all think my next design should be??