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Silk Painting Extravaganza!

November 30, 2011

A couple of months ago, I was commissioned by a friend to make a silk pennant as a gift for his wife.  We decided the delivery date would by Cynnabar’s Wassail on December 17.  I haven’t gotten that piece done yet, but I HAVE done some other things.  No worries, I’ll start on the Wassail pennant next week and will have plenty of time to get it done!

In previous silk painting efforts, I have followed the usual method of tracing the design on to the silk, then stretching the silk on a frame and applying the resist.  Discussions with other silk painters led me to stick the silk to clear contact paper for the tracing process.  This keeps the silk from shifting around as you’re trying to draw on it (see some of my previous posts on this topic).  I wondered in this process if it would be possible to apply the resist to to the silk while it was still on the contact paper, with a solid tabletop underneath it.  This would help in that it would give me a more solid surface to rest my arm or wrist on while applying the resist, which can often be a tiresome process.

Before I started the commissioned project, I decided to do a couple of test pieces to see if it would work.  I used a couple of 12″ square silk hankies I had, one with the Cynnabar device and one with the Middle Kingdom device.  The Cynnabar piece I also tried using acrylic paint in a bottle with an applicator tip (advertised as for writing on fabric).  For the Middle Kingdom piece, I used the regular Pebeo Gutta resist from Dharma Trading.

The Cynnabar piece did not turn out as well as I had hoped.  The acrylic paint bottle was easy to handle and probably not so tiresome on the hand as the Pebeo tubes, but it did not seem to seep through the fabric as well so I had a little leakage in a couple of spots around the edges of the design.  It may be that the acrylic needs to be thinned down slightly, or perhaps having the silk on the contact paper kept the paint from soaking in as well as it might.  I also found that the paint re-softened when I ironed the piece to set the color and stained my pressing cloth!

I’m pretty happy with the way the Middle Kingdom piece turned out, however!  The Pebeo resist clearly soaks right into the silk, even on the contact paper – to the point of leaving a clear outline of the design in black on the contact paper when the silk is taken up.  I traced the design in resist, then let the piece dry before pulling the silk free.  Applying the paint went smoothly and without leaks, and I was able to thin out the green to make a lighter color.  I also applied some additional color after the first layer had dried for some darker shading.

Then, in the midst of this process, I was commissioned by another friend to make a set of pennants to be given as prizes at the upcoming Cynnabar Grand Tournament.  So, off to the contact paper once again!  I’ll post some in-progress pictures now, but I want to hold off on the final piece until after they’ve been awarded this weekend.


I did these in a pretty standard design, using the heraldry of Cynnabar as a basis for the pattern.  The Hubs adapted the larger stretching frame he’d made me to accommodate two pennants.  It originally had just one stretcher bar down the middle, but since I’ve started putting dowels at the ends of the silk to aid in stretching it evenly, the spacing was too wide, so another bar was added to fit.  This worked wonderfully, of course, and I was able to stretch and paint both pennants at the same time.

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