Silk, dye, salt: magic!

I’ve been playing around with painting/dyeing silk scarves. I learned the basic technique at a workshop last year, and we’ve been using it for banners at church. The basic ingredients are liquid fabric paint/dye (Dye-Na-Flow from Dharma Trading), silk scarves, and coarse salt. You can use table salt, but it’s messier and is harder to get off the scarf at the end of the process.

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This one was done with the basic technique. You’ll want to cover your table with plastic to protect it. Wet the scarf, squeeze it out, crumple it into a ball and drop dye on it. You can use an eyedropper or a straw. The more you handle it, the more the colors will blend, which may or may not be what you want. Spread the scarf out on your protected table, and sprinkle it with salt.

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The salt draws the dye, and makes very cool patterns in the color. After the silk is completely dry, brush off the salt and iron the scarf to set the dye.

We tried a different method to create these Advent candle banners last December. We wet the silk and laid it out on the table, then used sponge brushes to create candles before salting the “painted” scarves.

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Here’s a closeup of the salted dye.

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I was really happy with how my candle flames turned out!

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We explored color at our Women’s Retreat last month. Twenty women participated, so there wasn’t a lot of table space. We had to use the crumpled ball method. I have a hard time with the randomness of the outcome with these. I wish I had handled it less, so that the colors were more distinct from each other. (Me, a control freak? Go figure. I’m sure there are life lessons in there somewhere.)

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Everyone got to make their own scarf.

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A little inspiration?

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And then we dyed some banners for Pentecost. We wanted flames, but these turned out a bit more pastel than we anticipated. That color blending thing again!

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We made a few more last week. I really like how these turned out. I laid out the damp silk and dripped dye on it with a straw. No handling, so no blending. Coarse salt as usual. I could see using this technique for a scarf to wear. They were a little subtle against the big glass screen. You can see these on the far left of the two bottom rows in the next picture.

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The finished display.

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I want to play more with this technique. I learn something new every time I try it. Do you want to try it, too?

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11 responses to “Silk, dye, salt: magic!

  1. The blue silk is just beautiful. I love the interesting patterns that the salt makes.

    Is your church Craftsman style architecture? The stained glass windows are beautiful.

    • Not Craftsman. The sanctuary is an addition from the late 50′s, I think. The stained glass would be from that time, too. But the beautiful glass and wood screen is from a recent remodel a few years ago. We brought the cross forward off the back wall, made a lighting area behind the new screen (we can change colors!), and removed the old communion rails so the area is open and inclusive, no barriers. Added a wheelchair ramp to the altar area, too. Very user friendly space!

  2. Wonderful! I do want to try this! Thanks for sharing the technique. Now, to find more time in the day….

    • Now that I’ve played with this three times, I have definite ideas on how I want to do it the fourth time! Definitely less handling, so the colors are more distinct. My favorites were the ones where I dripped the paint from a straw onto the flat scarf. Have fun!

  3. Thanks for sharing! This looks like a fun technique. I can see lots of possibilities for creating altar cloths and tablecloths :)

    • The workshop I went to was part of a Liturgical Arts series at Collins Retreat Center, so yes, altar cloths were featured. They used many of the scarf length pieces for draping and pooling, along with boxes for height variation to create visual interest.

      I wonder if this technique works as well on cotton or linen? I’ll either research that or just throw some into the mix and see what happens! The silk is very lightweight. And it’s animal fiber vs. plant fiber. Hmmmm.

  4. Oh, those are just gorgeous!

  5. I love the subtle color changes of the green silk scarf. beautiful!

  6. The scarves are beautiful! The technique you’re using produces a really beautiful result.

  7. YES!!! I definitely want to try that. :) Your results are beautiful. I like the way those candles turned out.

  8. quiltyknitwit

    You are so creative! I just caught up with your last few posts, and I so admire your beautiful work and great projects. You really know how to enjoy life too!