April 16, 2020

Hi, Jo here with some fun paint experiments. I've been playing around, and finally sewed something up. The pattern I used is Lola, our latest release. Click here to check out the pattern! It was the perfect choice for this project because it doesn't use too much fabric, and has nice simple design lines that show off the painting so well!

I don't claim to be an expert on painting now, but I did learn a lot. I love sharing what I learn, so read on for my thoughts on silk painting (and to see the final result of course)!

The materials

I used silk chiffon and Pebeo setasilk paints (not a sponsored post, by the way, it's just what I found!). It's important that I used paints designed for sheer fabrics, as I didn't want to create stiff lines of paint in my fabric! Other paints you can get are designed for a more opaque effect. Setasilk on the other hand, is lightweight, fluid paint that doesn't go on thick. It's more like an ink consistency!

The first thing I did was just have a play around.

The garment 

Reading up on silk painting, it is usually stated that you should stretch the fabric on a stretching frame so it is taut when painting. I did not do this! I wasn't seeking a precise effect, so it didn't matter if it acted a little unexpectedly, so I just went for it with the fabric unstretched (after testing on small piece of fabric first, of course). The fabric did go a little bit ripply and wavy when it dried, but it pressed out just fine.

I planned what I was going to make before I painted the fabric. I marked out the approximate size of the pattern pieces onto the fabric, but with a margin of about half an inch around all the edges (just to give me a bit of leeway!). I would probably do a little more next time, just to give me more wiggle room. I used a stripe motif since I thought that would be a nice easy thing to try.


So for the stripes, I knew that I didn't want to go into great detail marking all my stripes perfectly on grain. So I didn't mark at all, and just eyeballed it the whole time! Since I was going for an organically messsy look, I didn't mind. I also knew that I could live with my stripes not matching at the side seams. 

Speaking of painting stripes, this was a perfect opportunity to play with the stripe direction. Because the Lola blouse and dress has a back yoke, I knew the stripes would be awkward to match in this area, and probably just look plain bad. The solution? Paint stripes on the bias! That's right, painting your own fabric means you can have stripes on the bias, but the yoke is actually still cut on the straight grain, making sewing much easier! Honestly, so satisfying.

More experiments and thoughts

You can get lots of different effects just with the way you treat the paint and fabric.

By experimenting, I got two different stripe effects (see above). With one, you can see an internal watermark formed, giving a sort of loose, multi-striped effect. How did I achieve that? Well, I just painted a stripe of water onto the fabric first. Then, I applied the paint on top of that, and it naturally formed that watermark as it spread and dried. With the other, flat stripe, I just applied the paint directly onto the fabric.

I also tried out sprinkling salt on the paint after applying, which gives a mottled effect as the salt absorbs the water and moves the pigment around (well, that's my very unscientific understanding). You can see this in the blue and purple bit under the strawberries (see below). I understand you can also get effects with isopropyl alcohol, which I am yet to try!

The Setasilk colours are really intense right out of the pot. So, I used lots and lots of lightening medium. It is important that you do not try to lighten your colours with water - it won't dilute the paint correctly. Instead, you mix your colours with the lightening medium. I ended up using about a 10:1 solution of white to colour to get the pastel look I was after! So I ended up using hardly any purple, and almost a whole bottle of lightening medium.

After painting, you do have to set it with a hot, steamy iron. I did this before cutting my garment out while it was all still in one piece. This did take quite a while, and I made sure I was thorough. I am a little nervous about washing it (this was one thing I did not test before doing my painting -oops!). I have a an offcut that I will be putting through the wash with my normal laundry to see how it fares before I go throwing my top in the wash with gay abandon.

Look how pretty my sheer Lola looks with the light coming through! It's almost like an x-ray! I used French seams throughout.

What's next? I think I will definitely experiment more with the gutta. You can see it here on some small samples. Gutta is a paste that you apply to the fabric that blocks the silk paint from spreading. It's like a little moat to keep your colours contained in your design! You can get it in different colours too.

I wanted colourless gutta that washed out, but I couldn't get any. So I tried the pearl white gutta, which stays in the fabric. On thin fabric I wouldn't recommend it, as it stiffens the fabric, and I don't want little hard spots on my fabric ruining its lovely drape (which is what happened on the thin silk I tried). You can also see that my first attempt (the strawberries) did not work and the paint leaked beyond the borders of the gutta!

This was on a scrap of polyester I had on hand. I think that the polyester was too thick for the gutta to penetrate properly, so the paint was able to leak underneath. Also, polyester probably doesn't absorb the gutta as well anyway (honestly, why did I even use polyester at all, I hate polyester and would usually not make a garment out of it). Hah! Well, it's good to have some failures in your experiments; you learn so much.

Since then, I have now managed to get my hands on some colourless gutta, which actually is designed to wash out once you're done with your painting. I will look forward to trying it! You can see with my little experiments it has plenty of potential for fun designs! 

I hope these thoughts help anyone who is thinking about playing with fabric paint! Let me know if you have tried this and if you have any tips to offer! 


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