July 7th, 2008


adventures in silk painting

Corby's pictures from the weekend pretty well illustrate why my back is still killing me today. (I have some photos of my own I need to get off the camera and onto Flickr.) What he didn't capture was the standing up and leaning over the 4x12' frame to paint the bits in the middle. My back is actually sore to the touch, so much so that lumbar support comes as a surprise, and I wore a simple dress today to avoid having a waistline on pants to touch my lower back. Roland was nice enough to give me a back rub, which helped loosen the muscles, but the nerves are still shot. The next day Alan tried to rub my back and only got winces from me, sadly.

But as a group we accomplished frames designed and assembled for stretching the silk on, designs and tracings of elements, four frames with silk stretched on them for standards, seven mast-like poles for flying the completed standards in camp at Pennsic, the best method for laying out the design for drawing on the resist lines and how to visually lay them out, preferred methods and the cost of using hairspray on the grand scale for a stop-flow, the joy (and pain) of skipping the stop-flow step, and two hours of ironing only to still suffer some major color loss in the rinse stage. Alan's was the first standard worked on and taught us a bunch. I'll have to re-stretch it on the frame this week and see if I can re-do the worst of the color loss. But even with the fading, we could see great potential. I have a design I adore for my own standard, but doubt I'll get to it before Pennsic and hope to have one for me next year.

We also had a great time with friends. Corby proved master of the kitchen and fed us well. We got to spend some time with Tom, Heather, Icepick and Adam on Friday, as well as Dave and Kymber on Saturday and Sunday. Elspet and Brian came down to be part of the learning and design process, even if they didn't get to make standards for themselves. But they worked like house elves for the time they were here and their efforts are greatly appreciated. Blue and Green leaders were the main thrust behind this project that started with an idea out of Corby's brain at the end of war last year. I merely helped when and where I could.

It will be a glorious site in the Vair and Ermine encampment this year, and my back should heal soon. I hope.

more on silk painting

I've now uploaded my pictures from our silk painting war standard workshop.

While we are still in the learning process, here are a few tips:

  • Get the silk stretched taut on a frame. When you think it is tight, pull it tighter.
  • Don't bother with using hair spray as a pre-treatment for stop-flow. It works too well and makes cutting in harder.
  • Work small test pieces, and then work a larger test piece to get a better idea of any mottling and/or fading in the rinse-out stage.
  • Plan your design out and, unless drawing freehand, make a template for each element, but allow for some flexibility when actual layout time comes, as things may look better another way once you get to scale.
  • When using a paper template for tracing the resist lines, don't pin the template lines too close to the silk as it may cause problems with the resist application.
  • The black resist is easier to check after application to ensure that all lines meet to create a dam for the color. The clear resist is mostly useful if you plan on a design with interior detail on a white background. Using an up-light from below will help with checking the clear resist application.
  • Make sure that your resist lines meet to create a separate area for each new color. This is doubly important when skipping the flow-stop (hairspray) step as mistakes will spread quickly.
  • Be careful with application, don't hurry and don't spill. A paper towel under the paint-cup helps control drips.
  • Use a large (1-2" wide) brush for applying color in larger areas, but be careful of possible splatter. The special high quality silk painting brushes are worth it.
  • If using the heat-set dyes, iron for far longer than you think you should, and heat set in the dryer for a few minutes on high before attempting a rinse.
  • Rinse carefully.

A couple of things we still have yet to try:

  • Apparently there is a fixative that you can add to the dye to set it without heat. It does only allow the dye to last 6 hours, so will involve more waste, but could save you hours of ironing.
  • Theoretically the resist is not water based so shouldn't have washed out in the rinse, but we'll do a test area to see if we need to re-apply the resist before re-applying the dye.
  • If the silk is damp then the dye will dry slower and should prevent the lines between our cut in areas and the large fill areas. We plan to try a sponge for this for even application of water before applying the dye.

And one last cautionary tip.
Don't leave your camera unattended around silly drunks and be unprepared for the unexpected pictures you find at download time.
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