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11 April 2007 @ 07:43 pm
silk painting: mission accomplished  
Fear the too-much-information. Don't worry, though, there are photos. I don't know offhand of cosplayers doing silk painting with dyes, so I figured it was better to write up too much information than not enough. You will note I've gone public with all the entries. Sorry if you friended it just to see them. ^^; I needed to give my advisors access.

I've outlined the train in blue (with some difficulty using a trackpad). For my own purposes, I'm actually calling it the "Eisenbahn", which the pattern glossary listed as the German term. I think it sounds more commanding. But I won't confuse you with that.

I talked a little before about angst over trying to choose a type of dye/paint, the weight of the silk (buying fabric over the internet is always risky; a lot of the choice comes down to feeling the fabric), and so on. I even emailed the store I was buying from to ask for help; but they didn't give too much. If you have an interest in trying silk painting, I recommend you read through all the sections of Dharma Trading's info on it. For your sake though, the short version of the process - raw (undyed) silk is stretched over a frame and dye is applied, usually with a brush. To make more controlled designs, you use a resist (gutta is a type of resist and sometimes used interchangeably), which is basically a waxy substance you apply to the silk. The resist acts as a fence which stops the dye from moving across the fabric. It's either removed when you're done, or if it's colored resist, it's also fixed in place as part of the permanent design. The piece has to have the excess dye removed and the colors set or it can't be washed or dry cleaned without nearly all the dye coming out (and staining anything it's with).

But for my purposes, I wound up going with:
~ Sennelier Tinfix dye
~ Jacquard water based resist
~ Jacquard's chemical fixative, which is compatible with the Tinfix as well as the Green line Jacquard colors (it's not compatible with other dyes).

Why the Tinfix? It had the right mix of properties and came in more colors than some of the other options.
~ Dye = less hand on the fabric (hand = stiff/rough feel; paints sit on the surface of the fabric and alter it; dyes are absorbed into or react with the fibers).
~ Can be chemically fixed. Paints are usually heat-set (with an iron or dryer); most dyes are steam-set. Steam setting requires a fairly elaborate setup to create a steamy environment for the silk with no water actually touching it. You have to wrap the silk up in newsprint and fold it into a very small package - without wrinkling it, or the wrinkles will be permanent; that's how they make crinkle silk. I didn't think this was practical with such a large piece of fabric. Most people make scarves.

Why water-based resist? There are a fair variety of different kinds of gutta and resist; in batik, you use melted wax. Water-based resist has some disadvantages; it's not quite as good at holding back dyes; too much water if you're doing wet-on-wet (dyeing on damp fabric) will partly dissolve the resist, or excess dye can swamp the line. But it's non-toxic.

Colors I used:
003 Canary Yellow (3.5oz); 007 Aladdin Yellow (3.5 oz); 030 Tyrian Rose (3.5oz); 060 Celadon (3.5 oz.); and 056 Blue Lacquer (16oz).
I also used the dye thinner/dilutant. The dye is highly concentrated and goes a pretty long way; it has the consistency of colored water, it's not like paint. The blue is something like 50/50 dye and dilutant; the yellows were usually around 1/3 dilutant, though I was mixing the two yellows and dilutant as I went to get different tones. The Canary Yellow is highlighter yellow if it's not mixed with another color. I used about 3/4 of the green; I still have a lot of blue left, but I might have run out if I had bought the 3.5 oz.
Here's a sample piece with the undiluted and unmixed (except on the fabric) colors. The orange is the Aladdin Yellow. The darker blue in the lower left is Dye-Na-Flow because I wanted to compare. (Yes I posted this before but it's more relevant now.)

No photos of the early steps - cutting out the fabric, sewing the seams. I didn't wash the fabric until after I sewed it up - I didn't read until later that this is a good idea to make sure there is no silk gum residue in your fabric. Still, easy fix with a sinkful of water and dish soap; any steps where I needed to dry the whole piece, I used clothespins and wire hangers to rig it up to my shower door. Silk air dries quite fast.

Silk on the stretcher frame. The frame is from the art store - you can buy lightweight, balsa like frame pieces in various lengths for super cheap. They slot together so you can disassemble it for storage. Unless you're going to cut off some of the fabric when you're done, you don't want the silk to overlap the frame. It will affect how the dye absorbs. To suspend it, you can use clips, silk hooks, or safety pins or straight pins with rubber bands attached. All attach to the frame itself with push pins. The frame is also elevated off the table with upended plastic cups, to make sure the silk doesn't touch it.

My frame is NOT ideal - but it was the best I could do. You really want the fabric quite taut, and all of it available to paint at the same time. Again, the problem is that most people paint scarves. This is a three-yard piece of fabric. In kimono painting, they work with the fabric before it's cut - which works because kimono fabric is traditionally long, narrow strips (which is why real kimono patterns are how they are). How they line up their designs, I admit I do not really know. But there was no way to get my design placement correct without cutting the train out and sewing the center back seam, making it a super-awkward size and shape for stretching. As the New Yorkers say, whatcanyado.

Another shot of the frame, with one section done and another section getting ready to go. I did all the resist painting first, before I did any dyeing. Resist is usually applied with a metal-tipped applicator bottle (some brands come in a tube); but I wanted wide, irregular lines. The resist areas aren't just to contain the dye - they will be the white lines on the finished design. So, I used a paintbrush.

You can also see how I was mixing the dyes - disposable plastic cups. You have to always put the cup back in the same place because it can be really hard to tell them apart; if I was using more colors, I'd have Sharpied the color on the outside.

Section in progress, with drying dye towards the bottom and wet dye towards the top. This section was done on dry fabric. All you do is touch the brush to the fabric; it absorbs and starts spreading. It's very similar to watercolors. I found that on dry fabric the dye spreads much faster; wet fabric, however, is better at preventing hard lines between colors. Otherwise, you have to work really quickly to keep one dye section from starting to dry before you do another color. I was painting a yellow background in completely, then doing diluted Tyrian Rose (pink) in small areas near the edge, and then going over that with a darker mix of some of the diluted yellow with some Aladdin yellow to get a shading effect.

I applied the dye with various different brushes. Brushes with acrylic fibers designed for dye worked the best; fabric paint brushes second best. Standard brushes don't work so well, it was harder to get the dye out. Foam brushes and a sumi brush worked well on larger areas. Watercolor brushes would be a good option also.

Working on the background. I used a foam brush with a blue/green mix (more towards blue, due to personal preference), and then a diluted green over it in specific areas. Narrow sections were resist; larger white I just painted carefully with a sumi brush. I did the background wet-on-wet to keep it soft; which, unfortunately, caused some spotting in the dry areas. Because the background area was so large, I had to do something to break it up. I was saved by my reference - there are a few places you can see small areas of white near the top of the garment (in the blue/teal), so I think that there was a design similar to the bottom at the top as well. So I was able to hide two resist "seams" in that design so I could segment the larger areas without getting too much of a harsh edge.

Dry, finished piece, prior to color setting and removal of the resist.

Chemical fixative bath. The fixative is diluted with cold water and you keep your fabric immersed and moving for about five minutes; then rinse and wash with a mild soap (Synthrapol would be best, but I used dish soap). You may be able to tell that the water is sort of Slimer Kool-aid green in some places; dye does come out in the fixative, but not nearly as much as in water alone. (One imagines the reason that steaming is touted as giving more intense color is that little or none of the applied dye is lost since it never comes in contact with the water.)

Anytime I work with chemicals with any kind of warning on the side (this has one about cancer), I use gloves. It just isn't worth the risk. Not nearly enough cosplayers/crafters/etc protect themselves when they should; how hard is it to put on at least a dust mask when you spray paint? Well, there's no protecting people from their own stupidity. ^^;

After the fixative bath, I emptied the sink, rinsed out the excess dye, and then re-filled it with warm water and soap to get out the resist (it requires both). There is info floating around the net that water-based resist doesn't do well with chemical fixative - even though it seems to be the only type that's compatible with it. :P I'm here to say now this is a myth - the Jacquard resist DOES get slimy/sticky feeling when it was immersed in the chemical fixative - but this had no effect on how difficult it was to wash out when the time came. I had no problems at all getting it out, and actually continued washing it after I was quite sure there wasn't any because it seemed too easy! Then the piece was hung to air dry, and I ironed it while still damp to get out some wrinkles. It has a static cling problem I'll have to ponder.

Finished. (Minus hems and waistband, of course; sewing machine is still in the shop). It's so big, I couldn't even get it all in the shot on my parents' king bed. @_@

Closeup, so you can perhaps compare the colors after the fixative. (Not totally accurate to reality - it's less orange, more yellow.)They are paler; but not by a really significant amount. I did a test with my sample from earlier - I cut it in half and did one half just washing out the resist, and one using the fixative first. You won't lose all your dye if you don't fix (most costume pieces don't need to be washable), but the colors will be at about 50% their strength when they were painted. You only drop to maybe 85% with the fixative. (As for Dye-na-flow, which is a dye-like paint, virtually none of it washes out. Once it's dry, it's pretty well set.) The bonus is that some of the "mistakes" are much less obvious.

The harsher edges are what happens when wet dye meets a dry area; some silk painters use them on purpose. The spotting from the water I sprayed on to dampen the dye only shows in the green areas, not the yellow/orange. If you can't dampen your whole piece at once, it'd be better (in hindsight) to use a large brush to apply water instead of a spray bottle. You can also see the soft edges that happen when the dye continues to spread in damp fabric; it's very slow so you get a lovely fade. (The borderless yellow-into-blue sections where done that way; the areas below the resist line were already painted, and when I did the blue, I also painted some yellow on up from the resist line. I didn't paint them so that they met - they faded into each other as the color spread.) The two dots on the resist line near the bottom are from where dye swamped the resist line; too much wet dye vs water-soluble resist = dye wins.

So . . . conclusions? Silk painting = definitely a fine art. But it's also very approachable; the basics are easy, it's the finesse that's hard. The same could be said of most things, but I think that silk painting is probably a particularly good thing to dabble in if it comes to textile arts. It's easier than tie-dye, imho, and certainly a more versatile technique. If it comes to dye versus paint, dye wins hands-down for results and ease. Fabric paint is great too, and it depends on what you're doing. But if I could do Yuuko's (xxxHolic) kimono again, I would not use paint. Ironically, it would have been easier and cheaper to do silk and dye - buying silk yardage should definitely not be much of a deciding factor, as it's cheaper than most fabrics!
Current Music: Didgedilli - PORNO GRAFFITI
Natalieblood_sorbet on April 12th, 2007 04:58 am (UTC)
I don't have time to read all that right now, but I just have to say that the dye job is absolutely BEAUTIFUL @_@ Omg...soooooooooo pretty!!
hamrahybi: pic#114304097hamrahybi on July 9th, 2012 11:38 pm (UTC)