Silk painting is simple and rewarding, and yet from time to time you get a completely unexpected outcome. Of the kind you wish you hadn’t. Fortunately it is almost impossible to make a piece of silk look bad. So even if it didn’t turn out the way you expected, it will still look beautiful.

A case in point is my latest project. I had been thinking about a wine red silk wrap, possibly crushed. My inspiration was this gorgeous red silk wrap from Amalthee Creations.

I started with a piece of white China silk,  2m x 1.5m machine hemmed with silk thread so the thread would take the dyes along with the fabric. I stretched this out on my brand new frame DH made me out of plumbing tubes. It is 2.5m x 1.5m, a little unwieldy but about the size I need for painting yardage. Scarves and wraps are smaller, but can still use this frame.


I propped it up on the lawn with the old garden chairs I have been using to attach the silk to for painting, and tethered it to the clothesline to stop me from accidentally knocking it off its perch. One of these days I will get proper clips and stretchable rope to fix my silk into the frame, but for now I am using the masking tape and pin method. You fix masking tape to the frame, preferably multi layers,  and pin the fabric onto this. It is cheap and reusable, and until I find suitable clips it will be good enough.

So I stretched my silk onto the frame, not too tightly because it wasn’t necessary for this particular project. I just wanted the silk to be horizontal enough so the rock salt I was intending to use would not roll into the centre. Rock salt? Yes, despite my inspiration being a solid colour, I wanted colour variations. I wasn’t sure and wanted to keep my options open whether to crush the scarf at the end or not, and a solid colour uncrushed would be too boring for my taste.

Rock salt works by sucking up the dye and the result are  interesting patterns. This is what it looks like. The white spots are the salt, which will be washed away, and the patterns form around the salt.

One word of warning if you do anything using salt over lawn. You must be very careful that the salt doesn’t drop onto it, because salt will kill vegetation, PERMANENTLY. Nothing will grow there ever again as long as the salt stays in the soil! In my case, when the silk was dry, I unpinned it and folded it up very carefully with the salt inside, enlisting DH’s help, so the salt would not escape until it was washed out in the laundry tub.

Once the silk had dried I thought it looked lighter than I had planned. With the salt all over the fabric applying a darker coat would be problematic, so I decided I would apply a darker red where it WAS possible, which was along the borders. I mixed up a more concentrated batch of dye and set to work. 

The darker dye defined the edges of the scarf nicely and rivulets of the darker red ran from the raised edges towards the centre, a very nice effect. I was quite proud of my creation.
Imagine my surprise when I had washed and dried the wrap and ended up with this. None of the darker edges had taken and even the salt patterns were very faint.


The wrap is still nice, the beautiful silk just shines through. I could have either left it or crushed it and it would have made a beautiful wrap. However,  I wanted to have a go at darkening the red, as I had it in mind for a friend of mine, and she loves that colour.

So I overdyed the wrap in my camping washing machine I use for immersion dyeing. The mix was 1.5 teaspoons of red, quarter teaspoon of black and half a teaspoon of yellow. The yellow is to stop the mix from going too much into purple, as the black is blue based. This pushes the dark red a bit more into the brown and makes it a nice deep burgundy.


Not bad, even if I say so myself. It looks a bit multi coloured in the pic, but is solid all over. The salt patterns had pretty much disappeared. I also dyed a plain white piece of silk chiffon at the same time and it came  out exactly the same colour, even though it had started out white and the other piece pink. Interesting.

I would love to know why the dark edges I originally painted on the wrap did not take. All I can think of is that I let the fabric dry before painting them on. Maybe that is not such a good idea.

I painted another scarf before I started on the red one, where I painted all the colours on rapidly before anything had a chance to dry. The result was reassuringly predictable.


The dimensions were 1.5m x 0.4m, which makes a nice infinity scarf, folded in half and looped doubly around the neck.

… And the same in black and red…

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