Stencilling with thickened natural dyes on silk is fun and rewarding. The stained-glass effects and beautiful colour blending are a sure bet, but it takes patience, as each step requires time and precision. While this tutorial is designed for you to make a single scarf stencilled with natural dyes, I encourage you to maximize your time by preparing several scarves with mordant and soy solution so that you can experiment (before the soy solution cures) to perfect your stencilling techniques.
In this tutorial I will show you how to make your own stencil using a used potato chip bag. Plastic doilies are also good for stencilling. To reduce the demand for, and to reuse plastic, I recommend looking for plastic doilies and similar items at second-hand shops as opposed to dollar stores.
Note: the links below point to Maiwa, an excellent Canadian source for dyeing supplies. Many of these items can be found elsewhere, also.
- One or more silk scarves, for example these from Maiwa
- Hake brush, 5 cm (2 inches) wide, for applying soy solution
- Shinshi poles (or clamps/weights to stretch the scarf between two surfaces), for stretching the fabric when applying soy milk. The shinshi poles I use in this tutorial are from Maiwa.
- Wide-mouth Mason jars, 1 litre (approximately 4 cups) or larger. You will need twice as many jars as the number of dyes you’re using.
- Large pot
- Hand blender (also called an immersion blender) for blending directly in jars, or a standalone blender. IMPORTANT: If you are not using a dedicated art-making blender, only use dyestuff which is safe to ingest, like onion skins, turmeric, et cetera. Dyestuff like madder root is not safe to prepare using cookware that is to be used again for food preparation.
- Dedicated face cloth or fabric for straining dyestuff and soybeans
- Dedicated spoon
- Large towel
- Hand towel
- Piece of cardboard the same size as your scarf.
- Weighing scales sensitive enough to measure fabric and ingredients
- Measuring spoons (that include a ⅛ tsp measure)
- Mylar bag (silver on the inside). A potato chip bag is a good option. Any size will work; I used a large size.
- Three or more clamps
- Clothes iron
- Parchment paper
- For each dye colour, a new kitchen sponge or piece of foam cut to approximately 8 × 8 cm (3 × 3 inches)
- Dedicated bowls, plates, or a large pan to hold the dyes during application
- Large pot
- Craft paper that is slightly longer and wider than your scarf.
- An elastic band
- Pyrex measuring cup, or other heat-rated vessel large enough to allow your scarf (rolled in craft paper) to stand upright.
- Hand towel
- Soybeans for making soy sizing (note: store bought soy milk will not work)
- Ferrous sulphate (iron salt)
- Orvus paste
- Red onion skins from 10 or more onions (dyes brown), can be purchased here
- Cochineal (dyes purple)
- Madder root (dyes reddish brown)
Feel free to try other natural dyestuff. Err on the side of using larger amounts for darker shades, especially if using foraged materials like marigold or broom flowers.
All images by Janna Maria Vallee.