Creating painted silk fabric

Since discovering the joy of painting on silk I have often prepared painted silk linings for my projects. I thought I might make a hand painted silk blouse as part of my SWAP this year. My main colour way is likely to be charcoal and magenta. So I have been thinking what colours will work well with those two? I think green (mint green/emerald) would be a good complement to the strong pink. But blue would tone well with the greyish blue. So, also using pink and grey I have had some fun painting silk off cuts to see what might work. At this stage we are not looking at the “design” of the colours. I just dappled and daubed. We are looking to see how the colours work together with each other, and bearing in mind this is to wear with a charcoal suit.

silk painted in pink and grey
Pink and Grey pattern

The Pink and Grey pattern takes just three colours – magenta, grey and black. I am not sure I like the shade of grey here. It’s just a bit too brown and it reminds me a bit of an animal print.

Silk painted light green
Minty pattern

The green sample started with a wash of emerald green but it looked insipid, so I added a less diluted green on top. Although this is quite boring – just one shade – it might actually look best in wear, as it will create a nice, calm harmony with the deep grey. These fairly light/bright blues and greens suit me. And by having just one colour I could wear this blouse with just about anything in my wardrobe. Of course any single colour would work well, eg pink, grey, blue or purple. Now let’s look at the multi-coloured patterns.

silk painted green, pink and grey
Green pattern

Here we have the same emerald green, this time introducing pink/red and grey/black. I like this. Fresh; with the green and pink complementing each other.

silk painted with blue and pink
Blue pattern

This one leaves out the green and brings in a fairly bright blue. This is probably my favourite colour scheme. Bright blue with clear pinks reminded me of summer roses, pinks, cornflowers, summer skies and soft clouds. The white (actually natural silk is rather creamy), and the greys stop it looking too sickly. So using the idea of summer flowers I did this.

silk painted with blues, pinks and greens
Summer Flower pattern

This pattern brings in all the colours, and it is my favourite. However I wish the background were whiter. This design reminds me of Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell’s Charleston Farmhouse, and a textile she designed (see top of post). I must go their again – it is such an amazing place.

red and pink painted silk
Red pattern

Finally I tried purple as a sort of half way house between the pink and grey. But it looked a bit dirty. I added some red.

As the yellowy background is not working for me I thought I would try painting on a light grey silk instead. I have some gorgeous heavy weight, glossy, slightly ribbed grey silk. Compared to the relatively lightweight lining (habotai) silks I usually use for silk painting this is a much more sturdy product (but still very drapey and silky). It would certainly be good for a dress, skirt, or even a summer coat. So I cut off a couple of swatches and tried painting them.

I stuck with the same colour schemes but found something interesting. i just painted on the colours fairly quickly and they hardly bled at all. The down side of this fabric is that it really absorbs the paint so it would use a great deal more product. But the shades are vibrant and strong.

Heavy grey silk painted
Grey floral

I tried some more geometric shapes, and found the silk held straight lines fairly well, using pink, black and green.

painting on heavy grey silk
Grey geometric pattern

I don’t know if I will use any of these colourways, or even if I will use a painted silk for one of my SWAP blouse. I may do something completely different. But I like the flower pattern a lot and might use it for a summer dress. The heavier silk may work well as a jacket or loose summer coat. Hmm. As ever, please let me have your thoughts. It really does help.

5 Responses

  1. Galina

    I like the new direction of your silk painting experiments. Free hand painting is so much more interesting than block printing. All of you designs above are eye-catching and show your true colours.
    It’s interesting, I was thinking one night of a different colour scheme for you, and probably inspired by your preen collection I thought whether you you would like combining pale grey, very pale brown, pale yellow, possibly some white, with tiny dots of berry red.

  2. amaryllislog

    I love this, it’s really an exciting experiment. I actually like the one color way version for a simpler take but I am attracted to the color mixing and very obscure patterning. I look forward to seeing where you go with your silk painting and what it becomes.

  3. Stephanie

    Love these experiments, Kate. I am especially drawn to the “green” design but I like the one above it and your favourite below it. There is so much potential here and you have my own wheels turning for a design because I have an imaginary “perfect” fabric for a dress in my mind. I would say keep playing with these until you get the design that sings to you for a specific project. Galina’s idea of a second palette also sounds delicate and pretty.

Leave a Reply