How to make hand-painted silk linings

Last week a natty male dresser I know showed me his lining (shock). His jacket was lined with a football shirt! Not my cup of tea, but why not? Chanel used to line her jackets with silk and then make up a range of  blouses in the same fabric to wear with the suit.

Chanel jacket and blouse advert
Chanel jacket with matching blouse

Posh furs were often lined with luxurious silks embroidered or woven with the recipients name, or patterns like sprigs of flowers. There was a vogue in the 1950s for men to have saucy pictures inside their jackets – that they could flash at their mates when out in the evening, and still look respectable for work. And even Marks & Spencer uses brighter linings these days  – to allow men to express a little individuality.

I came to dress making most recently via painting on silk – making bespoke silk textiles using fabric paint. Once I had made scarves for me and all the women in the family I turned to  making silk linings. What about matching blouses and dresses to the coat or jacket lining? I restarted dressmaking in order to be able to do this. Here are a few I made earlier.

If you too want a unique lining (and as my jacket is often draped over the back of a chair in an overheated meeting room) that will get seen, you might want to try doing this at home. My daughter Esme loves the most colourful linings, saying it is like wearing a Hawaiian shirt under the jacket. But they can be subtle and restrained too.

  1. Buy suitable silk. I use Habotai, shiny satin or crepe depending on the weight and quality of the garment. The price on this site is reasonable and they deliver for a fixed cost. If you use calico for toiles you can order large amounts and it is delivered for the same price at the same time. By buying white/ivory you will have very little waste as you use the same colour for all garments. I like the feel and quality of a silk lining and I am prepared to pay for it. After all a hundreds of small animals had to work really hard to produce it. Often my lining fabric is more expensive than the jacket fabric.
    habotai silk
    Habotai silk suitable for lining
  2. Buy silk paint – red, blue and yellow is sufficient to get started as you can mix your colours from these three elements. The brand names I have are Setasilk, Javana and Colourcraft. The smallest ones cost around £2 or £3 each, the larger around £10.
    five containers of silk paint
    Silk paint
  3. Find or buy a nice brush or two. I have one thick and one thin, in fairly good quality, made specifically for silk painting from animal hair. I assume any good quality brush will do.
    silk paint brushes
    Painting on silk brushes
  4. You can use gutta, wax and a frame if you want to, but this post assumes you are keeping it as simple as possible
  5. Cut out or draw the lining pieces with a fabric marker as it is easier, and more economical to just paint the pieces you want to keep
  6. set them out in pairs on a flat surface and paint them together to get a roughly symmetrical look
  7. I usually chose one colour similar to the fabric colour if it is plain, and then match three or four to go with it.
  8. Practice on an off cut to get a pleasing design. To check the colour allow to dry or press. Once dry you see a truer colour.
  9. Start with the lightest colour first, then allow it to dry.
    painting on silk
    start with the lighter shades
  10. Build up the colours on top. You don’t have to let them dry but they will then bleed into each other which maybe an effect you want. You can dilute them for a lighter colour and a “wetter” effect. The red and pink were used undiluted, the green is very diluted and the light grey is diluted. I often use a “dirty” colour to pull it all together, but it can be nice to have the pure, vibrant shades too. I suppose with winter outfit in heavier cloth I usually produce a denser and darker lining.
    using wet on dry silk paint
    deeper colours allowed to bleed
  11. Even if they dry they still bleed but not as much. Choose a design that is quite painterly and not too precise, or move to using wax, gutta and frames.
  12. Go right to the edge. Although most will be sewn away you don’t want white bits to show (unless it is part of your design)
  13. Keep building up the colour until you are satisfied. I liked the way that the grey, green, red and pink had combined to create a sort of purply red, similar to my jacket.
    lining fabric painted pink and red
    Painted silk lining
  14. Finally allow the pieces to dry, then press using a hot iron. Then make up your lining as usual.

13 Responses

  1. Juliet

    Are the paints colourfast for dry cleaning? My sister enjoys silk painting so maybe I could commission some lining…..

    • fabrickated

      Absolutely. If you fix with a hot iron they are fast for ever. Sounds like a really cool idea to get your sister to make a couple of metres, but it is very easy to do.

  2. mrsmole

    I’ve done this with scarves but never thought about making them larger…very cool! I adore wild linings! If I had more time I’d make jackets with old kimono linings and sari linings. Love your red jacket progress so far…I agree, some garment need a calm seamstress at the helm. Sewing with an eye on the clock never produces great work…it would be like watching the Great British Sewing Bee…speed = not great results.

    • fabrickated

      Wow! I love the idea of using saris or kimonos Mrs Mole.

      I am not sure I actually believe the timings on GBSB – you are a pro – what do you think? The irony is that I have been too busy with work and sewing to even watch the blooming programme this season.

  3. Sewniptuck

    Adore the check one. What a great idea Kate. I had wondered why you don’t ‘do’ the GBSB, but I can’t believe they produce those garments in that time either. Cutting out seems to take me more time than sewing!
    Wanted to comment on your last post, I’m similarly manic when I sew and often make silly mistakes. Must drink more water and keep the neurones hydrated!

  4. Dom

    hello, i asked about doing linings before and they recommend a system that would stretch it, i noticed you simply laid the silk on the counter, what do you recommend?

    • fabrickated

      Hi Dom. I do have a stretching thing – it’s like a big rectangle with pins around it. You can make a wood one or use a picture frame. There are special tacks/pins for affixing the silk without damaging it.

      I can’t be bothered with stretching it, so I just put the silk on a flat surface and start painting with the lightest colour. If you let this dry you can usually get the next layer on without too much bleeding. Let that dry and carry on – lighter to darker. Some colour will seep underneath, and some will bleed into the cloth. But it doesn’t bother me much with my loose approach to painting.

      I hope this helps.


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