Updated: Jun 3, 2018
I've had many friends comment through the years, "I'd really like to see how you do this!" Today, Part One of how I do what I do.
When I first started out, purchasing a professional silk painting frame was simply out of the financial question, but a frame of some sort is essential to the process. Silk has to be suspended in some way. The wet dye must be allowed to move freely on the fabric which cannot happen if the fabric is resting on a surface. I did a great deal of research on the internet and came to the conclusion, thanks to how my dad raised me, that I could probably make a frame myself. Pencil, paper, calculator and an evening of sketches and consultation with my artist husband later I had a design for a frame that could be broken down into smaller pieces for storage in our space-challenged 1895 home.
I have no garage or barn, so all of my construction work took place on a card table set up in our unfinished dirt floor basement. My two power tools were a corded drill and small electric sander. All the lumber had to be cut with a miter saw. I used inexpensive 1"x3/4"x8' boards and some screws. Holes for screws had to be pre-drilled to keep the cheap wood from splitting and every piece of lumber had to be sanded to perfection so that nothing could potentially snag the silk. Large holes were drilled for fly bolts so that the entire 55"x96" base of the frame could be broken down into three smaller pieces, each 55"x32" (see photo #3 above).
I cut 6" extender pieces that attach the base frame to the modular side rails as seen above. The side rails are cut in pieces that mirror the base, again because of the storage issue. It is the side rails that suspend the silk. I arbitrarily chose 6" as the height for bringing the silk up off of the table. I was merely guessing at how much a large 45"x90" piece of silk would droop in the center when wet with dye. It does seem to be about the perfect height!
Eye hooks are attached about every 6" on the side rails so that the elastic cord can be strung around the perimeter. Some type of hook is typically used to attach silk to the suspension frame. Professional silk suspender hooks run around $10+shipping per 24. I figured I needed at least two sets and decided to save the $30 and prick my fingers making my own hooks instead. I purchased stainless steel silk pins from my local JoAnns. Those had to be carefully bent into the shape you see above, the "loop" hooking onto the elastic cord and the sharp end hooking into the silk. Here are a couple of pictures of larger banners that require this frame. I lose my entire dining room to these projects, and I'm thankful nobody in my household has ever minded in the least!
When I decided to start painting scarves, I made another frame that is not modular. It generally sits around my tiny home studio in the way somewhere when not in use. These days it is always in use though! I started out using the elastic cord and pin hook method, but really didn't trust that the pins wouldn't tear the delicate chiffon scarves I wanted to start painting. Back to more internet research, I found a number of painters were using other forms of hooks, including these very handy plastic covered clips I picked up at the dollar store, a package of 6 for $1. I tied lengths of butcher string to the clips, which are then wrapped around the base of thumb tacks that are pushed part way into the frame. Here's a photo of what the scarf system looks like:
That's all I have time to share with you today. Next week I will introduce you to some basics of silk painting and show you the handy dandy homemade stove pipe steamer I constructed. Please ask questions if you have them. Nothing I am doing is a secret!
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