Play silks are an amazing toy. Depending on the size, a playsilk can be a knight's cape or a princess's veil; it can be a magic carpet, a table cloth or a baby blanket; it can be a canopy or a house made of straw for the Big Bad Wolf to blow away. And, finger puppets love them. The uses of a playsilk are endless, so they are a staple for pretend play. They are available from a variety of toy companies: A Toy Garden, Palumba, Magic Cabin, Blueberry Forest, and most of the other web sites I have listed. They run about $10.00-$15.00 for a large square. But, it is both cheap and easy (and a fun activity for older children) to make your own playsilks.
Silk scarves are available from Dharma Trading Company. They are available in a variety of weights, textures and shapes. But, a good place to start is with a 30"x30" square of 12mm silk satin ($3.69). However, heavier weights, feather light chiffon, huge squares, tiny squares and even rectangles can be fun.
And, don't forget that white is a color, too. Linnea loves to play peek-a-boo (and Arielle has pretended to be a ghost) under an undyed chiffon scarf.
Here are two methods for dying scarves. I suggest wearing disposable gloves for both methods.
Kool-Aid Dyeing in the microwave
Kool-Aid dyeing is cheap and works well for bright solid colors. If you do a quick Google search, there are tons of methods for doing this. This is what worked for me.
1. Soak scarf in a bowl of hot water with a splash of vinegar for about half an hour.
2. Mix 2 cups water, 1/2 cup vinegar and 3 packets of unsweetened Kool-Aid in the color of your choice in a large glass bowl.
3. Add the scarf and cover with plastic wrap. The scarf should be loosely placed and not tightly wrapped into a ball as you want the dye to permeate through the fabric.
4. Microwave on high for three minutes. Allow to sit for three minutes.
5. Carefully (watch for steam) remove the plastic wrap and stir using a fork. Replace plastic wrap.
6. Repeat steps 3 and 4, stir and then repeat again.
7. After three cycles of heating and resting, allow dye to cool. When it is cool enough to handle, remove scarf and hang to dry. Wash in cold water, dry on low and iron. You have your very own silkie!
Silk painting is slightly more complicated (although an 8 year old can do it) and slightly messier, but allows you to make textured designs like rivers and multi-colored designs like rainbows.
I use a thin silk paint like Pebeo Setasilk. You will also need gloves, garbage bags and old towels to protect your floor or work space, soft paint brushes, and an iron. You can use a spray bottle of water or a dropper to create special effects.
1. Protect your work area. I use a layer of garbage bags, followed by an old towel, and another garbage bag on top.
2. Lightly spray the silk with water until it is just damp. If it is very wet, the colors will not be as intense.
3. Paint. Rinse the brush between colors. The colors are thin and will bleed and mix together. Red near green and blue near orange will turn muddy, otherwise, there are no rules. Use as many colors as you desire. I think the biggest mistake is using too much dye as it runs everywhere. If you would like try drops of water (fading).
4. Leave scarf to sit until partly dry.
5. Hang to dry.
6. Iron for about 5 minutes. Wash in cold, dry on low, iron to remove wrinkles.
7. You are done. Yay! Let me know how it goes.