Sunday, November 4, 2007

Making Play Silks

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

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.


Venus Mandy said...

That is awesome. Thanks for sharing. I used to use Kool Aid to dye my hair different colors during the summer. I love that there are other things that it can be used for besides making drinks and dying hair.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the detailed pics of your working method...that helps so much! I really want to dye a length of silk in a soft rainbow like the one's from sarah's silks. Any idea how to get those nice bands of color and how to keep the color even and not too intense??? Thanks!

Sara said...

Rainbows are tough.
If you are using silk paints, you can get a paler color by watering it down. This will make it spread more, so leave some space between colors.

Another use for playsilks -- courtesy of Arielle -- pretend pizza dough!

Sarah said...

Thanks for the ideas! My 6 month old has a play silk that she won't part with (much easier than a giant security blanket or toy, it also makes a fabulous nursing cover when I need it).

I just dyed a dozen play silks as Christmas gifts for all of my daughter's friends (21X21 inch for the babies and 30X30 for older kids). I just used colorful foods and spices I had around the house- coffee, turmeric, raspberries, kale, beets. I boiled the spice/fruit/vegetable in 2-3 cups of water and some salt for an hour, then added silks that had been soaking in a vinegar and water solution. I let them simmer for a few hours, stirring occasionally. Some of the color came out when I washed them but, they turned out beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this information! I am looking forward to trying this myself soon.

One question, though: how colorfast is Kool-Aid dyeing on silk? I haven't tried my hand at any kind of dyeing, so I have no idea how well the colors "stick."

Sara said...

Marsha, I was surprised, but Kool-Aid is very color-fast.

Arielle's latest playsilk game? Folding laundry. She loads the silks in a basket and then takes them out and folds them up.

Briana said...

thanks for posting! I was so surprised by the way the kool-aid dye works. I dyed 10 for a valentine's day party in cherry, strawberry, black cherry and pink lemonade

Anonymous said...

Hi Sara,
The painted playsilks look great! I've never tried this method before, so before I head to the shop to buy silk paint, can you please tell me how much paint I would need approx. to paint a reasonably sized length (I am thinking of approx. 30" x 55") of 8mm habotai silk in rainbow colours?
And in your experience, is the mixing of colours from the primary colours easy enough or would you rather buy separate colours?


Sara said...

The paint comes in small jars and one jar should be enough to do several silks.
I haven't tried much mixing from primary colors because it is hard to keep the colors from looking muddy, but I add yellow or white to make new colors and those have been fine.
Let me know how it turns out!

onemotherslove said...

Thanks for this post! I was wondering if the Kool-Aid colors are vivid or muted?

Sara said...

It really depends on how much Kool Aid you use. They aren't as brilliant as the silk paints and they do fade over time, but you can get some really bright colors.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great ideas. We had fun making several with Kool Aid. The orange is gorgeous. I have a suggestion for clamps. The wooden clamps that they sell are very pretty but run about $5-7 plus shipping. I bought a bag of plastic clamps at Lowe's 14/$10. We unscrewed the clamp, removed the spring, screwed it again and wrapped a rubber band around it. They work great and we have all kinds of sizes. I also bought plastic clips and tablecloth holders to help with costumes and forts. I bought several remnants of silk fabric and hemmed them to supplement our collection.

Unknown said...

I'm just curious, has anyone tried dyeing play silks on the stovetop? I don't have a microwave, but I really want to try the Kool-Aid method. Any ideas?

Sarah said...

I used the kool-aid method on the stove top recently- worked great! I just simmered and stirred the silks until they seemed done.

Anonymous said...

the step where you iron before washing---

so do you get paint all over your iron

would you not want to iron a blue/green silk and then a yellow one?


Sara said...

Let the paint dry before ironing and use a dry iron and there shouldn't be a problem.

Yuko said...

You got me so inspired to try myself! What beautiful colors!

I have two questions. 1) How did you do the very first picture? The rainbow color is just amazing. Is this done all by spray or brush?
2) I am thinking of using 8mm Habotai with the silk paint you used. I am wondering how hot the iron should be, and if the fabric will not be ruined with high heat? Thanks for your hlep!

Sara said...

1) I used a brush and silk paint
2) Many irons have a low setting for silk. That's the setting I used, but if yours doesn't have a silk setting go with low and no steam.
Good luck!

Yuko said...

Thanks for your quick response!

I forgot to ask one more question. What colors did you use for the rainbow one? I wasn't sure if they are primary or not.

Also, for using the brush, did you leave some space for color transition? Thanks again!

Utahmama said...

I dyed a bunch of playsilks and it worked great! The kids and I had loads of fun and felt like artists! For a good quality,all natural play clip that is less expensive try My brother in law makes these. My twins of four years love to play with these and their playsilks for endless fun! His playclips are the lowest price I've seen on the web! Thanks for the dyeing tips!

Anonymous said...

wondering if anyone has tried using Kool-Aid as silk paint - like to make a rainbow silk with Kool-Aid.

discount toys said...

Thanks for the great ideas. We had fun with it.