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For months I’d been sitting on the idea of getting back into printmaking -  specifically silk scarves ... I’d made the occasional one for a relative or friends birthday - but creating them in bulk was going to take a lot of work

 

. Setting up at home seemed impossible, after all there were dye labs, giant printing tables and screen wash out stations at school where I'd made the first two runs. 

 I’d mulled over the idea of renting studio space (but most didn’t have hours that aligned with my ever-changing schedule.) 


 Linen scarf featuring appliqué & embellishment  

Linen scarf featuring appliqué & embellishment  

 I’d mulled over the idea of renting studio space (but most didn’t have hours that aligned with my ever-changing schedule.) 

After months of procrastination, and making lists of lists to weigh my options [as one does ;)] I decided to purchase the necessary supplies ($750 for the bare minimum) and set up shop in my parents backyard. This idea was soon shut down after researching further to discover that the colour in fibre-reactive dye would quickly deteriorate in the sunlight, not to mention the other elements I’d have to deal with (rain washing off designs or the wind blowing a georgette scarf into a neighbouring backyard). 

 

 Scratching a design into a flour-paste resist coated screen. 

Scratching a design into a flour-paste resist coated screen. 

Setting up in the basement provided it’s own challenges, among them the dampness meant longer wait times for painted screens to dry (upping my total working hours for ONE scarf to 8 hours). 

 

I quickly realized why studio fees at school we’re so expensive and how fortunate my classmates and I had been. At Sheridan, the space was large, the equipment industrial and the dye chemicals free!

Setting up my home studio was expensive and time-consuming, I had turned my laundry room into a dye chemistry lab (do not try this at home!) and found myself mentally calculating what every additional millitre of wasted dye was costing me. 

In all fairness - our instructors did warn us.

 

 

 

 

The Scarves

Based on feedback i'd received from my previous two runs of hand-painted scarves I decided to focus on larger scarf/shawls (the perfect artsy compliment to a plain black dress) and smaller square scarves (perfect for tying on to a bag, or wrist)

In order to properly print the large size of scarf, I had my father (we call him McGuiver around the house) create me a giant square silk screen using lightweight metal so it would be light enough for me to manoeuvre on my own (at school working with large screens were often a two-person job). My new custom screen proved so large, that even with it's lightweight - I still found myself calling for an extra set of hands, using my entire body inside the screen and with back aches from working so large. 

 process work 

process work 

 

The scarf printing process is one that brings me much joy, I start by creating a colour palette for the scarves i'll be printing that day. (mixed dye has a shelf life of 24 hours, so I only mix what i'll need that day). Then I work on the individual designs, some are pulled from sketchbook drawings while others happen spontaneously.

Some scarves are done relatively quickly with only two colours and two screens (short and sweet!)

 complete silk twill scarf in 

complete silk twill scarf in 

while others hung on the wall, as I slowly painted in individual colours for days (a labour of love!) 

 detail completed scarf on silk twill 

detail completed scarf on silk twill 


The second hurdle I reached as at an home DIYer was the matter of steaming the scarves.

Once you’ve completed the process of silk-screening a scarf using dye- the fabric becomes stiff. I remember almost crying in first year once I’d completed my first print as i thought surely I’d botched the recipe. In another instance the fabric actually cracked. 

So how does one get their previously soft and silky scarf back to it’s original form? 


Fear not, after a steaming process the fabric is ready to be handwashed (in alternating boiling hot and ice cold) to remove any excess dye. 


But steaming the scarves was not so simple. 


 Fibre-reactive dyes require heat (high heat, and lots of it!) to form a chemical bond with the fibres in a silk scarf. hotter than your domestic iron or dryer. Leaving them out in the sun wasn’t an option either. 

At school, steaming any piece of a fabric was a whole days project that often warranted a group effort. a large steamer (which looked like a spaceship) had to be heated up and the fabric had to be precisely rolled around a centre rod, with three layers of tissue between each piece and wrapped in a cotton cloth. I’m exhausted just thinking about - steaming was always the bane of my existence while in school. 


I could get away with letting the scarves batch (sit while still damp from the dye) for a few days and then use an iron on the hottest setting - but this was risky business as some of the vibrancy was often lost. 

It wasn’t until I was at work picking up some freshly basted mannequin looks from the Tailor shop that it dawned on me. We had two large industrial steamers at work! All I had to do was arrive earlier (than my already early 7 am shift) to steam my scarves before the tailors got to work. 


 detail of silk crepe scarf

detail of silk crepe scarf

Almost done... 

Once the scarves are steamed, they are then hand-washed about 5-10 times in alternating pots of boiling hot and ice cold water (a real joy for the hands!)

this process removes any excess dye and ensures that wearing your scarf with a white blouse, or throwing it in the wash will leave it just as you bought it. 

 

 

The Final steps .... 

 

  

1. After several washes the scarves  are pressed and folded for presentation (I have my grandmother to thank for most of this!)

2. a simple care label + designer logo carefully attached. (God bless the tiny hands of my helpful friends) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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experimenting with process on my screen 

 

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shibori-bound scarf ready for immersion dyeing 

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scarf + sketchbook inspiration