When Painting Silk, What Type of Silk Should I Use?

Wall HangingWhen painting silk, there are different types and weights of silk that you can choose. This really depends on what the finished product is going to be and what you prefer to work on. My preference is Pongee, but I have also used Habati and Crepe de Chine.

Pongee silk is produced by many mills throughout China. The weight can vary between 36 to 50gm/sq m. The lighter weight is often known as Paj.

Many people do not like to use Pongee for silk painting as it can easily form a ‘hole’ where the threads of silk part company (either by using the brush with a heavy hand, stretching over sharp picot points or with the drawing nib). However, once painted it makes lovely scarves that feel so fine and soft and literally ‘float’ when wearing them.

When using dye to paint, the colours flow quickly and it is very difficult to control the colour. It can literally continue to move even after you think it has finished. On the other hand, if you want a great blend of colours, this type of silk will do most of the work for you….you just have to know how wet to keep the surface.

Habutai was traditionally woven in Japan, however today most is produced in China. Habutai was normally used for linings of clothing, but today is used for a variety of product e.g. lampshades, blouses and lingerie. It is quite easy to dye and is therefore very popular with artist and craftsmen.

This silk is heavier than Pongee and is therefore easier to paint on as it does allow some control. Scarves can be tied and keep their shape better than they will when using pongee. This silk is also suitable for works of art that are to be framed for exhibition.

Crepe is a silk, wool, or polyester fabric. It has a gauze like consistency with a crimpy appearance. Silk crape is woven from hand spun silk. Crêpe de Chine normally refers to thin Crepe and is an exciting silk to paint on for exhibition works of art.

Crêpe de Chine is my favourite silk for painting works of art to be framed. I like the way the movement of the dye is easier to control because of the texture of the silk. Recently I painted a large wall hanging for a client and because they did not want to frame it (and thus protect the silk from dust etc) I decided to choose a heavy weight Crepe de Chine. It turned out to be a nightmare to paint.

The gutta would not penetrate the silk (I use a fairly fine nib for my style of work) and bleeds were constantly plaguing me. The dye would not run at all and to get colours to blend meant that I had to literally scrub the dye and then water to try to get colours to merge and tone to develop. I won’t be using this weight of silk again!

When you are painting silk experiment first and discover which type and weight of silk best suits your style and the finished product.

12 thoughts on “When Painting Silk, What Type of Silk Should I Use?

  1. clare

    oh my! I had no idea there were different types of silk! Thankyou for your tips and preferences! Lovely delicate work, simply beautiful. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Peter Post author

      Thank you Claire – many silk artists use large, bold patterns – but I guess because of my love of drawing, I have always liked the delicate patterns one can create with line work. Barb

      Reply
      1. tania ahrens

        Hi, I’m Tania and I’m creating a line in silk scarf with my on pattern very similar to Hermes. I need help to choose the silk, don;t want digital I want screening. Can someone please help me I also sell Scottish Cashmere Sweaters, my site is http://www.scottishcashmereny.com.

        Best Regards to all.
        Tania NYC

        Reply
  2. web designers

    What i don’t realize is just how talented you really are. You are so intelligent. You know so much as it relates to silk painting, Your individuality and uniqueness is excellent.

    Reply
  3. erin

    I want to paint in some silk. The end goal is to make a dress out of this painted silk. I am looking for something heavy so that a full skirt will have a lot of movement and swing. Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    1. Peter Post author

      Use Habuti – it is heavier but still soft enough to have that swing. If you do make it, I would love to see a photo – good luck. Barb

      Reply
  4. Ariana

    So would a light to medium weight Crêpe de Chine be your recommendation for a large wall hanging scarf? Or would there be a different kind that would be more suitable?

    Reply
    1. Peter Post author

      A medium weight Crepe should be fine for a wall hanging, and will make a lovely scarf. Just be aware that the dyes will behave a little differently on crepe than on pongee. I love using crepe for my framed works of art, it’s great! Good luck! Barb

      Reply

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