The scarves are bought with the edges ready-rolled from a supplier in England, who imports them from China. They are first washed in hot water and mild detergent and then rinsed to remove any starch or lubricant.
In the Gutta technique, they are stretched onto a metal frame with wire claws while still damp, and allowed to dry. Then a design is drawn onto the silk using a pen containing gutta, a clear or metallic-coloured liquid which penetrtes the silk and dries to form a waterproof barrier. The outlined ares are then painted using a soft brush and special silk paints. These can be diluted with water and blended to make subtle colours. When the paint is dry, the scarf is removed from the frame and ironed on the back with a hot iron to fix the paints so that they will not wash out.
In the wet-in-wet technique, the procedure is as above, but no gutta is used and the silk is wetted on the frame before the paint is applied. This allows different colours to blend softly over large areas.
In the Batik technique, after a background colours have been applied and allowed to dry, areas or outlines are drawn, painted or stencilled with hot wax. Further, darker colours are then applied. The process may be repeated two or three times. When the paint is dry, the scarf is ironed between sheets of absorbent paper to remove the wax. The areas which were under the wax retain the base colour and the other areas have the darker colours.
The batik technique can be adapted to use metal or wire stamps. These are patterns or outlines which I form from soldered garden wire and dip into hot wax then apply to the silk after the background colour is dried. When the second, darker paint goes on, the outline of the stamp shows through in the lighter background colours. This works well for repeated small outlines, like fish, mermaids, leaves, etc.
Combined with these other techniques, I sometimes sprinkle salt onto the damp paint to create random textural patterns as the salt crystals suck the paint in from the surrounding area.
In the Shibori techniques, the scarf is not put onto the frame. It may be given a base colour by dipping it in dye. When this is dry it is pleated, rolled, twisted, stitched, pinched or clamped around differently shaped objects and then further colours are applied by painting or dipping. These colours cannot penetrate where the silk is tightly squeezed and so, when the paint is dry and the binding is undone, strange abstract patterns are formed. The creases caused by the binding may be left in if the paint is fixed by steaming instead of ironing.
Recently I have been experimenting with lino-cut stamping, in which a design is carved into a piece of linoleum, the surface is painted with thicker paint using a brush or foam roller, and the stamp is pressed face down onto the silk. This is good for repeating images of small or medium size, and they can be more complex than the wire stamps.
I have also used screen printing, for which I trace a simplified outline onto baking parchment and cut out the sections to be coloured using a craft knife. The paper is placed on the background-coloured silk and the nylon mesh screen is placed on top. Thick paint is spooned onto the screen and spread over the area of the stencil using a squeegee, which pushed the paint through the mesh and through the cut-out areas of the stencil. This works best for single or double images of A5 or A4 size.
The printing techniques require that the silk should be firmly supported, so instead of stretching the silk on a frame, I stick it onto plastic-coated freezer paper by ironing it. This also changes the way normal paint behaves, especially when colours are merged or I use the wet-in wet technique as a background.
At the time of writing (February 2017) I am about to try gelli plate printing and heat-mouldable foam stamping, so watch this space!