Garden Club Ladies get creative!

Garden Club of Oak Park & River Forest > Study Group/Work Shops > Garden Club Ladies get creative!

Since mid-March weather prevented us from eagerly digging in our gardens, eleven members of the Garden Club enjoyed a creative and fun-filled afternoon painting our own silk scarves. Karen Snow, an experienced silk artist and teacher, introduced us to the fine art of silk painting at our March study group in a member’s home. You can see some of Karen’s work at her website:
Karen first showed us the silk cocoon and explained the process of making cloth from its fine fibers. We each handled the cocoons and the raw unwoven “silk cap” to feel the texture of unprocessed silk. Next we saw and felt various weights and types of woven silk cloth. After learning about the simple process of using bamboo brushes to paint with heat-set dyes, we were ready to try it ourselves.

Karen Snow of Silk for All Seasons introduces the Garden Club to silk painting.
Karen Snow of Silk for All Seasons introduces the Garden Club to silk painting.

Karen assured us that we couldn’t really make a “mistake.” As we brushed on the dyes, the colors would blend and bleed into each other in a pleasing way, and would lighten as they dried. We also could use salt on the wet scarves, which would absorb and then release the dyes into delightful sprinkles of muted color.

photo by Lisa C
Marilyn and Sheri paint silk scarves.

We were all eager to experience this process, so as a “warm-up” project we quickly painted small silk sachet bags, which Karen later filled with fragrant lavender flowers. It was rewarding to watch the dyes spread and merge on the silk bags. Most of us used just 2 or 3 colors in random patterns as our first experiment, and the results were lovely.
This successful first project gave us confidence to experiment with bolder patterns and more colors on our larger scarves. Painting the top layer of the folded scarves created a duplicate image on the bottom layer as the dye settled through the cloth. Thus the ends of the scarf appear matched when worn.

The creative and eager ladies painted flowers, paisleys, stripes, geometrics as well as some rather indescribable shapes in bright colors onto the wet cloth. And just a few minutes later, magically, the scarves all became lustrous, sheer and beautiful when dried and smoothed with a hot iron. Even our “mistakes” were transformed into unique and attractive points of interest.

The process was so rewarding that almost everyone painted a second scarf, and one of our more artistic members, Bobbie, created a third. We were all so enchanted with our works of art that some of the ladies who originally planned to give theirs away as gifts, decided to keep them instead!

photo by Lisa C
Sue, Gayle, Elaine, Carol, Shirley and Bobbie show off their new scarves.