This tutorial tries to show you how to make your own silk paper ( also known as silk fusion or silk felt). Silk paper is very pretty and extremely versatile, I use silk paper in felt, in books or paintings and I like to embroider on it. (The stiff paper can be softened by first wetting it to remove starchiness.)
Once you’ve got all the elements together, silk paper is easy to make and you can determine the size and shape of your paper. Just make sure your netting is slightly more than double the size, so that you can fold it over and around the drafted silk fibres to make a sandwich.
Sari silk slivers are the perfect fibres for making silk papers easily at home. You can also use silk waste, silk hankies, superfine merino yarn. Add embellishments from nature such as dried flowers, lavender and leaves.
Handmade silk papers make great gift tags, journal covers and insets for all textile projects.
- Wallpaper paste or CMC medium
- 20 grams sari silk sliver
- Silk hankie known as mawata
- Mulberry silk threads
- 1gm superfine Merino wool tops
- 2 plastic sheets
- 2 pieces of netting
- Sheet of silicone paper
- 2 Clothes pegs to hang sheets to dry
- Dried flowers and leaves– optional
Mix up wallpaper paste according to instructions: stir thoroughly and leave to stand while you prepare working area.
De-clutter your table top or work surface and lay down newspapers or flat towel, as it gets wet and messy! A couple of layers of newspaper, covered by plastic to protect the floor—this is a really messy, gluey technique, so be sure to use the plastic. Over the plastic is a layer of plastic screening. I cut mine in a couple of sizes: some that’s slightly larger than letter sized paper, and some that are about the size of a quarter sheet or a little larger. The larger pieces are for full sheets of paper, and the smaller ones are for little accent pieces. I like the raggedy edges of these papers, so I tend to make them to size rather than making them large and cutting them down.
Top tip. Make samples first!
Make some samples first using different layers and techniques.
Always make a few samples first before embarking on major production.
Start laying out the silk fibres
Start laying out the silk fibers on the net. Gently pull drafts of silk about 3 inches or 7 cms from hanks of Sari silk slivers and lay down in horizontal overlapping rows. Leave a margin of 1 inch or 2-3 cms around margins of netting. You can mix in other fibres such as superfine merino or flax. Experiment!
Lay down a second layer of silk fibres in a vertical direction. Carefully check for gapping using your flattened palm. Add extra fibres to weak spots and gaps. Keep checking!
Place second layer of net on top of project and dampen the project with weak cool soapy water solution. Adding a drop of liquid soap to the water helps the absorption by the fibres. Don’t add the wallpaper paste just yet.
After wetting the project and pressing down through the net or mesh, carefully pull back the netting without catching stray wisps of silk. Check project again for any weak areas and add more fibres, if necessary.
At this stage you can add embellishments such additional threads, silk hankies and dried flowers and leaves. Press gently into the project and add a few wisps of silk fibres or superfine merino to hold them in place.
When you are happy with arrangement, replace the top layer of net/mesh over the project and start the felting process. Be gentle and press downwards to begin with, so as not to dislodge fibres. This is not a Swedish sports massage!
The fun part begins when you start to gently massage the paste into the fibres, encouraging them to cohere into a unified sheet of silk paper. Allow about 10 minutes.
Dip a small sponge, or use your hands, into the wallpaper paste and apply the paste smoothly and evenly through the netting onto the project. The more paste you use, the stiffer the paper, which is useful for making 3D projects like silk paper bowls and lamp shades. For a softer finish, water down the paste. Important to make test samples first.
Fold the netting over and cover the silk in glue using the sponge. Turn over carefully to also rub in the other side of your work. The silk has to be soaked completely: the parts which still need some glue are lighter in colour.
You’re pushing down with the paste, because it has to get all the way through the fibres. Cover the top completely—you can sort of see your fibres flatten out and get shiny as they accept the paste. When all the fibres look nice and wet, flip the whole screen and fiber sandwich over, and repeat the paste smooshing from the other side. It doesn’t have to be soaking wet, but all the fibres do have to be gluey.
When the fibers are all wet with glue, peel off one layer of screen, leaving the fibers on one layer. This is important: the layer of screen remaining will leave a slight grid pattern on the finished paper. If you like this, and want it to be the front side of your paper, make sure that it’s against the remaining screen. If you don’t like it, make sure the finished face of your paper is not against the screen.
Allow it to dry completely before you remove the netting, so you don’t pull the sheet apart. Peg it out to dry on a washing line on a fine, dry day or lay flat in warm indoor space. If the drying takes too long you can speed up the process with a hairdryer. My preferred method is to gently steam press through silicone paper, folded around the silk paper. Like a sandwich.
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