Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Steaming Silk

Someone asked me how I steam my scarves. I have to say that steaming is the necessary evil in the whole process as far as I'm concerned. I enjoy planning the piece, sketching out a design and then seeing it come to fruition. Often the design and especially the details change as I go along. Sometimes I find that colors are too similar when next to each other when I wanted them to be more different, so I make changes. Sometimes I'm find that a background works better darker or after an initial wash takes on swirls that look interesting and I keep it. Sometimes I make a mistake and have to cover it up with a flower-- leading to other flowers-- even a field of them!

I love how the scarves take on a deeper, richer color after steaming, some colors that seemed similar when I painted them on take on more unique characteristics on silk.
But, the process of steaming I put off as long as I can. How do I do it? I lay out newspaper (at least a couple months old) on the floor, overlapping the sections so that it's really two pages thick. I then lay (as flat as possible) the scarves over the paper. Usually, I can get three scarves down (without risk of them touching each other). Then more paper on top of that-- two layers overlapped (three layers in critical spots right over the scarves. Then more scarves. I put one more lay of paper on that and roll them up as tightly as possible. Usually I recruit one of the men in my life to help me with that.

After it's rolled up in a long tube, I tape it so that it doesn't unroll. Then I roll that whole things up like a big snail. That definitely takes hand strength which I don't have. Arthitis doesn't help. Anyway, I steam it all in a spaghetti pot. I put water into the bottom and put in the steam basket. A small plate fits in the bottom, the snail on that (don't let it touch the sides). A larger (salad place) goes on top of that. I put the lid on, and cover it with kitchen towels to keep steam from escaping. Placing a heavy bowl over the top to keep it all in place. Bring water to a low boil and leave it for about 2 hours. Don't let water boil away (did this once, I'll tell you about it some time).

Dharma has some directions on how to do this process (with illustrations).

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