how to create a watercolor/spatter effect on silk chiffon for a prom dress

Name: Mary


Jacquard tie dye kit

Jacquard Tie Dye Kit

Dye up to 15 adult-size T-shirts, with vivid, electric colors that are so colorfast they can be washed with the daily laundry.



Jacquard dye-na-flow fabric colors

Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow Fabric Colors

Dye-Na-Flow is a free-flowing textile paint made to simulate dye. Great on any untreated natural or synthetic fiber.


Jacquard lumiere colors

Jacquard Lumiere Colors
Fabric Paint

Lumiere is a paint that makes excellent metallic and pearl colors on fabric.


Country: US

Message: I'd like to create a watercolor/spatter effect on silk chiffon for a prom dress.  What do you recommend?  I assume I'll need to dye about 6 yards.  If the dye is thin enough, I'll use an insecticide sprayer to apply it.  Blurring is fine, even desirable.

There are lots of possibilities, because silk is very easy to dye. The very easiest for a beginning dyer would be to get a good tie-dye kit, such as the Jacquard Products or Tulip brand tie-dyeing kits, and pretty much follow the instructions. With the Jacquard kit, you presoak the fabric in soda ash solution until it is saturated, then remove it from the bucket, squeeze out as much as is practical of the excess water, and spread the fabric out, either on a large plastic painter's dropcloth, or outside on the grass. Mix up the dyes as recommended—if there are any clumps of dye, stir them longer, and then filter througha coffee filter in a strainer—and then put them in a nice pump sprayer bottle like these Pump Pressure Spray Bottles from Dharma Trading Company. You could use the insecticide sprayer, too, if it's really clean. Well-dissolved dye is very thin. Wear a face mask or respirator while spraying, to avoid breathing in any fine droplets of dye; it's best to work outside, since stray droplets of dye are very good at ruining carpets and furnishings. After applying the dye, cover the fabric with plastic, so it doesn't dry out, and bring it into a warm place, 70°F or higher, overnight. The next day you can wash the excess dye out, using the hottest water the fabric can tolerate, and then drying it. It will be wonderful for sewing your prom dress. The advantage of using the Procion MX type of dyes that are found in all the good tie-dye kits (but unfortunately not the Rit brand tie-dye kit) is that no heat-setting is necessary.

(Here's a picture of a cotton t-shirt I dyed with the spray technique, using leaves as stencils, and here's the description of how I did it.)

Silk can also be dyed with acid dyes, which are named for the fact that they are used with a mild acid, such as diluted vinegar. You replace the soda ash in the above recipe with diluted vinegar, and the Procion MX dyes with acid dyes, or even all-purpose dye such as Rit, but then after applying the dye, you let it dry in the fabric, and then wrap it in layer upon layer of unprinted newsprint paper, and then steam it to set the dye. This is obviously more trouble than the tie-dye kit technique.

There are a number of different fabric paints that you can use, instead of dye, if you prefer. This simplifies matters by removing the need for steam-setting. Most fabric paints must be heat-set, but with dry heat, instead of the moist steam heat required by acid dyes. You can set the dye in the fabric by ironing it with a hot iron, which is much easier than steaming, though it may take a while to iron six yards. You can dilute the paints a little for spraying (add up to one-quarter as much water for fabric paints made by Jacquard Products), and, for watercolor effect, you can moisten the silk with water before spraying on the fabric paint.

Quality is very important in selecting your dyes. Avoid any sort of "puffy" or "slick" or "dimensional" fabric paint. You want only a very thin fabric paint, such as Dye-Na-Flow, which is a fabric paint made to be thin, like dye, or Lumiere, which includes some fantastic metallic and pearlescent colors that would give wonderful effects. Both Dye-Na-Flow and Lumiere are made by Jacquard Products. You might be able to find these dyes at your local crafts store; if not, order them from a mail-order crafts supplier such as Blick Art Materials, Mister Art, or Dharma Trading Company.

You may want to buy an extra yard or two, in case the silk gets a tiny hole in it on some part from all the washing. Be sure to be 100% real silk, not polyester. You can buy a silk-spandex blend, if you wish, if you're using either fabric paint or the tie-dye kit method.

I often receive questions about how to dye a ready-made prom dress or wedding dress, but your approach, dyeing the fabric before sewing the dress, is much wiser. You need have no worries about shrinkage, and you can be absolutely sure about the fiber content of your fabric. If you have difficulties buying suitable silk for dyeing, check out the selection online at either the Silk Connection (which is a division of the same company as Jacquard Products) or at Dharma Trading Company. They sell fabrics that you can be sure are 100% dyeable and free of any finishes or treatments that can interfere with dyeing. However, if you find some 100% real silk fabric locally, I believe it will dye up very nicely. Remember to prewash your fabric before dyeing or painting it.

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Posted: Wednesday - March 31, 2010 at 11:24 AM          

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