Tutorial by Judy Gula

Sheets of completed silk paper

I am hooked on creating silk paper (pictured here, top). So crazy am I that I had pounds of silk hand dyed to support my habit, and yours!

You don’t have the silk paper habit yet? Read on...

While in Houston for the International Quilt Festival/Houston one year, my good friend and renowned mixed media and textile artist/author Liz Kettle demonstrated a silk paper-making technique during her time in the Cloth Paper Scissors “Open Studio” presentation.

That day we had several converts who immediately ran to purchase a silk pack, stencil brush and textile medium to make their own silk paper.

For those not lucky enough to be present, I was asked to post this tutorial on how to create this beautiful textile.

The following is the method that I was taught and use. I am sure there are other options, comments, and recommendations — contact us with your feedback.

Supplies for making silk paper

Step One:

Gather your materials:

  • Silk roving and/or silk hankie in desired colors
  • Jo Sonja Textile Medium (Jo Sonja is the brand I use and recommend; you may substitute a similar textile medium)
  • Stencil brush (note that while any brush will work, I recommend using a stencil brush or Paintstik brushes — these have firm bristles that really work the medium into the silk)
  • A pan that has a lip on it — you will use liquid in this process, and want to contain it (for my demonstration and photography purposes, I have used a disposable aluminum cake pan)
  • Netting or tulle
  • 2 small jars
Using netting or tulle to contain the silk fibers

Step Two:

Cut a piece of netting that is the length of the pan and twice the width of the pan. Lay the netting on the bottom of the pan, one layer deep. Drape the remaining tulle (should be again the width of the pan) to one side [see photo].

Place the silk roving and or hankie thinly on the netting. Gently pull the silk fibers apart and place them in even layers, mixing colors and types as desired.

If you like, at this time you can trap some sequins, threads, fiber scraps, etc. in the silk. Just make sure that you have covered some portion of these extras with light wisps of silk roving, which will help your embellishments stick to the finished paper.

Fold the netting over the top of the silk in the pan. Doing so will keep the next step from pulling the silk up and out of the pan!

Step Three:

Dry silk fibers arranged on netting

In one of the jars, mix a drop of liquid dish detergent with water. Your solution should be mostly water — just a drop of detergent is needed.

In the second jar, create a mixture of textile medium and water. Your one rule of thumb is that you can’t use less than 50% textile medium in your mixture, or your silk paper sheet won’t stay together.

Consider the final use of your silk paper. If you want something with a bit of stiffness, increase your percentage of textile medium. Conversely, the greater the percentage of water, the softer your finished paper will be.

First, use the liquid soap and water solution to wet the fibers through the net, using the brush to work it in. Be rough, not dainty...silk is a very strong fiber! You want all the silk fibers to be wet, but not soaking or puddled.

Next, work in the textile medium with the brush. I have been known to flip the silk over and work both sides. Work the materials for five (5) minutes.

Making silk paper with textile medium

If desired, add additional embellishments to your fiber sheet. I often incorporate the following:

“Trap” any such additions by including some of the silk fiber over and under it, and ensure that they are also saturated with the textile medium.

Step Four:

Carefully remove the silk paper from the pan and then hang the piece — with the netting still on — in a way that air can circulate both sides in order to dry quicker.

Use a drip pan or line with newspaper underneath the hanging silk paper/net so the floor doesn’t get wet — this stuff doesn’t come up with soap and water... ask me how I know!

When your silk paper is thoroughly dry, the netting will peel right off.

Step Five:

Use in a fiber or mixed media project!