Saturday, February 11, 2012

Silk Painting: Steaming Steam Set Dyes Using Bamboo Steamer

Your silk painting is not permanent until you "set" the color if you are using steam set dyes, this means actually steaming it.   If you do not set the dyes they will run. Before purchasing any dye or paint, make sure you know if they are steam set dyes or iron set. There are many ways to steam set your piece. Of course you can purchase a professional steamer but they are rather expensive and if you just have a few scarves to steam, you can easily make your own steamer.  One way is to get a large pot such as a stockpot and put a vegetable steamer inside. I usually do a demonstration during my silk painting classes showing how to steam set dyes using such a method, but another easy way is to use a Chinese bamboo steamer.
What’s great and easy about the bamboo steamers is they usually have two sections, so you can steam more than one piece at a time. I rolled my silk scarf on an old cotton sheet that I had cut a few inches larger than the piece. (You can also use Muslim or Kraft brown paper). I then folded the extra piece of fabric on the sides inwards and sealed my package with masking tape. It important that the fabric does not touch itself, or else the dye will transfer from one place to another.

I then placed one scarf package in the lower section of the steamer and one in the upper.

I added a sheet of new paper to go under and above my packages to catch any extra moisture. Place your steamer on a pot with about  ½ in of water.  Boil the water, then turn it down quickly to simmer. Make sure the water does not hit your piece!

As for the time needed to steam a piece, it varies. The lighter weight smaller pieces, you might get away with 45 min to an hour. But for crepe de chine or heavier I would recommend 2- 3 hours especially when you have used French dyes or jacquard dyes. The larger the piece the longer the time. Always check your pot to make sure the water hasn’t dried up and replenish with more if needed. 

After finished steaming I take my piece out and I rinse it to get rid of excess dyes with a softener like Downy. It also leaves your piece smelling nice and soft.

Then voila!  Your scarf is done and the colors are bright and gorgeous!