Saturday, 19 May 2012

Silk Paper

Over on the Felting and Fiber Forum, we've been discussing silk paper recently. It started when Pam showed us this gorgeous silk vase  and then a beautiful silk box made from delicate silk hankies, threads and angelina fibres. Then Karen was inspired to try making silk paper and after finding some silks work better with different methods made some gorgeous pieces. Once the hard work had been done ;) I thought I'd give it a go too.
I decided to just jump in and try it with spray starch. I'd read a few years ago that it was possible to make silk paper by spraying a layer of silk fibres with starch, adding another layer of silk fibres and spraying that, then covering with baking parchment and ironing until it was dried. Well, it's almost that easy. It's hard to get the spray starch onto the fibres without blowing them away, so it takes a bit of practice to get the spray to 'drizzle'. I found it helpful to spray first, so I got an old piece of cotton cloth and layed it onto brown parcel paper, sprayed the cloth with starch, added a layer of silk, drizzled then sprayed starch onto that, then added more silk, more starch, then covered with another layer of cloth, another piece of parcel paper and ironed. The results were mostly really good. A few times, the layers wanted to separate, but I then had two layers of finer silk paper.
This is 2 layers of mulberry silk:

This piece is 2 layers of mulberry silks and tussah silks. I tried to make it two sided. This is the front:

And this is the back:

This is also two layers of mulberry and tussah silks:

And this piece is made up of two layers of fluffed up mulberry and tussah silks, silk throwsters waste and silk hankies:

This is one layer:

This is from one of the first pieces I made. The layers of tussah silk and dyed mulberry silks separated, so I was left with a layer of mulberry silk (which I used on another piece) and a piece of honey coloured tussah silk paper with subtle colours from the mulberry silk dyes staining it. This is the piece before felting, with the silk paper cut into a few shapes:

And this is how it looked after felting:

It kept the shapes really well, even the wispy tufty bits from around the edges.

I'm hoping to try the wallpaper paste method soon. I recently got the book 'Handmade Silk Paper' by Kath Russon, recommended to me by Lyn from Rosiepink. All I need to do is actually start reading it instead of just drooling over the pictures :)
Have you made silk paper or paper from any other fibres? Do you use it in felting or something else? I'd loved to hear about it or see photos.


  1. Great experiments Zed - looking forward to seeing more :)

  2. I have nade several pieces of silk paper many years ago when I was papermaking, and used methyl cellulose as the medium, also have used an acrylic matte medium and made vessels and a cast mask, very rewarding and I still have several pieces of flat silk paper which I will try and embed into felt...
    It is very fun and very fly away...

  3. I make silk paper and teach it to my beginning students to use in their nuno felt designs. I use non aerosol spray starch, and parchment paper. I mostly do one good layer, as double layers tended to separate. But as you pointed out, then you have two whispy pieces of silk paper. However, I like your ideas of wetting the cloth to start, and wetting between layers, and will try those for sure. Thanks for a very helpful post.

  4. I saw the demo of silk paper while I was in England. My tutor used sort of wall paper substance (disolve in water make it starch look). I also bought the book Handmade Silk Paper too. I read all over but didn't try yet since addicted to wool felt. You reminded me to have a go. I thought making a vessel for candle light will be GREAT look.
    Thanks for sharing this. Have a nice weekend

  5. I did one project with silk paper
    and I thought it looked rather pretty, but yours looks more 'anchored' than mine was. I fear that the recipient (it was a gift) found that the pieces peeled off after some use.
    Have you found a way around this, or did I just not felt them long enough? XXO--

  6. Thanks a lot Ruth, Cedar, Arlene, Terrie and Heather :)

    I haven't tried the methyl cellulose/wallpaper paste method yet, the starch one was messy enough :)

    Your wine bottle carrier looks really good, Heather :)
    The white piece I did here was mostly one layer-with a few wisps crossing, and it felted well. I tried some of my thicker pieces and some did take a while to felt, they were slimy blobs for a while :)

    It gave weird shrinkage too, I think it needs more experimenting to see which types make double layers and why it shrinks so weirdly.

  7. I used Golden Textile medium to make Wool roving papers,, and also some silk papers along with bamboo, tencel, and soy silk, I would like to try the wallpaper paste method with silk, and felt them into wool. I love the felted silk "squares" on wool on your other post.

    1. Thanks for your comment, I just looked at them, they all turned out great. I loved the results of your dyeing too. I was really surprised ho well my silk squares turned out, I was convinced they'd go all over the place during felting :)