Watercolour Play Silks

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Play silks are such a nourishing and great open ended resource synonymous with play in Waldorf Education, but they can be expensive.

Last year I successfully dyed some cheesecloth with natural kitchen ingredients, and so this year ordered some silks to do the same. When doing my spring planning and thinking of ways I could extend the little ones experience with paint and colour, painting on silk was a natural fit, as the paint when applied to silk acts pretty much in the same way paint does on wet on wet paper.

These silks haven’t been tested for colourfastness, but testing some watercolour mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar rand using in much the same way worked well, so I am expecting similar results, leaving the silks as long as you can before washing will improve their colourfastness.

What you will need:

  1. A candle (to set the tone of the activity)

  2. Watercolour paints, any will do but we used Stockmar. If your child is doing this choosing one or two colours only might be more appropriate for their stage of development. Yellow and Blue are great colours to start with.

  3. Any kind of white vinegar, around 1/2 teaspoon per colour.

  4. Silk, pre hemmed into scarves or bought by the metre and cut, you can hem them yourself with a rolled hem.

  5. An Iron.

Firstly set the tone of the activity. Put an apron on your child, or even an old T-Shirt to cover their clothes, my little one here wears one of her brothers old T-Shirts! let your child feel the silk as you lay in on the table and smooth it out. I made a rookie error of not pressing mine first - please do press it with a cool iron to get rid of those harsh distracting lines and creases. Be mindful that the colour will soak through the silk so you may want a protective table cloth for example.

Get the colours ready, along with water for washing and a cloth to dab excess water on. The more colour and less excess water on the silk the stronger the end result will be! Once we were ready I sang a little verse.

Silk so soft, silk so light, absorb these paints and colours so bright.
Silk so beautiful, silk so free, show Rainbow of colour to me.

Imitation greatly helps the young child, so if you sit alongside them and paint one yourself, allow yourself to get into your work and you will soon notice how much your child can become deeply involved in theirs.

Once done hang your silks to dry on a line or flat in the sunshine, if you want to experiment a little twist them tight and allow them to dry - you will get some beautiful effects, almost like water and waves as the colour settles into creases.

Once dry press the silks with a cool iron, make sure you don’t use steam at this point - you want heat to set the colour.

Leave them as long as you can before washing, and hand wash on a cool wash before Line drying, again ironing afterward. Be mindful the colours may run a little their first wash so keep them separate from any lights.

I hope you have fun with this. If your silks fade for any reason! Don’t despair, think of them as transient art and paint them again for the next season!

Share your makes! I would love to see them

K x

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