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My Gather & Prep Processes For Reclaiming Silks Part 3 of 3 Cutting Time!

Part 3 of 3 Cutting Time 

Taking apart silk items for use in art projects

So in my previous 2 posts .... I've found some used silks, I decided that they will work for my purposes, I bought them, brought them home, cleaned them, and put them into storage. Now I want to use them!   

7) First (of course), I decide which silk(s) I want to use.  And then you have to decide how you want to use them... or perhaps you should decide how you want to use them first AND THEN decide which silks to use!  Either way, you need to pick out the silk(s) you want to use!

8) Your options for how to use the silks are probably limited only by your imagination... but here's part of my decision process:
        Shirt was dyed using    

  • You could of course, simply paint or dye the item as it currently exists! I have done that to a few things so I have some fun silk clothes to wear - in colors that work with my personal wardrobe!  

               Pile of cut-up silk                   
  • Or perhaps you don't have a plan, you just want to have some silk on hand - ready to paint. This is often my choice - because I like having silk ready to paint upon whenever the mood strikes me!

  • Or perhaps you know how you want to use the silk.  For the purposes of this example,  I am going to say that I am planning on creating a mid-sized painting of 11" long by 14" wide when completed and mounted.                                                                                     When painting on recycled silks, I like to make sure I have at least an inch surrounding the painting size.  So for this painting, I will need a piece of silk at least 12" long by 15" wide.    (In reality, I prefer several inches of spare-silk all around because sometimes I mount my paintings by wrapping them around a gallery-wrap canvas).  So now it's time to take a look at the silk items I might want to use.  15 inches is a pretty long, so it is important to make sure the silk item I am choosing to use, will be able to accommodate that size! (I prefer to paint on silk with no seams involved so for the purposes of this example, I will be looking for a piece of silk that is 12"x15" with no seams in that piece.    

From the front pictures of the silk shirt I am using for this demo, you can see that the length is long enough (over 15 inches) but the width is not.  There is not only pleating (which is hard to open without tearing the silk!), but there is also a button-front opening so the front section of silk (while interesting) is not appropriate for a 12"x15" piece.   BUT turn the shirt over and it's one nice, big (unmarked and no-seams) section of silk!  PERFECT size-wise!!  (in reality, I probably won't paint on this shirt since it's already intensely- colored a bright, magenta-pink.  But I may end up using it to make some new bowls or sculptures from!!  That pleating is just begging to be used in some way!!!).

9) When I do decide I want to use a silk item, I then take that item apart - cutting carefully around the seams.  -TIP-  Normally it is a better practice to tear silk rather than to cut silk because most silk tears beautifully-nice and straight along the weft or warp.  I used to tear the silks along the seams because silk does tear so beautifully - but I learned the hard way, that tearing silks along the seams can lead to major silk damage!   Many items manufactured from silk have NOT been sewn along the weft or warp. This means that if you try tearing along a seam, the silk will tear and follow the seam for a while, but then randomly start tearing along the weft or warp ...most likely in the opposite direction from where you were hoping it would go.  In other words, you may end up with 2 small pieces of silk instead of 1 lovely, larger-sized one! (yes, this has happened to - more times than I care to admit!!).  Now I am much more careful about looking closely at the warp and weft before deciding to tear or to cut.  Cutting guarantees you will be harvest the biggest-possible pieces of silk from the used items you have obtained!                                                                                                                                                                                                                         This is oddly, one of my favorite parts of utilizing used silk items!! I really enjoy the process of taking apart silks for use.  The first time I did it, I used a long-sleeve shirt and was amazed at how much usable silk I was able to gather!  Let's take a look at the pink silk shirt.  The front is a crap-shoot... those pleats will mean HOURS of seam-ripping if I decide I want to use that silk flat.  BUT if I use the pleats as-is.. then the processing becomes a lot easier. 

Picture 6
FYI, I usually leave the seams on one of the sections of silk.  I do this because I of the way I stretch my silk for painting - I use pins and hems are nice and strong... which means that the silk will pull without tearing or having large pin-holes where the pins are.  But if you plan on painting the silk - be aware that hems and seams are multiple layers of fabric and tend to absorb a LOT of paint...which means that when the rest of the silk has dried, they may still be wet - which can lead to bleed-back (and that is typically considered unattractive!). 

Picture 6 shows the front-left side (with the pleats) cut off, the collar removed, the sleeve removed and opened, and the cuff removed.  

Picture 7 - Reclaiming complete!

Picture 7 shows the shirt-disectomy has been completed.  I now have a nice selection of silk pieces which are ready for me to use! 

From this shirt, I was able to get 1 large piece of silk (the back piece), 2 medium pieces of silk (the sleeves), 2 medium pieces of silk with pleats (the 2 front pieces), the collar, the yoke, and 2 cuffs.   Not a bad haul!!

So which parts will I use and which parts will I throw out??  

TRICK QUESTION!  I use everything!!  Cuffs, collars, yokes, button-tracts, all are used for testing dyes for painting.... and then often turned into bookmarks, greeting cards, or if too small...handed off to an artist who uses them with her felting.  The back, front, and sleeves are all used to make small, medium, or larger art pieces.  I will admit that this does limit the size of artwork I am creating, but I have plans for how to make larger art pieces... and will probably be posting on that later! 

And what will I be doing with these bright-pink silk pieces??  Well perhaps a bit of dyeing, or a bit of painting.  And then most definitely, a large bit of resin-ing (probably not a word!).. resin application?  


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