Friday, February 3, 2012

Steaming Silk in Interfacing; Sheep Painting After Steaming

I steamed the sheep silk painting this morning using a different method for rolling the silk than I normally do. For years I have been rolling in framers paper, 2 sheets of paper between each painting and then a final piece around the whole roll to protect from it drips in the horizontal steamer. I do it a little differently for the vertical bullet steamer but will save that for another post.

There has been a lot of chat on the Silk Painters International (SPIN) Facebook Page about how people roll their silk to steam it. The discussion reminded me of a time when I had used interfacing to roll my silk in for steaming. I was commissioned to do some large paintings for a magician and stage actor to use in his stage shows.The paintings were too large to steam in my horizontal steamer but there were a lot of paintings in the order so I bought a bullet or vertical steamer. My framers paper roll was too small to roll the big paintings so I started asking around and found out that a lot of my friends that had actually studied fiber arts in collage had been taught to roll the silk in interfacing for the steaming process. The idea being that it was more gentle and flexible than the paper which can be ridged and cause wrinkles, and because it is a non-woven synthetic interfacing the dyes simply would not adhere to it and bleed. You can just keep using it over and over again and throw it in the washer when needed. You can sew pieces together to get the size you want, the sewing part is easier if you wash it first to soften it up. Also be sure that you do not buy fuseable or heat bond interfacing. You want just the old fashioned sew-in kind with some weight to it, not the really thin stuff.

I still added a piece of paper as the final wrap around the bundle to protect from drips. It may not be necessary but I wasn't in the mood to find out on this painting.

Loading the silk painting wrapped in interfacing and an outer layer of paper into the steamer

After 2 hours of steaming the painting came out of the steamer damp but in excellent condition

When I washed the painting the dye was extremely well set and there was very little surface dye coming of in the water. After washing I rolled it in a white towel and there was not staining from unstruck surface dye.

The wet painting drying on the line after washing, waiting to be ironed.


  1. Respect,
    My name is Goca. I am from small country Serbia. I started to use colors of Germany producer C-KREUL, name of colors is AVANTGARDE. I started to use them about one month ago, and I have a lot of trouble to fix them with steam. On them write that they need 3 hours to steaming so I tried too steam them on heat of 100 degree of Celsius it is about 180 degree F, for 3 hours, but my tube was very wet. I tried to let steam go out through one small hole and tube was dry but colors drop, so I do not know what too do. I try many different ways, like lover temperature, less time for steaming, but no results.What do you think, if silk is thinner, do I need less time for steaming, or if silk is thicker, do I need more time for steaming?

    1. It sounds like you are not getting your silk up to a high enough temperature. It needs to be at 212F degrees for 2-3 hours for the French dyes on silk. If there are temp fluctuations you may need to steam longer. The larger the roll of fabric, the more time is needed because the steam must penetrate to the center of the roll. Try visiting the Silk Painters International (SPIN) group on Facebook, there are members from all over the world on that group and they love to help new members. You may find someone that is familiar with the type of dye you are using. Here is the link:
      Best of Luck!

  2. Hello Linda,

    I came across your blog post while searching for steaming with interfacing. I was advised by a friend of this process as well but so far have been unsuccessful in steaming my silks with interfacing (I was told that interfacing is also known as pellon).

    Can you please advise of the type of interfacing that is best suited to steaming? I purchased a non-fusible (sew-in) black interfacing from our local Fabricland prior to finding your post on the web. It is unfortunately the very thin kind that you recommend against using. I have tried steaming with only the silk and one layer of interfacing or silk sandwiched between a layer of interfacing on either side but did not get steamed silks. I think the steam did not penetrate through my silk bundles at all when I used only interfacing.

    The only successful steaming I have had used one layer of newsprint below my silk and one layer of interfacing above the silk (and this was on silk chiffon). Any silk crepe / crepe de chines I have tried steaming did not steam at all. This leads me to believe that I am using the wrong type of interfacing or using it incorrectly. The process you described above seems fairly simple and I would really like to be able to steam with interfacing as the regular steamings use so much newsprint which all goes to the garbage after. Can you please provide some details on the type of interfacing you used (weight, type etc - something that I can take back to Fabricland and search for the item)?

    Your help is much appreciated.

    1. You want just the old fashioned white sew-in kind with some weight to it, not the really thin stuff

  3. Do you think I could use polyester batting (high loft) instead of interfacing? The batting is more open and airy and would allow more air transfer? Let me know what you think...if you think it would work?


    1. I think the steam might melt the polyester batting and when you rolled it tightly in paper it would be pressed flat so it would not be fluffy.