How to make your own playsilks!
Since my kids were very little, playsilks (classic Waldorf toys) have been a big hit. They’ve functioned as everything from superhero capes, to playscapes and tent building supplies. I love that they are open ended, made from natural materials and that they encourage children use their imaginations. One year we even made them as gifts for all of our friends!
Playsilks can be purchased ready made (Sara’s Silks https://www.sarahssilks.com) but they are usually pretty pricey. Luckily, they are super easy to make on your own! There are many methods and techniques out there for dying playsilks (for example with Kool aid, fabric die and so on).
I’ve tried them all. Here is what works the best!
I have found that the following method produces the longest lasting and most vibrant colors.
Here’s what you’ll need:
Get at least a gallon of it if you plan on making several scarves. I usually keep a few gallons on hand, just so that I don’t run out. It’s cheap and easy to get in the grocery store (look near the distilled water).
Good quality food coloring
I like to use gel color, and in particular this brand:
A medium size pot
Optional: rubber gloves to protect hands from dye
White Habotai Scarves
I like to use a variety of sizes. There are many different sizes available. Here are a few examples:
This website is also a good source for plain silk scarves (you will just have to pay shipping):
Rubber bands (if you want a marbled/ tie-die effect)
Wash your scarves in warm/ hot water. I just toss mine in the washing machine with regular detergent. Or you could wash by hand, but you must wash them. I skipped this step once, and the color didn’t stick nearly as well. You can dry them too, but it’s not necessary.
Heat up a pot of 1/2 parts white vinegar, 1/2 parts water (I usually use about 1 cup of each). Then add a generous amount of food coloring, in the color of your choice. I usually heat mine to boiling (or nearly boiling).
Make the magic happen:
Gently add one of your scarves to the hot mixture. I like to swirl them around with a whisk to ensure uniform color. I usually turn down the heat and let it sit in there for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove your playsilk from the pot and place in the sink. Rub it under cool water, rinsing until the water runs clear (or nearly clear).
Then, to seal in the color even more I like to run my (wet) scarves through the dryer on a hot setting. They should be dry within just a few minutes.
They will come out wrinkled, and perhaps not as “silky” as you’d hoped for. Luckily a quick once-over with a hot iron easily changes this! Sometimes it helps to use the steam setting on your iron.
Play and enjoy!
While solid colored playsilks are a lot of fun and have many uses, you can easily create even more intricate ones with there methods!
For a marbled look, before placing it in the die bath, scrunch up sections of your scarf and secure with rubber bands. I especially like to do this when dying a scarf blue because it produces an effect that resembles clouds and sky.
To get a classic tie-die spiral, first die your scarf one solid light color (I like to use yellow). Then rinse, lay the wet scarf flat and pinch the middle. Holding onto the middle, begin to twist and rotate the fabric until you have a circle/ disk like shape. Secure the disk by wrapping several rubber bands around it. Then place in a darker color dye bath (as described above). I like to use dark blues and or vibrant rich greens. Let it soak for a few minutes, remove from hot water, cut off rubber bands, rinse and dry.
Rainbow (or multicolored) silks seem daunting, but they are actually very doable too.
Starting with red dye (for example), dip just one end of your scarf into the dye bath. let it sit for a while, and then rinse with cool water. Miix up another batch of die bath in the next color you’d like to use, for example orange). Then dip the next section into that color. It’s even okay if the two colors overlap a bit, as this gives it a nice blended look.
Sometimes I like to mix up smaller batches of die for this purpose. I just use mason jars and then lower them into a larger pot of hot water (see pic).
A word of WARNING: Be SURE to turn off the burner on your stove before attempting to dip sections of your scarf into the pot (and leaving other sections out). Chances are that sections of it will drape over the side, and they can catch fire, easily. I speak from experience!
Lastly, the issue paper method can be a neat way for making unique playsilks too. Using this special tissue paper you can get some really neat looks:
Simply lay down some cardboard (or use a surface that you don’t care about getting messy). Then lay down some sheets of this "bleeding" tissue paper. It’s fun to use a variety of colors. Next, lay your scarf on top of the paper and cover the top with more tissue paper. Take care that the colors on top correspond with the colors on the bottom.
Then, using a spray bottle, generously spray the whole thing with white vinegar. Really soak it!
Allow it to sit and dry for at least ten minutes. The rinse under cold water, dry and iron.
Then, create a fun way to store you silks, play and enjoy!
That's all for today, thanks for stopping by!
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