Making Silk Paper and Beginning a New Landscape

Making Silk Paper and Beginning a New Landscape

Having sold one of my larger pieces in the gallery, I had a request for a new large nuno felted landscape similar to The First Leaf. So if you are reading along and think that you are having deja vu, it is because this piece will be very similar, just a larger size. The new piece will be 19″ x 33″ and will use the same nuno background used in The First Leaf which is only 14″ x 18.5″. The first step was to make silk paper for the birch tree trunks. I had a little bit left in my stash but it was not big enough or long enough.

Silk paper birch trees laid out on netting and plastic with layers of white silk fiber and black accents.

Making silk paper is simple. You lay out silk fiber on to nylon netting, cover with another piece of nylon netting, wet down the silk and then paint on some type of acrylic medium. You are supposed to use fabric medium but I didn’t have any so I just used acrylic medium that I had. The photo above shows a portion of the layout of the white silk with black bits added on top. The nylon netting came in a roll so I could make a giant long piece of silk paper for my big birch tree.

Silk paper birch trees laid out on plastic with layers of white silk fiber and black accents and sandwiched between netting.

I made two lengths of silk paper. Here you can see one side laid out sandwiched between the nylon netting. The left side still needs black added. I actually think that the left side is not silk but perhaps viscose or other man made silk alternative. It didn’t feel exactly like silk but it was white and worked just as well as the real silk. I use up what I have before I buy more supplies, so other options of fiber will work for making paper.

Silk paper birch trees laid out on netting and plastic after being covered with acrylic medium.

Next you wet down the silk fiber sandwiched between the netting with soapy water. The soap helps to break the surface tension and allows the silk to accept the water more easily. You can spray it down or sponge it on, whichever works best for you. Once the silk is completely wet and there are no thicker, white spots left (air), then brush on acrylic medium mixed half and half with water. Flip the net and silk sandwich over and add acrylic medium to the other side too. Make sure the silk is thoroughly saturated with medium. Then peel off the top layer of netting and leave the silk paper to dry. You can hang it up to dry but take note that the water/acrylic medium will drip off and get on the floor if you hang it inside. I left mine flat to dry and it took a full day to dry.

Nuno felt background with birch tree silk paper trunks laid out.

I cut out my nuno felt background to size and played around with cutting the silk paper trees to different sizes to achieve some depth in the piece. These are the approximate layout that I came up with. Next on to stitching!


16 thoughts on “Making Silk Paper and Beginning a New Landscape

  1. Very useful Ruth, thanks for the quick silk paper making tutorial. I was trying to remember what I had done with my copy of “Take Silk” to remind myself how to do it. You’ve saved me the bother.
    Good that you’ve made a sale. Will we get a chance to see the finished new picture before you send it off?

    1. Thanks Ann, I am glad I could help. I am still working on it so I am sure you will see it again, perhaps several times 😁

  2. So that’s how you mimic birch trees! 😀 I must say the most interesting phase of the silk paper making process was before you added any top layers to the silk, because it made me think of giant spiderwebs (I know, it’s maybe a little creepy but for some reason I found it very fascinating imagining a family of nice spiders spinning away, enjoying their day… I’m weird, what can I say?…)

    Very happy for you on the sale!

    1. I like your spider thoughts, but I’m in the process of re-reading Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time and I’ve just got past Shelob – Errgh!

    2. Thanks Leonor,
      It is like spider 🕸️ even when you are laying it out. The family of spiders would be unhappy with the acrylic medium.

  3. Thanks for the reminder on silk paper. I have been using a cornstarch and water formula that seems to work, but results in a little texture when the piece is felted. Is that how the acrylic medium dries?

    1. You’re welcome, the acrylic medium silk paper doesn’t really allow wool fiber to penetrate. I always sew/applique the pieces down. The texture is smooth that way.

  4. The silk paper with the black bits mimics the bark of silver birch wonderfully. The layout of the new piece is looking good – the nuno felt background is gorgeous.

  5. Looking great Ruth and the foreground tree is showing more bark ‘blemishes’ nearer the base….so realistic!

    Your background – is it nuno prefelted so that the silk paper will simply be stitched in place rather than Felted in (the acrylic medium would not felt in surely!)?

    Looking forward to your next instalments.

    1. Thanks Antje, the lower bark blemishes were intentional, imagine that! 😉

      The nuno background is fully felted. I am stitching everything in place.

  6. It is great to see how you make the silk paper for your trees. I am looking forward to seeing the progress of this larger work.

    1. Thanks Marie, I made extra silk paper so I have it on hand. Very useful for my landscapes. Another installment coming soon.

  7. Your trees turned out great. I can’t wait to see the stitching. Congrats on the sale and request.

    I made silk paper years ago in a class and never really new what to do with it. I have done the spray starch silk paper so shapes could be cut and felted in with mixed results. It falls apart easily.
    I should try some birch. There is a lot of silver birch here. Is there a lot in Montana ( I think of it being all evergreens) or is it a memory from living somewhere else.

    1. Thanks Ann, the acrylic medium holds together much better but doesn’t felt. I have made book covers out of it and it is very sturdy if made correctly.

      Montana does have a lot of birch and Aspen. We also have evergreen trees in abundance.

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