Monday, March 4, 2013

A Tutorial: How to Dye Your Own Playsilks

Wish you could hear us now. Ryan is yelling Bowie's "Five Years" in a horribly fake British accent, pounding through ukelele chords, and then I met him with the harmony. A night in our house. 

Anyway, this post goes out to a little lady who busies herself at a monastery each day. Inspirational!  ; ) Michele outlined her Easter-basket plans (lots of DIY, including playsilks) and asked her readers what we all put in our kids' Easter baskets, so I gave a quick rundown. 
I've done the Dharma-Silks thing — TOTALLY WORTH IT. I even did a rainbow-ish one. It'll still cost you some money, for the silks, shipping and containers for the dye. I used Ball jars with large mouths (because I didn't want to risk making a mess of any of stuff I already owned), but I reused the jars for something else later on. Kool-Aid and vinegar for the dye, I think. One of the colors was a pain to rinse. Red probably. One of the colors was hard to find from Kool-Aid. Blue, I think.  
I'm going to post in the next week or two on our Easter basket traditions. We do one big family basket. All the treats are chocolate eggs (for new life) and lambs (for duh). And I get something religious for each of us. Cruncher usually gets a Magnificat/Ignatius Press book and coloring book (I recommend any of those), Ryan gets a book (I've bought his already — Not Your Average Joe), and I usually get something pretty (this year: a veil). I dye our eggs red, hang the Alleluia (some sort of DIY I do last minute), and put out a potted flower. That's about it. Oh, and starting last year, we go on an Easter Monday hike. It's based on some old tradition that's escaping me right now.
So, here's the aforementioned post on dying playsilks. I basically ripped this quasi tutorial out of a Facebook album I made last spring, with some edits. Without further adieu

A Tutorial: How to Dye Your Own Playsilks

I had wanted to make some playsilks for some time. I was starting to hate plastic toys, and was just off the high of donating a bunch of Cruncher's things. Yeah, I'm that mom. You can buy playsilks retail at about $15 a pop, but no. Not when I can make my own. 

I had recently contracted someone to make a play stand for Cruncher, and if I wanted the full crunchy-montessori-Waldorf experience, there had to be playsilks. After all, his play stand needed a roof, and I wanted him to look up and see the sky. 

I bought the Habotai silk scarves from Dharma Trading Co.a big silk for the roof, some hankerchiefs, some long ones, plus one really long one (a freebie for ordering so much) for an experimental rainbow-dye job. If you want to know the exact sizes I bought, let me know, and I'll check out my order history. My intentions with the longer silks were to tie them on little wooden rings I bought from Casey's Wood Products. I TOTALLY recommend both companies for DIY fun. Solid products, great prices, fast service.

(Aside: Now we're working our way through a Ben Folds set, currently singing "The Luckiest.")

I bought Kool-Aid packages in red, orange, blue, green, yellow and another red that I was hoping was purple. Oh well. Find grape if you want purple. I bought Mason jars for the project, but I planned to reuse them to organize crafting notions and whatnots. I ended up making these instead: 

Here's a better playsilk tutorial than the one I used. I probably could have stood to let the red ones soak longer. It took foooooorever to rinse them to clear.

First step (top left): Soak silks in hot water with a splash of white vinegar for 10 minutes. They were in my medium-sized pot in my sink. Step 2 (top right): 
After mixing half a jar of hot water with a splash of vinegar and three packets of Kool-aid per jar, I placed the silks in the jars. I filled my stockpot about 1/3 full and let the jars simmer in my stock pot on the stove for 15 minutes. The water in the jars should get milky, like the blue looks. Step 3 (bottom left): Rinse each silk in cool water until the water runs clear. Oh. WEAR GLOVES FOR THE ENTIRE PROCESS. I made the mistake of removing mine when hanging the playsilks to dry, and my fingertips looked like I'd recently got a messy spray tan. Step 4 (bottom right): Admire your pretty colors. : )  As I rinsed each silk, I also rinsed the silk's jar and put the silk back in, so the colors weren't touching each other. 

Step 5: And then hang to dry. I was careful to not let the silks touch each other. On a perfectly lovely day, drying won't take long. And I would certainly dry them outside, in case there are drips. The tutorial shows the silks drying on a shower curtain rod, but I'd hate for the dye drips to get on the tub or floor.  In the pictures above, the clothespins really are that ginormous, also from Casey's Wood Products. I later used those clothespins to clip the large sky silk on the roof of the play stand. The playsilk pictured on the left was my try at a rainbow scarf. 

Does it look like the sky? I think so. I'm glad I still only used three packets of Kool-Aid for the sky's dye. There was more fabric to absorb the dye in that jar, which caused the color to come out softer than the small blue ones.

Finished! Left: There are the wooden rings. The silks on rings are good for pretending to be birds, butterflies and other flying creatures. Top right: Fire. Watch out — it's HOT! Bottom right: A river runs through it.

Cruncher used the blue silks for water in his sink, and the red one for washing and drying dishes.

Right now, the play stand and silks reside in a room downstairs, which we are supposed to convert into a playroom. Hopefully, that happens before Cruncher is too old to care.

Yay — another post for the "Homemaking" tab!! Thanks for the inspiration, Michele. In a later post, I'll outline the Easter traditions I mentioned in that original comment.


  1. This is fantastic!! Thank you so much. I love that sky silk!!!

  2. Hi ~ your silks came out beautifully! Thank you for the inspiration. I especially love your sky silk and the multi-color orange/red/yellow one that is hanging outside on the clothesline with the gigantic clothespin. Can you please give more information on how you got the sky silk color and the red/orangeish one please? I am planning on doing this for the first time for my daughter's 5th birthday. Thank you!! :-)

  3. Thanks, Toby! It's been a long time since I did this project, but I'm preeeeetty sure the sky one turned out so light and fluffy because the size of the scarf was much larger than the other silks but I used the same amount of dye. I just wadded it up, put it in the same size jar with the same amount of Kool-Aid (looks like three packets of raspberry lemonade) and for the same amount of time. Same process, just much larger silk. I think the red/orange one is actually the rainbow scarf, and all I did was weave a long silk in and out of all the jars. You can see it resting on top of jars in the pot of jars. This was a super easy, but potentially messy, project. Very worth it. Blessings to your daughter on her birthday! Oh, this might help — here's the order I placed with Dharma Trading Co.:

    # HV5 (size/color 3584) Habotai 5mm Veil - 35" x 84" (was my sky scarf)
    # GH8 8x54 Scarf (was my rainbow scarf)
    # H86 Habotai 8mm Scarf - 6" x 24" (ordered 5)
    # SH Ladies Silk Handkerchiefs - 12 pack

    1. Oh wonderful Shannon! Thank you so much for the information ~ I really appreciate it and look forward to making these!!! I hope mine come out half as lovely as yours!!! :-)