House Wolfstan Banner Construction

By Alyna Wolfstan


This took approx. 4 days overall (20 hours total work). We put the frame together utilizing 2x4s because the project was so large.  For smaller projects 1x2s would work fine. The drawing was drawn out on wrapping paper to accommodate the 12 foot length and 3 foot width we designed for the banner.   Before attempting a large banner, we would recommend you “practice” with some smaller ones first to get the feel for applying resist, applying the dye, etc.




The frame was built with 6” margin of  pre-washed 8mm habatoi silk from the drawing to the board, plus extra on the end for attaching at the hoist.  We used cross sections in the frame for support because of how long the frame needed to be.  The cross sections were also placed in a manner to allow us to insert a piece of plywood to be used as a hard surface when tracing the design onto the silk.  The silk was tacked down with silk tacks at approx 6” intervals.  You have to be careful to not pull the silk too tight and also not to have any sags.  The dye flow changes based on how tight or loose your silk is on the frame.  For a banner this large, it’s a good idea to have 2 people tacking the silk so you can pull the silk evenly, side-to-side, as you go to avoid twisting or uneven silk.




The design is traced onto the silk lightly with pencil.  It mostly washes out when you rinse the resist, but dark pencil lines can remain on your silk and can be seen if you’re painting with lighter colors.  Because the banner is fairly wide, we supported the silk with a piece of plywood on top of books.  That allowed for a smooth, hard surface to draw.  Make sure your hands are clean when handling your silk.  Oils from your skin can affect how the silk takes the dyes.  I also layed a small piece of wood across the width of the banner as I was drawing the design so that I had a place to anchor my arm as I reached across (not shown in these pics).




This is part of the banner showing the resist lines.  They are a little darker than the pencil because they are still wet.  The resist dries opaque.  We used gutta resist in an applicator bottle.  You can get various sizes of tips.  You’ll use different ones based on the detail of your design (i.e. fine tip for small detail).  You can add dye to your resist to make it easier to see where you have applied it.  Just remember that the dye in the resist will dye your silk.  It works great to add black dye if you want permanent black lines on your project.  This makes your colors “stand out” and makes checking for breaks in resist much easier.  The resist in the pictures above does not have dye in it.  The best way to “inspect” your resist lines before painting, is to look at your design from the back while holding it up to a light (or a sunny window).  You should not see any breaks in your lines.  If you do, go back over those spots with resist, let dry again, and re-check for breaks.




Once all the pencil lines have been covered with resist and the resist has been allowed to dry completely, it was time to start applying the dye.  We used Dye-Na-Flo iron set dye.  Large areas are more difficult to paint because the dye dries very quickly and you end up with streaking where you stopped to refill your brush.  We found that if you have two people using the same style of brush, you can tag team so that the dye never has a chance to dry before moving on, especially on the 9 foot runs of red and blue.  Some brushes work better than others.  You don’t want your brush to hold too much dye or you risk “drips” as you move your brush from the dye to your project, but you want it to hold enough so that you aren’t constantly having to refill it allowing your dye to dry before you want it to.  If you’re working on a large project, it’s a good idea to have a small container of the dye in your hand near where you are pointing rather than moving your arm back and forth from your project to your dye.  To apply the dye, it’s best to touch your brush down onto the silk about ½ “ from your lines and let the dye flow to where you want it to go.  Smaller areas may only require you to touch your brush down in the center and the dye will fill it in completely.  Here’s where the tightness/looseness of your silk comes in to play.  Dye will flow quicker/farther on tight silk and will puddle on sagging silk.  Also, make sure your silk is not touching your frame where you want to apply dye.  If the dye soaks through the silk onto your frame, the frame will take the dye where you don’t want it to go. 




You can see some of the areas where there were small breaks in the resist and the dye bled out near the wolf’s mouth and in the border underneath the word “Facta”.  The break only has to be minute for dye to leak out.  There’s really no fix for this problem, but you can try to dilute the intensity of the color with a water-soaked q-tip.  Be sure to allow it to dry before you apply dye to that area.  Check and double-check your resist lines before starting to paint!


After you are completely done painting your banner, allow it to dry completely while still on the frame.  We let ours sit overnight to be sure.  Once it is dry, remove it from the frame and set it according to the instructions for your dye.  We chose to use the iron-set dye because of the size of the banner.  We tried the steam-set  dyes/setting method on a banner this size and it was just too large to steam thoroughly, even after approximately 10 hours of steaming.  The dyes didn’t get a chance to set and we had a lovely purple banner.  The steam-set dyes/method did work fine for some smaller banners. 


After proper setting, our banner was ready for rinsing to wash off the resist and excess dye.  The silk fibers can only hold so much dye and any excess needs to be rinsed off before flying your banner above your nice, white pavilion.  This is the method you use with the Dye-Na-Flo iron-set dyes.  After allowing the banner to air dry, we then trimmed off the extra silk  and sealed the unfinished edges with Fray Check.  This seems to hold up pretty well.  Some people like to turn their edges and sew them. 


Rather than attach the banner to the pole with just the silk, for durability we sewed heavy duty fabric to the hoist end of the banner and used that to attach to the pole.  This gave the banner extra strength for when the wind tugs on it.  If you decide to do this, a word of caution:  If you choose any color other than white, be sure you have given your fabric a few vinegar rinses to wash any excess manufacturer’s dye out before attaching it to your banner.  If not, it will bleed all over your pretty, new silk banner.  Been there.  Done that.



Here’s the completed banner flying in our encampment at Junefaire 2007 on a 20ft pole.  We wanted it to be seen above our pavilions from a distance. 





Dharma Trading – for all the banner making supplies, including silk, tacks, dyes, brushes, and resists.

Gutenberg School of Scribes: Silk Painting 1 - lots of good information about silk painting



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