How to Make Hand Painted Silk Scarves

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Things You'll Need

  • White silk scarf
  • White vinegar
  • 2 large bowls
  • Silk dye
  • Paintbrush
  • Plastic cling wrap
  • Cup
  • Microwave
  • Mild soap
  • Towel
  • Iron

Invented in China, silk is a textile woven out of the cocoons of silk worms. Silk has been prized for thousands of years and is still considered one of the most beautiful and luxurious textiles available. Silk is a commonly used material for scarves because of its beauty and softness. Painting your own unique silk scarf is a wonderful project that will produce a stunning accessory for yourself, or a gift for someone special.

Combine two parts water and one part white vinegar in a large bowl. Adjust the amounts according to the size of your scarf. Larger scarves require a larger amount of this mixture. Soak your silk scarf for 15 minutes in the water and vinegar mixture. After the silk scarf has been soaking for 15 minutes, squeeze the excess water out with your hands.

Lay the wet silk scarf on a protected work surface. Then gently scrunch the silk together so that it is gathered in bunches. This will create a lovely webbed or tie-dye pattern once dye is applied. You can also bunch the silk scarf up gently and paint straight lines down up and down the scarf. This will create wavy stripes. You can choose to either saturate the scarf completely with dyes or allow some of the white base to show through.

Apply your paint dyes in the colors of your choice to the wet silk scarf using a paintbrush. Start with the lighter colors first then work your way to the darker colors.

Pick up the scarf and put it in a clean glass bowl. Cover it with plastic cling wrap. Place it in the microwave, along with a cup filled with water. The cup of water will create steam inside the microwave.

Microwave the plastic-covered bowl containing the silk scarf on medium-high heat for three and a half to five minutes, depending on the size of your scarf. Larger scarves require more microwaving time. Make sure the plastic cling wrap completely seals the entire opening of the bowl. The heat will set the dye. Remove the bowl carefully from the microwave. It will be very hot.

Allow the hot bowl to cool completely before removing plastic cling wrap and the silk scarf.

Run the silk scarf under cool water to remove any excess dye. Slowly increase the water temperature until the water is warm and then wash the silk scarf using a mild soap and a dash of white vinegar. Make sure no more dye is coming off the silk.

Lay the silk scarf on a towel and roll it inside the towel to remove excess water. Hang the scarf to dry. Once the scarf is dry, iron it.


  • You can purchase ready-to-paint white silk scarves and dyes at any fabric store.

    Keep an eye on your scarf while it is microwaving. If the plastic cling wrap seal breaks during the microwaving process, stop the microwave, recover the bowl and microwave again.

About the Author

Based in Chicago, Annie Wang has been writing since 2008. Her work has appeared in World Architecture News and other online publications. She holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and art history from the University of California, Davis.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images