Saturday, January 15, 2011

Playsilks 101

I'm finally getting around to talking about my experience with making playsilks for Baby. I'd read about playsilks and saw some toddlers playing with some at a local (now closed) kid's cafe but it wasn't until I saw Baby playing on a regular basis with a simple scarf at home that I decided to look into them. Quite often toys "prescribe" the way you have to play with them or are limited in the way you use them or play with them. Playsilks are essentially a natural material, open ended toy that encourages creativity and imagination in kids. You can buy them for about 15 bucks a silk. This seemed not only expensive to me but a waste to spend money on something that should be relatively easy to make. Off I went researching online and found a great thread on the forums that was dedicated to making playsilks. There are 2 common methods for dying them. The first is using unsweetened kool-aid and the other is using Wilton's icing colours. It just so happened that the show S was working on at the time had a scene in a shop with hundreds of packages of kool-aid. Good timing. She brought them all home after they finished shooting and I had a rainbow of colours to choose from. They turned out really beautiful and because I got the kool-aid for free, cost me about 5 or 6 bucks each to make. Here are the steps I followed. Note that I did one scarf at a time.
  1. I purchased my silks from Maiwa on Granville Island. I opted for the 29" x 29" habotai silk scarves. I bought a dozen of them.
  2. I also picked up a large bottle of plain white vinegar.
  3. I soaked each silk in a separate bowl in about a 1/2 cup of white vinegar and hot, hot tap water (enough to cover the scarf completely) for 30 minutes.

  4. When the 30 minutes was almost up, I put 2 cups of hot, hot tap water into a large pot on the stove, added a cup of white vinegar and 4 packages of kool-aid. I started it on medium heat and heated it up gradually to a slow boil. 
  5. After the 30 minutes was up, I gently poured in the silk that had been soaking, liquid and all.

  6. I used chopsticks to move the scarf around and around until all the colour from the water was soaked into the silk. It took about 5 - 10 minutes. Some colours the water became completely clear while others there was still a bit of colour left in the water.

  7. I poured the contents of the pot into a bowl in the sink (I used the bowl I had soaked in) and started rinsing with hot, hot tap water. I gradually cooled down the water so I could work my hands under it and rinse out the scarf more thoroughly.

  8. Rinse, rinse, rinse.
  9. Rinse, rinse, rinse. I have to say that in rinsing my silks, the water never did run completely clear. But it came close for most colours. I was assured by doing more research online that other people did not have issues with kool-aid dying their carpet and furniture (or child!). I guess if I soaked it in water and left it sitting on something it would eventually leech some dye.
  10. I hung each silk to dry on a wooden clothes hanger in the kitchen, taking care not to let each one touch each other. They dried very quickly.

  11. Colour tips: Blue, purple and yellow worked very well. Reds and oranges look nice but aren't as vivid as I thought they'd be. Green fades the most but again, still looks great.

And the best part is that Baby loves them. I think they will be around our home for a long time.


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