Spring, Inktense pencils and Silk

Almost March already. Sorry, folks! I kept holding off writing a new post, waiting for the sale of my Father’s house to happen – or fail to happen (which was seeming increasingly likely as the sales-chain continued to have endless hold-ups). Well, the week before last the sale did finally happen as planned, after we exchanged contracts in January. The new owners (who have been waiting surprisingly patiently since September) have moved in, and my sister and I can take a deep breath and move on.


I have been playing with silk again. (It doesn’t take very much to tempt me to play with silk.) This half-open daffodil was really just done for practice, but it seems appropriate to put at the top of the post as it will be St David’s Day on Wednesday. The thread is mostly Devere Yarns 06 filament silk, although there’s a tiny bit of Stef Francis Superfine Silk in the papery spathe at the base of the flower along with a little pale greenish-brown rope silk that is at least 40 years old. The background fabric is Egyptian cotton sheeting.

I’ve mentioned Derwent Inktense pencils before. I am totally delighted with them. I’ve been making frequent use of them for colouring ink drawings, on watercolour paper, but until very recently I hadn’t given them much of a try on fabric. A bit of web-surfing on the subject inspired me to see how I got on with using them with aloe vera gel rather than water as a painting medium. This photo shows my first attempt, which proved that I could get the colour to go where I want it, and not spread out as it does when they’re used with water. painted-crocus-toolsThe fabric in this photo (Egyptian cotton sheeting again) has been washed, ironed, pencilled, painted over with the aloe vera gel and allowed to dry. Then ironed with a hot iron to set the colour, washed to remove the gel, ironed damp until dry again and finally mounted in a hoop ready for stitching.



crocus-paint-closeupThe colour has stayed well, as you can see. When I started stitching the crocus, which I’d left white, I realised I wasn’t happy with the darkness and greyness of the colours I’d used, and wanted something lighter and olive-green to show up my purple and lavender crocus petals. So I tried again and got a background that looks much better. This photo shows the stitching in progress. (I’ve not finished it yet, but I’ve done more since I took the photo. I hope I’ll be able to show you the finished stitching next time.) This one is all Devere’s 06 silk thread (so far).


I even tried using an Inktense pencil to tint some white 06 thread to a pale violet, as I didn’t have the right colour in my thread box. I wrapped the silk around a small tube of paper, really soaked it with water, dabbed the pencil gently onto the silk and used more water and a very soft brush to spread the colour as evenly as possible. I then patted off any excess with  tissue. I didn’t want to iron the silk, so laid it in a hank on a warm radiator to finish drying. That worked well, too, the colour took nicely and the silk did not go stiff or dull in the process.

What about you, Dear Readers? Have you tried Inktense pencils or pencil-blocks on fabric? How have you got on with them? Any tips to pass on?


9 Responses to “Spring, Inktense pencils and Silk”

  1. Interesting effect with the pencils. So glad to hear the house is finally sold.

  2. Kathy Hunter Says:

    I love the pencil coloring. when you say you used aloe vera gel, which one and was it pure aloe gel? Thanks. Kathy. Love the crocus by the way.

    • suetortoise Says:

      Hi Kathy. I use “99.9%” pure aloe vera gel from my local Holland and Barrett, but any aloe vera gel that is pure gel without colouring or additives will work as well. (The gel is washed out afterwards, but you don’t want anything in it that is greasy or will stain.) And you definitely need gel, not juice, for this technique.

  3. Good to know the house is finally off your hands!

    You’ve already seen some of my inktense experiments. I didn’t wash my piece, and it is good to see how well that works. It offers me a whole range of new possibilities!

    • suetortoise Says:

      I didn’t want to risk colour bleeding into my silk thread, so I gave the fabric a very good rinse out after ironing. Hardly any colour came away in the water – much less than I expected. I was very pleased with how well the pencils worked. I’m still learning to use them – I’m really just experimenting, too, at this stage. I did find ironing Reynold’s Freezer Paper onto the back helped to keep the fabric steady for pencilling. (Note: this is not greaseproof or baking parchment: it’s got a plastic layer on one side. Watson and Thornton, my local fabric/quilting shop, had some in stock. Quilters use it for templates.)

  4. I have never tried these pencils on fabric, it sounds really interesting!

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