Hand Painted Silk Collins Top
I can’t even begin to tell you how eager I’ve been to share this project on the blog. Its one of my most cherished makes this year and I can’t wait to tell you all about it!
Back in May I was able to attend a workshop hosted by D&H Fabrics with the Color Queen, Katie Kortman. We talked about some intro color theory and then got to paint a couple yards of silk noil, and though I was looking forward to fabric painting, I didn’t anticipate just how good it would feel to get back to brushes and paint.
One of my majors in college was visual arts and for my senior exhibit I created large scale, non-objective paintings. Inspired by the organic, layered appearance of watercolors and dyes but wanting a little more control (ha, as I usually do), I used oil paints and a heavy dose of liquin to create a thinner, more translucent paint that would layer well and could be applied with more fluidity than regular oil paint. I actually never even touched these paintings with actual paintbrushes, instead using t-shirt rags and large palette knives to apply paint.
I really loved painting, but hadn’t picked up a brush or palette knife since graduation. When we made our first move I wasn’t able to bring my supplies (chemicals) with me, and time continued to pass before I could make the investment again to purchase new ones. And once I became a mother I wasn’t so sure I wanted to paint anymore anyways. Painting can be a long time commitment (between actively painting and oil paint drying time), and during a time in my life when it was hard to see the impact of my efforts in parenting, I needed a hobby that brought more immediate satisfaction. I also didn’t want to worry about little hands getting in to my supplies or touching a wet painting. And, to be quite frank, I felt my contribution to the fine arts was pretty mediocre. So I set that interest aside and moved forward with sewing.
I hadn’t even thought about my background in painting when I showed up for the workshop, but the moment I sat down in front of my blank silk, all of those experiences came rushing back and I knew I wanted to revisit that style I had loved so much during my senior year.
I didn’t have the foresight to bring some palette knives or rags with me, so instead I used a wet paintbrush and a few paper towels to move and manipulate the layers or paint. I alternated with washes of what was essentially pink paint water, and thicker swipes of color. A few times I even balled up my silk and wiped the excess paint and tinted water off of my workspace with it, much to the shock of some of my fellow workshop friends.
Just like sewing, painting in this way balanced my right and left brain tendencies. Though there was no pattern or clear subject matter, I approached the fabric with thought—which colors I wanted where, which layers I wanted to be opaque or translucent. And yet there was still a freestyle component that guided those placements and the overall painting on those two yards of silk.
Getting to paint made my soul feel so good, and I couldn’t wait to turn my hand painted fabric into something I could wear. The trouble was, I couldn’t think of what to make! I wanted to highlight the fact that it was hand painted and that there were little frames of color that I particularly loved, and I wanted to make sure it was something I would actually reach for in my closet.
I finally settled on the Collins Top by In The Folds. I had had this pattern sitting on my Indiesew wishlist for months, but (once again) wasn’t sure if it would suit me. However I loved all of its panels, which I could use to highlight or “frame” different parts of my fabric, and it was a loose shirt that would actually get regular wear (as opposed to a dress or skirt).
The Collins Top has several pattern pieces which look really neat in directionals like stripes, but I used them to cut out specific areas of my silk to show off little bits of the painting that I particularly loved. The only tricky aspect of this pattern, however, was that I had no idea how to attempt a full bust adjustment. With all of the lines on the bodice I wasn’t sure where to place the adjustment, so I just decided to skip it since I can sometimes get by without one—which probably would’ve been fine if I hadn’t sized down two sizes for a closer fit. Weeks after I finished my top I stumbled upon a blog post on In The Folds about doing bust adjustments on the Collins Top so that’s great for next time, but I think it would be much more useful to have in the pattern instructions (or at least a link to the tutorial) since the adjustment isn’t done like a standard FBA because of the angled seams on the bodice. But other than that, I was so pleased with the pattern.
I also wasn’t sure I would like the hi-lo hem but its actually pretty great! I like that it works with high waisted pants in the front but isn’t a completely cropped top and gives some coverage in the back. I had originally intended to lengthen the front hem but totally forgot, which I suppose was a happy accident. And the trapeze cut is very comfortable and feels wonderful in a nice summer breeze. All in all, this is a top I would definitely make again.
I always know a make is extra special when I keep pulling it out of my closet to look at it and study all of my favorite parts. And this top is one of those makes. From hand painting the fabric and the fun afternoon had at the workshop to sewing the garment, this top has brought me so much joy. It was a labor of love and thoughtfulness and it connected two of my lifelong interests in a new and meaningful way, and I can’t wait to paint more fabric again soon.