Kid-Dyed Silk Scarves

In our effort to create crafts as a family by re-using and upcycling, we do occasionally do crafts that use new materials. I do try to find non-toxic and eco-friendly versions wherever I can. And I talk about why we make those choices with the kids. Now that we have tried this craft to great success with new materials, we will be doing it again with saved tissue paper and thrift-store silks.

Engrossed in Scarf Dyeing

Engrossed in Scarf Dyeing

I have been eyeing silk playscarves for the kids forever, but have been holding off because:

  1. The cost was great if we are to have more than a couple
  2. I hadn’t settled on a method for doing it ourselves
  3. I wanted to stay away from toxic dyes, but wanted something that would give a tie-dyed effect
  4. It had to be a project that was interesting, tactile, and creative enough (that it couldn’t go wrong) so that the kids could do it with minimal input from me. I think they are their most free to explore and create when I’m in the background.


We began by mixing about a cup of water and a cup of white vinegar in a bowl then submerged the scarves in the mixture fully (a mini-lesson on measuring, proportions, and saturation) Then we wrung out the excess moisture.

Next we started our scarf and tissue paper lasagna, alternating layers of scarf and tissue paper as we went. The kids and I have made layered casseroles together before. So, they got this concept. (Nat also pointed out that dinosaur fossils are made with layers of dirt so if we left the scarf buried long enough if could become a rock fossil.)

We put part of the scarf across the bottom of the baking dish (leaving the rest draped over the side for the next layer.)

Scarf Lasagna

Scarf Lasagna

Then they got to be a bit destructive. They tore tissue paper into pieces either large or small (you really can’t go wrong) and placed it on top of the scarf in the dish. Pushing the tissue paper into the scarf, spraying with plain water in the spray bottle (they loved this whole part.) Once the first layer of scarf was completely covered in tissue paper, I helped them fold the next layer of scarf across the baking dish and they repeated the process of tearing, pressing, and spraying the tissue paper.

Spraying the Tissue Paper into the Scarf

Spraying the Tissue Paper into the Scarf

They built it up in layers, with the top layer being tissue paper. They gave it all a good spraying, so that it was completely saturated. Gan even poured in the remaining water in the spray bottle, so his had some extra water in the dish. Then they went off to climb a tree. We let our scarves sit overnight and got brilliant colors. You probably could take them out after an hour or so, if you’re really in a hurry to see them, though.

The next morning, we took out the scarves, peeled off the tissue paper pieces and hung them to dry on the line. They dried in about 20 minutes. Then you can either iron them (place a paper bag on top to keep from scorching) or toss in the dryer on high for 20 minutes to help the color lock in (I couldn’t find my iron, so I dried them)

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So far, my kids have made them into: fairy wings, pirate headbands, sword belts, bike handlebar decorations, dancing props, and various additions to costumes. They were engaged in every step of creating their scarves and I think this helps them value their art. Nat’s is the green, purple & gold one. Gan’s is the red, black, and gold one. I could see kids of any age having fun with designs or pictures as complex or random as their imaginations can dream up.

This is our first experiment and it came out so well that we’ll be doing it again with different sizes. The kids want to make tents and costumes. I want to make prayer flags and gifts, as well. I would like to try this on other materials and see how the colors hold up in the wash. I’m planning to order the supplies so that they’re on-hand for whenever we need to pull out this project.

The only thing I’ll do differently next time is to let them add more color. I was worried it would all come out muddied, but the colors are bright and crisp. I don’t have to worry about keeping any white showing.

Dyed Scarves on the Line

Dyed Scarves on the Line

We Play

Have you ever dyed scarves with your kids? Do you have any other ideas for things we could create with this method? I would love to hear from you.

7 thoughts on “Kid-Dyed Silk Scarves

  1. Oh wow! This is wonderful! you are so clever!! I love how the kids were able to help!

    Thank you so much for linking this brilliant idea to Kids Get Crafty! Fabulous to have you stop by and visit!!!!


    • Thank you, Maggy. I was glad to stumbleupon your site this weekend and enjoyed exploring. I’ve added your blog to my google reader. I think the kids & I will have some fun projects this summer from you

  2. This looks like an awesome project!!

    I’m lucky enough to have an indie yarn dyer as a good friend; she got scarves from Dharma Trading Company and did an amazing job. But I bet I could do a decent job with supplies from Dharma, too.

    Y’all are close enough that you could make a day trip to visit them – if they still have a brick-and-mortar store…

    Thai Silks (if it’s still around) might be a good source for scarves, too. *flexes google fu*

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