Persian Hand-Painted Garment

A while back, I took a textile surface design class. The theme was Persian motifs. We were to do some research on Persian designs and create some design patterns that we might want to paint onto our silk pieces. While researching, I came across this wonderful little book The Grammar of Ornament by Owen Jones, originally published in 1856. It was reprinted in 2001.

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When we think of Persian designs, the first things that comes to mind (at least in my mind) are Persian carpets designed with rich dark red and blue silk or wool threads. Most of the students chose Persian carpets as their inspiration. However, I was surprised to discover that the combination of peach, brown and teal/green were also colours found in Persian designs.

Here is a glimpse at a couple of pages from The Grammar of Ornament.

After creating both paper sketches and silk painted samples, the work began on the real pieces that would make up the Persian garment.

Before painting the design on silk I had to dye the silk with a background colour (this only works if your colour is light). Then the silk was stretched on a frame. Using “gutta resist” I traced the design by placing the design pattern under the silk. Then, using a clean paint brush, I applied water to each part of the design to ensure that the gutta was well applying. All it takes is a hairline and the dye will bleed out of your design. This did happen to me once where I had to rethink the design. This is what artists call an anomally…It  was more like “PANIC!” to me. But once I had it under control I realized I would have to replicate the mistake elsewhere to make it appear like it was done on purpose. It made for an interesting design element that I had not anticipated.

Once the silk has been painted and dried, it must be steamed for about three hours. The following website gives a very good explanation of how this is done and how you can make your own steamer .

After many, many hours of designing, painting, steaming and sewing my Persian garment was complete.


I really enjoyed the process. I think I would like to do it again when time permits.


An Embroidered Coat – Inspired by Tibetan Rugs

A number of years ago I decided to make myself a spring coat. I had watched the movie Seven Years in Tibet, a movie about an Austrian mountain climber who befriends the Dalai Lama. I was quite fascinated with the garments and decided that I would make myself a modern day version. I chose a border design from the book Of Wool and Loom: The Tradition of Tibetan Rugs by Trinley Chodrak and Kesang Tashi.

Of Wool And Loom: Tradition Of Tibetan Rugs

I chose a rug border for the border of my coat that has the yungdrung symbol. This symbol is over 18 thousand years old and means “eternal” and “everlasting”.

Tibetan Rug with yungdrung border

Tibetan Saddle Rug

The colours chosen for the coat reflect the colours of the robes worn by Buddhist monks. Red is considered a sacred colour and yellow is the colour of humility.

Details of my Tibetan Coat

I knew that I had succeeded when a Buddhist monk approached me one day and told me that my coat represented symbols important to Tibetan Buddhist monks. That was the highest praise I could ever receive.

Hand-Appliqué Winter Coat

About ten years ago I made a coat for my, then, twelve year old daughter Chelsea-Lyne. I was inspired by an article in a winter publication of the Victoria Magazine with a photo-spread of Scandinavian coats.

Photographer Toshi Otsuki
I used red and black stroud that I had in my stash of fabrics from when I lived in the Northwest Territories. I made my own version of the design you see in the photo above. I spent many hours hand-appliquéing each piece. Once completed she wore it everyday for two winter seasons. What was I thinking! She rolled in the snow, went skating and tobogganing. To my surprise it held up very well.

Unfortunately, when she outgrew the coat it was just a little too small for me to wear. I always thought that I should make a coat for myself since I would definitely get more wear out of it.

This photo was taken after the coat had been worn for two seasons.





  I decided that the time has finally come for me to make my own coat. I already had a Vogue pattern for a coat that I liked. Here is one of my many projects in progress.  The appliqué for the two-piece collar is almost complete. The appliqué pieces are designs taken from Michele Hill’s William Morris in Applique.  I am thinking of outlining each appliqué piece with jade coloured beads. Nothing like adding more hours of work to a project. 

I am making the shorter version of this coat.


Completed collar


Semi-completed collar

Stay tuned for updates on this project in progress.