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.