(These notes are for personal use only.  They cannot be published, reprinted, used in workshops, or in any ways distributed to a group of people.  I am available for teaching workshops in this technique. Pat Spark)


       Return to feltmakers list FAQ          Feltmaker's List Silk Paper FAQ


Pat Spark © 1995

This silk paper is not a true (macerated) paper. It is actually a glued together paper. The glue being used (methyl cellulose) is soluble in water. One of the problems with using silk fiber as an inlay element in felt is that the fiber cannot be made into intricate shapes. The fiber is too fly-away for any kind of precision. However, when a piece of silk paper is used for inlay, any shape wanted can be cut from the paper. The silk shape can be placed on the wet, wool fiber. As the felt is being worked, the methyl cellulose will dissolve away and the silk fiber will be caught by the wool into the felt's surface. (The method was taught to me by Dutch artist, Inge Evers.) This method also works well to make sheets of "paper" to use for felt inlay with other fibers such as mohair, llama, even wool.


METHYL CELLULOSE SOLUTION: Methyl cellulose is a material used by papermakers for sizing paper and for gluing together cast pulp sculptures. It can be obtained from art supply houses. Blend 1 Tbsp. in a quart of cold water, stirring constantly as you do so. You can use a mixer on slow speed, or a whisk to ensure that the powder dissolves evenly. Let stand for several hours before use. If lumps occur, sieve them out and whir them in a blender with a little more water added. The paste should be free of lumps.

SILK FIBER: The silk fiber used is usually silk top (also called a Gold Brick). It can be dyed or left plain. About 25 grams of silk tops are need to make a sheet of paper of medium thickness, 40 cm. X 76 cm. (16" X 30").

WORK SURFACE: The paper is made on a heavy plastic surface and then dried on a screen.

TULLE NET: You'll need a piece of tulle netting, twice as large as your project or two pieces of tulle, each slightly larger than your project.

PAINT BRUSH: A 1 ½" to 2" paint brush is needed for applying the paste.

WATER CONTAINER/WATER: You'll need a container of water which contains a little bit of soap or detergent (5 ml. per liter or 1 tsp. per quart). Because the silk is water-repellent it will not easily accept the paste solution. The soap or detergent will help break the surface tension.

MISCELLANEOUS: Towels or sponges are needed for sopping up excess water.


1. Lay the tulle on the plastic work surface.
2. Pull out a few silk fibers and lay them (horizontally) in the upper corner of the tulle. Pull out a few more and place them just below the first ones (overlapping slightly). Continue until a vertical row has been completed.
3. Continue layering the fiber onto the tulle. (Remember to leave half of the tulle uncovered, if you just have one piece of netting.) Because the pulled out bits of fiber tend to be thick on the end closest to the fingers and wispy on the end away from the hand, the layers will be thick and thin. To get an even layer of fiber, each vertical row of fiber must overlap the previous row, like the shingles on a roof.
4. If one thin layer is desired, stop here. If a thicker paper is desired, place another layer of fiber over the first layer. The fibers should be at right angles to the first layer. (They should lay vertically.)
5. Fold the tulle over the top of the silk. (Or place the second piece of tulle over the fiber.) Use a brush and the slightly soapy water to wet out the silk. Paint the water onto the silk fiber and try to massage the liquid into the fiber so there are no dry areas. Carefully lift the tulle/silk package and turn it over. If you see any dry spots on the back, paint them with water also. Use a sponge or a towel to sop up the water so the fiber is damp but not sopping wet.
6. Carefully peel up the tulle without dislodging any fiber. Arrange more silk fiber over any holes or thin spots. Replace the tulle and wet the dry fiber. Sop up any excess water.
7. Paint the wet silk with methyl cellulose. Turn the tulle/silk package over and paint the other side with the paste.
8. If the surface seems too wet, use a clean sponge to sop up the liquid.
9. Place the tulle/net package on a screen and allow it to dry.
10. When the paper is dry, peel away the tulle. The paper can be ironed with a pressing cloth on silk setting to help flatten it.


Patricia Spark © 1995


WOOL: The silk paper adheres best to fine fiber such as merino.

NET: A nylon net will help to keep the fiber in place when felting.

SOAP GEL: A cold soap gel is used in the felting process. It is 1/2 cup soap melted in 1 gallon of hot water and allowed to cool overnight.

SLIGHTLY SOAPY WATER: The water for felting should have a small amount (1 tsp. per quart) of soap or detergent to help break the surface tension of the wool and make it receptive to the water.

WATER PROOF WORK SURFACE: Your usual felt working space.

MISCELLANEOUS: Felting tools such as bamboo mat, rolling bar, washboard, Tupperware Juice Lid, Electrostatic magnetic lint cleaners, etc. Any tool you normally use when working with fine wool.

TOWELS/ ETC. : Towels or sponges are needed for sopping up excess water.

PLASTIC BAGS OR DISPOSABLE GLOVES: When working directly on the wool or silk inlay areas (without a net in position) the hands can be covered with plastic to keep them slippery. This also prevents the silk from sticking to any rough spot on the hands.


1. Lay out thin layers of fine fleece to build the wool base for the felt.
2. Cover the fleece with a net and wet it using the slightly soapy water.
3. Remove the net and put the silk paper motif on top of wetted wool and press gently into position.
4. Cover with net, apply soap gel and gently rub the surface. Pay particular attention to the silk inlay areas. Do not rub too vigorously. After 5 minutes or so, remove the net.
5. Place a plastic bag or a thin, disposable glove over your hand and rub the silk inlay areas without the net in place. Add soap to keep the hand slippery and moving easily over the surface of the wool.
6. When the silk starts to adhere, replace the net and work the surface more vigorously, using any of your usual felting methods. Lift up on the net every so often, to make sure it isn't attaching itself to the felt.
7. When the wool surface passes the pinch test, turn the fabric over and work the other side until it is as hard as the first side.
8. Full the felt using rolling or washboard methods. Keep a net on the silk inlay to protect it from the surface of the bamboo mats or the washboard.
9. Rinse the felt, wring it in a towel, smooth it out to block it, and lay to dry on a screen.


Methyl Cellulose:     

                                      Silk Fiber:                                               

Outback Fibres
PO Box 153
Hewitt, TX 76643 USA  
1-800-276-5015 (Jill Gully)
Earth Guild
33 Haywood Street
Ashville, NC 28801
1-800-327-8448; 1- 828-255-7818; fax: 828-255-8593;;
Treetops Colour Harmonies
c/o Treenway Silks
501 Musgrave Rd.
Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada V8K 1V5. Toll free: 1-888-383-7455, email: website:  (Address as of Aug. 1, 2001.)
Daniel Smith
4150 First Avenue South
Seattle, WA 98134          
Woodland, Woolworks; 100 E. Washington St.; PO Box 850; Carlton, OR 97111 1-800-547-3725. (M-F 10-5  Sat. 10-3)