Maggie Ayres

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Newsletter - September 2007

Welcome to the September edition of my newsletter.

Silk "tops" are one of my favourite ways of incorprating silk into my artwork, so this month's newsletter looks at what they are and how I like to use them.

Coming up this month:

  • Working with Silk "Tops"
  • Using Silk "Tops" in my Artwork
  • Download a high-resolution image for your own wall or computer desktop


Working With Silk "Tops"

Last month I spoke about hand painting on silk fabric and how I love the beautiful lustre it presents. Having finished the initial painting, quite often I start adding in silk fibres.

Raw silk is available in different forms. Most often my first choice is to incorporate silk "tops" into the work. These are unspun lengths of luxurious fine silk fibres of equal thickness. They are already carded and combed, ready for the more usual purposes of spinning and weaving. Normally I use these pre-dyed and ready to use, but they are also available undyed, like lustrous waves of soft, white-blonde hair.

Undyed silk tops
Undyed silk "tops"

The colours of hand-dyed silk "tops" commercially available are quite glorious, at the same time vibrantly jewel-like and subtly shifting. On more than one occasion a pack of blue/green "tops" has inspired the colour of the whole piece of work.

hand-dyed silk tops
Hand-dyed silk "tops"

Most traditionally, the fibres are spun and woven, sometimes carded with other fibres, such as Merino wool or cotton, to produce beautiful finished products. Increasingly silk "tops" are now used in alternative applications.

In felt-making silk fibres can be mixed with wool to provide varying textural and colourful interest.

There are several methods for producing types of silk "paper" using silk "tops" involving the layering of the fibres and then adding a fixative such as an acrylic medium or wallpaper paste, which bonds the silk together. Further textures may be laid in at this stage, for example, dried flowers and leaves, glitter, or other fragments of torn, hand-made papers. The resulting material lends itself to further embellishment with stitching, either by hand or with machine, beading and as a base for yet more colouring or printing. Ultimately the resulting paper can be made into useable objects: bags, hats and even wearable garments.

Like all materials, I feel the use of silk "tops" is limited only by the imagination and creative process of the artist.


Using Silk "Tops" in my Artwork

This month I have created a video to show the way that I incorporate silk "tops" into my work.

Sit back, press play and enjoy.


Download a free high-resolution image for your own wall or computer desktop

I love the array of intense and luxurious colours of the hand-dyed silk "tops" so this month I thought you might enjoy an image of them for your own non-commercial use. Right-click on the image below and select Save Target As. You can then save the image on your computer and print it off on photographic paper at up to A4 size without losing any quality, or use it as a desktop background for your computer.

Be advised that the image is approximately 3MB big, so might take a little while to download
Hand-dyed silk tops
If you run into any difficulties then please let me know.


Questions and Comments:

I would very much like to hear from you. Please email me with any questions about my artwork, or with ideas of things you'd like to see and read in future editions of this newsletter.

And finally, if you know of anyone who you think might be interested in receiving this newsletter, please point them to to sign up.

Wishing you all the best until next time,



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