See May, June, and July 2014 for video demonstrations on how to use a vertical electric steamer. Steam-setting your silk paintings is essential for bonding dye to fabric. Home made stove-top steamers are perfect for steaming one or two silk paintings at a time, but If you’ve been painting silk for awhile you might be ready to upgrade to a vertical steamer. They’re great for steaming big pieces and large quantities of silk, and they’re virtually fool-proof. If you don’t paint a lot of silk, though, it’s not a necessary investment. Your faithful little stove-top steamer will continue to serve you just fine. Another option might be to do a web search on home made vertical steamers. There are several free, on-line tutorials that will show you how to make your own.
These vertical steamers are available on line, along with a stainless steel core (sold separately) that suspends in the middle and holds your silk wrapped in paper for steaming. You can search “Vertical Steamer” to find out about specific prices and availability.
The bottom section contains a heating element. You pour in water and the element heats the water to create steam, which beautifully and evenly sets the dyes on your silks.
Here you can see the bottom section of the steamer sitting on a black rolling platform that I had custom made. It makes moving the steamer around much easier. At the bottom of this post, you’ll find more pictures of the rolling platform.
If you want to steam smaller pieces, you can leave off the top section of the steamer when assembling. The stainless steel mesh core I mentioned above does not come in this shorter length.
If you want to steam without the mesh core, you could wrap your silk and paper around a pvc pipe propped inside the steamer between the support rings in the top and bottom (I found this awkward, risky and not as effective as the mesh core). You can also roll your silk and paper layers up into a tube shape and poke holes in the top of it to wire it onto the steel circular support ring that fits into the top of the steamer. Using the mesh core is much easier and gives consistent professional results (I am not trying to sell steamers or mesh cores, that’s just my honest professional opinion).
Here are the rest of the parts; white lid, steel support ring, and steel pin. The pin attaches the core to the support ring. The support ring sits in the top of the steamer and allows the core (containing your silk) to hang centered in the steamer a safe distance from the water.
Here are the pictures of the rolling platform for the steamer. It’s made of wood, and I’ve never had a problem with it getting so hot that it could catch fire. Be your own judge on that, if you do make one you could put a tile or other heat-proof surface on the top of it. The wheels swivel, which makes it very easy to maneuver and roll around. Also, you can see that it has a little “lip” on the top edge of it to keep the steamer from sliding off when I’m rolling it around.
This rolling platform comes in handy because I store the steamer in the studio but do my steaming in my living room, where it’s easier to load and unload the steamer because of the higher ceiling.