PVC Silk Stretcher System

When I initially took elementary silk painting classes at The Craft Alliance, I was taught using a makeshift stretcher system consisting of pine boards covered with duct tape and hooked together at the corners with C clamps. The silk scarf was then pinned to the boards using push pins. This system worked okay at first, because it was adjustable. But the push pins proved problematic, because the excess dye on the edges made the hem look sloppy. No matter what I did, I couldn’t keep the fabric off the board (especially when wet.)

I have seen a lot of different devices for stretching silk, including the ancient Japanese method using hariki and shinshi. I found I could buy stretcher systems (usually made of pine board) which seemed quite pricey. A couple of silk painters had devised a PVC based system, which held the silk taut and horizontally, more like a painting easel. None of them really struck my fancy, since I am a very wet silk painter.

My ingenious handyman husband devised an adjustable, independent PVC stretcher system, which was movable and sectioned. The elastic attachments had alligator clip ends, which were attached to the stretcher system and were adjustable. Since I usually painted oblong silk scarves 11”/15”x60”, I found this wonderful design worked well for me.


One thing I discovered with the narrow alligator clips was, although they didn’t poke holes into the silk and they didn’t block dye from getting in between the silk, certain dyes tended to pool underneath, causing little blips of color. They were also prone to rusting and not easy to clean.

I discovered a fellow silk painter was using Chinese suspension hooks, available at Dharma Trading Company, our favorite silk supplier. I started clipping the suspension hooks (be careful—they are SHARP!) to the alligator clips and then piercing the silk hem with the suspension hooks. This worked marvelously. There was a small notch in the clip that held on to the hook, and it was still adjustable. When done, I simply removed the hooks and rinsed them with ease.

The PVC stretcher system is adjustable but a bit cumbersome to assemble and disassemble. Once I have it set to a certain size, I try to do a few projects in the same approximate size for a while before I take it apart and set it up for a different sized project. The nice thing about it being in 3 sections is that I only set up what sections I need for the length that I need. In fact, I’m kind of looking forward to the next plein air, so I can set up my little horizontal, self-standing easel!


Pictured: 3-Part stretcher system, assembled with a finished 11″x60″ crepe de Chine scarf.

Anyway, that’s my custom-designed, mobile, adjustable stretcher system. All of the parts are available at the local Home Depot, but if you’d like more information, please feel free to email me.

Thanks for visiting,


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