dyes can be used with various techniques and will
readily colour synthetics such as polyester, nylon, cellulose
acetate, vilene, viscose, synthetic velvets and PVC. They
can also be used to colour plastic buttons and fastenings.
Their effect is less potent on polyester, due to the
molecular structure, allowing only pastel through to medium
Polyester fibre contains pores or canals within its structure
which, when heated to 100°C, expand to allow particles
of the dyes to enter. The expansion of the pores is limited
by the heat of the water - industrial dyeing of polyester
is carried out at 130°C in pressurised equipment!
Full colour can be achieved when heat transfer printing with
disperse dyes as in this image by Linda Chapman.
Using disperse dyes on natural fibres, such as cotton and
wool, are not effective but can be combined with reactive
dyes to colour blends of polyester/cotton. This technique
is used industrially in controlled conditions.
Disperse Dye Bath Technique:
To dye 100gm fabric in 3 litres of water.
Before dyeing, it is important to check whether the fabric
is 'Prepared for Dyeing' (PFD) or requires scouring to remove
any grease, oil or starch. Run a few droplets of cold water
onto the fabric. If they soak in quickly, no scour is necessary.
To remove starches, size and oils, add 5mls of Synthrapol
(a non-ionic detergent) along with 2-3 litres of water for
each 100gms of material. Stir gently over a 15 min period,
and then rinse thoroughly in warm water. It is possible to
use household detergent, but the alkaline residue may affect
the final colour or wash fastness.
Heat water in a suitable container (do not use iron, copper
or aluminium). If using water from a hard water area, add
3gm Calgon to help counter its alkalinity. Water can be
tested using indicator paper.
Weigh out disperse dye powder (0.4gm for pale colours
to 4gm for stronger colours) and sprinkle into a small amount
of tepid water to make a solution.
Add the dye solution to the dye bath along with 3gm of
dispersing agent and stir well with a wooden, stainless
steel or plastic spoon.
Add the fabric to the dye bath and stir gently whilst
raising the temperature slowly to 95-100°C over 15-30
minutes (if dyeing acetate, keep the temperature at 85°C).
The longer the fabric remains in the dye bath the stronger
Allow the bath to cool to 50°C and check the colour.
Add more dye solution to strengthen it and raise the temperature
to 80-85°C for a further 10 minutes.
Continue step 5 until the desired colour has been achieved.
To complete the process, remove the fabric from the dye
bath, rinse in tepid water, spin dry and iron.
Heat Transfer Printing using Disperse Dyes and Paints
Disperse dyes can be used to great effect in transfer prints.
You can create multiple prints onto synthetic fabrics such
as polyester, nylon and mixtures of wool and cotton with more
than 60% synthetic fibre content. The disperse dye colours
will appear dull, only giving the full colour once they have
been activated by heat.
the colours in advance will give a good indication of the
final result. The image here shows the results of a transfer
fabric (left) and polyester
fabric (right). Sampling
will also give you an opportunity to check the iron setting
and transfer time.
Sketch your design (in reverse) on a non-absorbent paper.
Use either heat transfer paints made from the disperse dyes
or ready mixed Fibrecrafts
Iron-On Transfer Paints or Deka
Iron-On Transfer Paints.
Transfer Paint from Disperse
Dye, Thin Consistency:
Use 10-100gm disperse dye (depending on depth of colour
required) and sprinkle into 500ml of tepid water.
Stir vigorously and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
Transfer Paint from Disperse
Dye: Thick Consistency (for better line definition):
Slowly add 50gm Indalca
PA3R powder to 500ml of cold water and stir vigorously.
Follow instructions for thin consistency and add solution
to indalca stock.
for printing with Transfer Paints:
Brush, print, stencil or spray the design onto smooth,
non-absorbent paper and allow to dry. (The image to the
right was created by Linda Chapman using dried wild flowers
as her stencil.)
Place the design with the paint side against the fabric,
using several layers of newspaper as an underlay and a layer
of clean paper on top to avoid ink transfer. Set iron between
wool and cotton, (cotton setting for a cotton/synthetic
mix) and iron for 1-2 minutes. Keep the iron still, since
movement can blur the image.
The transfer is complete when the paper begins to yellow.
For larger patterns, set one area at a time, with a cooling
time between transfers.
Transfers can be used more than once, but each subsequent
application will give a duller image with some colour change.
Colours are intermixable, non-toxic, water based and wash
fast, with a soft and flexible handle.
It is clear that there are sensible precautions to be taken
when handling dyes and chemicals, particularly as powders:
Avoid inhaling dusts, they can produce an asthma type
reaction. People with known respiratory problems should
not handle synthetic dyes, and particularly the fibre reactive
dyes, in powder form. A dust mask should be worn when working
with the powders or exposed to an aerosol from spraying
dye solutions made up in water.
Avoid splashing solutions into the eyes, swallowing the
materials or prolonged skin contact. A simple 'non-contact'
approach (most people use gloves to avoid dyeing themselves)
plus normal, good, hygiene is sufficient precautions for
the occasional user
Store in clearly labelled containers well away from children,
pets and foodstuffs. Treat dye powders and solutions with
the same caution as domestic poisons (eg strong cleaners,
bleaches or medicines)
Dispose of spent solutions containing residues of the
dyes responsibly. Dilute and pour onto waste land or into
the sewage system. They have no known effect on the environment
when used in the quantities recommended in the literature