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* Lady Dye * * * Bringing Colour to Life * * *
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Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the difference between a hot and cold water dye?
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No difference in performance, but in application of the fixative and the temperature at which you dye the fabric.
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What fabrics can I dye in the home?
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Home dyeing is best suited to natural fibres, the most common being cotton - although we do not advise dyeing wool or silk for fear of temperature damage. Avoid synthetics such as polyesters and acrylics at all costs. See section on Identifying Fabric Types.
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What is a dye bath?
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The solution into which you place the cloth to be dyed. It consists of water, diluted salt, and dye. For more detail see under Making the Dye Bath.
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What is a dye solution?
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You make up a dye solution before adding water and salt to create the dye bath. It gives you the opportunity to dissolve the dyes and to strain out solids before the dye bath stage. For more detail see under Making the Dye Bath.
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What is batik?
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Batik is a dyeing method starting with the masking of parts of the fabric with wax. The other parts of the fabric are then dyed with cold water dye. It is one of the resist dyeing methods.
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Do I really need to use the fixative enclosed in the Lady Dye pack?
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If you are going to wash the garment or wish to protect it from running, most certainly yes. If not, such as a tie dyed wall hanging, maybe save yourself the trouble, but hey, why not finish the job? For fuller comment, see section on Dyeing the Fabric.
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You offer a "Cold Water" dye. Why do your instructions refer to warm and hot water applications?
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Technically, these dyes are what are known as reactive dyes and traditionally reactive dyes have been referred to as cold water dyes because they will dye natural fibres in cold water. But you get significantly better results with warmer water - up to a maximum of 60°C.
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Which dyes are better? Hot water or cold water dyes?
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They are equally effective.
The differences are: Hot water dyeing is a little faster and you get an opportunity to check the result you have achieved before "fixing" the colour.
But cold water dyes, on the other hand, do not require you to boil the water. As such they are more accessible to consumers for whom the availability of domestic power is an issue.
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I have followed your instructions to the tee. My material is cotton. Why does the dye not take?
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There are a few possibilities:
  • Maybe it is not cotton? Cotton is sometimes claimed but the material is a synthetic. If imported, it is more likely than with local fabric. Check out the origin of the material or garment. If indeed you suspect it is not cotton, there are burn tests you can do.
  • If your problem is blotchiness or the dye not taking only in part, the garment may contain sizing - a waxy substance common in new fabrics. Hot washing with strong detergent will remove sizing although one wash may not be enough.
  • Try a hotter temperature. Each shade of dye constitutes a combination of shades that react with the fabric at different temperatures. If you do not have sufficient heat, you may not get an adequate result; it might be too pale or even the wrong shade.
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Why should colour be stripped before dyeing?
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The shade of dye that you have bought represents an application on cream/ white cotton. Applying the dye to a different base shade will give a different - and most likely unacceptable - result. It is therefore important to get the garment as close to creamy-white as possible.
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I am dyeing "Bottle Green" hot water dye, but the result is blue. Why is this happening?
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Continue the process. You have not left the garment in the boiling solution for long enough. The blue dye in the bottle green formula has worked or exhausted, but not yet the yellow (remember blue and yellow make green!). Because the yellow exhausts after a longer time, you boil it for longer.
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Why can polyester not be dyed successfully?
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Synthetic fabrics like polyester and poly-acrylics require industrial conditions for dyeing. The dyes have a unique use, they have to be raised to very high temperatures and must subjected to pressure incompatible with home use.
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How does tie dyeing work?
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Tie dyeing is a common form of resist dyeing. Rubber bands or string are used to constrict parts of the fabric so that the dye bath does not reach all parts equally well. Loose tie dyeing will feature a range of shades, whilst tight tie dyeing will have clearer defined lines and a starker white or base shade. Read our Techniques section for detailed information.
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What methods are available to me for dyeing in the home?
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Dyeing can be done on a small scale in the home on the stove; this is known as hand dyeing or manual dyeing. Larger quantities of fabric can be successfully dyed in an automatic washing machine or - using cold water dyes - single or twin tub top loading machines. Small amounts of fabric can even be dyed in a microwave oven. See our section headed Dyeing the Fabric.
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If I wish to dye a cotton/ nylon blend, how do I do that?
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Dye it twice to get the perfect result - once to dye the nylon, and then dye the cotton.
  1. Weigh the garment, as usual.
  2. Calculate the respective weights of nylon and cotton in the garment (you need to know the proportions of cotton and nylon).
  3. Dye the garment according to the nylon and cotton dyeing methods.
First dye the nylon by following this method:
  1. Heat the dye bath with garment in from cold. Stir continuously throughout the process.
  2. Do not add salt or fixative (as for cottons), but cup of vinegar to the solution.
  3. Keep at the boil for +- 15 minutes.
  4. Allow to dry. The nylon fibres have now been dyed.
Now dye the cotton fibres by following the standard instructions for dyeing.
This method will work for both hot water (direct) dyes and cold water (reactive) dyes.
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Will my garments shrink when the temperature is raised to boiling point?
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This is always a possibility. It depends largely on whether they are pre-shrunk. You should in any event wash your garments at a similar temperature to that at which you plan to dye to prepare for dyeing. If in doubt, use a reactive (cold water) dye which should not be raised to over 60degC.
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Can silk be dyed successfully?
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Yes. You may use either a hot water or cold water dye but instead of using salt - as with cottons - use cup of vinegar per pack of dye. With the garment submerged, increase the temperature to boiling point while stirring continuously. Do not add the enclosed fixative.
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How can I determine whether I can dye a piece of fabric or garment?
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One can identify natural fabrics from synthetics by means of a simple burn test. Taking a piece of thread or an inconspicuous offcut, set it alight with an open flame. If the fabric is a natural fibre - such as cotton or silk - it will burn to ash. If it is synthetic it will form a globule - plastic like, and hard to the touch.
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