Tie dying Nylon/Spandex
  • I'm trying to tie-dye a nylon/spandex bathing suit. I've heard I can use acid dyes for this - anybody know?
  • The Acid Dyes will work perfectly. You'll find instructions here.

  • The instructions are for dyeing in the washer, though, which would only give one color. Can you use the acid dyes for tie-dyeing?
  • ahhh, sorry - I missed that detail. Tie-dyeing using mutiple colors with nylon could be done a couple different ways.
    One way would be to use dyes prepared as for Flowable Painting - tie the suit up as you'd like, apply the dye and then steam the whole bundle using a homemade stove top steamer. You'll find instructions for using our stove top steamer here. These instructions can be modified for use with a homemade stove top steamer. (A big pot with a tight fitting lid and a rack for the fabric to sit above the water) Because the fabric will still be wet when you steam there will be additional running together of the colors.

    You could also use the stove top method (the higher temps are important with nylon) with a low water immersion process - Paula Burch describes the low water immersion method for Procion MX at her site. This method can be modified for use with the Acid Dyes - just substitute the Acid Dyes for the Procion MX, use vinegar instead of soda ash and do the whole thing on the stove top as described in the stove top method above. You'll need to mix dyes in enough water to allow for heating the bath without scorching your fabric. To avoid moving the fabric around once you have the dyes on it you should be able to get away with adding a tablespoon or so of vinegar to each color before you apply it to the fabric.

    The above suggestions require a bit of faith so if you have some spare fabric you might want to do some experimenting before you jump into the main project.

    And just a reminder - any pots used for your dye projects should be dedicated for dye use only.


    p.s. Paula?, Ceilia? any input????
  • I'm concerned about what the heat will do to the spandex in the bathing suit. It might damage it. You're typically supposed to keep the temperature of spandex-containing garments below 105°F (40°C) in the wash. Too much heat might change the shape of the bathing suit. The only question is, how much heat is too much?

    Long ago, I learned to tie-dye from the Earth Guild instructions. Unfortunately, these instructions called for heat-setting Procion MX dyes, even on cotton, a step which is entirely unnecessary. We did not know any better, though, so we wasted a lot of effort on it. We baked one set of freshly dyed clothes in the oven for a short while, since the instructions claimed that was a good way to heat-set them. (What it was was a totally ridiculous waste of time and effort. Procion MX dyes do not need to be heat-set if used with soda ash at any temperature over 70°F.) A little pair of very soft cotton/Lycra baby pants got crispy at the edges, because, another thing we did not know, spandex is very heat-sensitive. Fortunately, they were not tied, just dyed flat, so their shape was not affected significantly, and the crispy bits softened in the wash. They were okay. That was close, though.

    A lower-heat alternative would be an acrylic-based fabric paint, such as Dye-Na-Flow, combined with Jacquard Airfix before use so you don't have to heat-set it. Some fabric paints will become permanent without heat setting or catalyst if they are allowed to dry for a full month. Fabric paint will wear off much faster than dye, since it does not penetrate the fibers as deeply, but it's a lot less risky to the spandex blend fabric. It's also more resistant, in many cases, to fading from direct sunlight.