Have you ever wondered why you are attracted to a certain item you purchase? Is it quality, brand, price or colour?
Today I want to write about the importance of colour and how garment pieces are dyed.
Did you ever feel attracted and drawn towards a particular garment piece? Did you know, that colour is an important marketing factor for textile producers? It is often the colour that sells the product.
I don’t believe we spend too much time thinking about how the specific item/garment we purchase became that specific colour/dye or print. Therefore I would like to write a blog about the different methods used.
Before the first synthetic dye (mauve) in 1856 was discovered by William Henry Perkin, only natural dyes and pigments were used.
Today almost all industrial dyeing uses synthetic dyes, whereas natural dyes except for indigo (blue) are mainly used for craft/hobby times, or eco-friendly designers.
Besides the creative aspect of adding colour to textiles, science (complex chemistry) and technology (computer/colour management system) are a huge aspect in transforming un-dyed fabrics into beautiful colours and designs.
There are two main ways of imparting colour to textiles. The first method is conventional or aqueous dyeing which involves the use of chemical dyes called “dyestuffs” and the second method is using pigments. Pigments are microscopic-sized, insoluble coloured particles made to adhere to a fabric. There is another method called “solution dyed” or “dope dyed” which is when they add the micro sized, coloured pigment to the fiber in liquid or solution form before it gets extruded from a spinnerette.
Not all fabrics can be dyed the same way, whereas different methods are used, since this subject can be very extensive I will focus on one particular method per blog.
Another interesting fact is, that your garment may have been dyed at various stages, for example the yarn was dyed before the fabric gets knit or woven, or the fabric gets dyed before it is cut and sewn, or the whole garment gets dyed after it was sewn (Again a great subject for a future blog).
Let’s focus on the main two methods “Conventional or Aqueous Dying” and “Pigment Dying”
Conventional or Aqueous Dying, simply called DYEING
Is the process of combining dyestuffs with the fiber molecule, usually in a water solution, and usually with other auxiliary chemicals to enhance the process. Water, dye, chemicals and textile material are combined together for a period ranging from several minutes to several hours, depending on the dyes and fibers being used. Also temperatures vary from boiling to ice cool. As to the amount of dyes, water, fiber weight and time must be precisely calculated, it really is a whole science behind the process and very complex.
Pigments are completely different substances for colouring textiles. Unlike dyes, they are insoluble in water and do not unite or combine in any way with the textile fiber. Pigment particles are microscopic coloured chips that may be held on the surface of a fiber by resin-binding agents.
Due to pigment particles not dissolving in water and not penetrating the fabric, they must be forcibly squeezed into the cloth so that the inside fibers are coloured. In order for the pigment to adhere to the fabric, the resin must be heated in a process known as “curing”. This involves heating the pigment/resin mixture at temperatures between 150C and 200C for about 30 seconds to several minutes.
Pigment dyeing is a more cost effective solution than aqueous dying, however with each cleaning (laundering or dry-cleaning) it shows loss of colour and starts to fade (around the 15th - 20th cleaning).
Obviously there is an environmental impact to garment dyeing. Here is a video if you are interested in the subject.