Nicky Adkins

Making, Doing and Mending

Blog for Nicky Adkins, at Nicky Adkins Handmade

Dyeing synthetic fibres

Having used up the last of the hand dyed fire star that I’d bought from Fibre East last year, I was feeling the lack of its subtle sparkle and thought it was time for a dyeing session! I realised to my horror when picking up my dyeing notebook that it’s been well over a year since I did any. Sorry little dyes, I do still love you! 

I’ve only dyed natural protein fibres (wools, specifically merino and BFL) before but I was going to be working with nylon (trilobial nylon) and synthetic cashmere (which seems to be comprised of magical softness and fairy hair) and my main concern was the possibility of accidentally melting the nylon. As with most kids, I suffered several disasters with dolls’ and My Little Ponies’  hair ending up in clumped, solid messes. After some quick research, I decided that steaming the fibre in clingfilm would be the safest bet. 

There were no meltages! Phew. And look at the glorious blue that resulted in both fibres...


To say I was excited about the colour was a little bit of an understatement, so I quickly did two more batches of 20g of each fibre. Lesson number one was that when steaming it is all too easy to leave undyed patches. More smooshing, and probably a little more dye fixed that, though over-dyeing with a second shade worked brilliantly.  



Look at those colours! Steaming in clingfilm felt a lot less labourious that the small batch vat dying I’ve done before and it so much more practical for smaller quantities. I can’t wait to do more.  

Disaster sharing time though...  I also tried this with rose fibre.

No, it didn’t melt. But completely failing to appreciate the different cell structure of cellulose fibres and thinking I could dye them with acid dyes was a mistake I’ll not make again! 



Utterly ruined, and half the dye was released when rinsing so it was just awful. Further research and a panicked tweet to a friend who works in the textiles department yielded the explanation. Reactive dyes, not acid dyes on cellulose (plant) fibres. Lesson learned.