Problems with setting certain colors of Tinfix silk dye
Silk Painting: The Artist's Guide to Gutta and Wax Resist Techniques
Includes detailed information about using silk dyes, including Tinfix and Dupont.
Complete Silk Painting Kit
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Message: I use TinFix dyes for silk painting. I have problems with dyesetting certain colors like Tyrian Rose and Black. I really "overkill" the steaming process with a professional steamer (over 4 hours) and still I have to use dyeset on some pieces. I am baffled. I tried diluting more but can that really be it? I thought if I understoon the chemistry more, I could overcome this problem. Is there a book you can reccomend. (I have many silk painting books but they all generically discuss steaming. I am baffled!!) Thank you for any information you can provide.
In general, it's true that if you use far too much dye, not all of it can bond to your fibers, because there will not be enough sites available to hold it, especially if the silk you are painting is very thin. Try diluting as much as you can, on a test scrap, to see if you can still obtain the color you need. Obviously this will be no solution if you have to dilute so much that your colors are too pale, especially for black. Tinfix dyes are supposed to be diluted with Tinfix Design Dye Thinner, but dilution is not supposed to be necessary except for making paler colors. Susan Moyer says that Super Tinfix dyes can be diluted two- or three-fold without loss of color intensity.
Are you using vinegar in your water for steaming Tinfix dyes? Dharma Trading Company says to use a mixture of one part white vinegar to three parts of water, in the bottom of your steamer. Acetic acid, which is the acid found in vinegar, is volatile, so it evaporates quickly into steam. Although citric acid is an excellent vinegar substitute for immersion dyeing, it's no use for mixing with the water used for steaming, because it is not volatile.
Unfortunately, a full understanding of the chemistry of TinFix dyes is impossible, because it is impossible to find out what dyes, or even what types of dyes, are included in the formulas. The same is true of all of the different brands of dye referred to as the French silk dyes, including not only Sennelier TinFix but also Dupont, Pebeo Soie, and Kniazeff. Many of the dyes are likely to be Basic dyes, a class of dyes which produces brilliant colors on silk, but with notably poor lightfastness. Others are Acid dyes, which should produce better performance. A few are even Fiber Reactive dyes, and at least one among the Dupont dyes is a Metal Complex acid dye. See my post in the Dye Forum, "What's in the French silk dyes?".
Being unable to determine the dyes used can sometimes cause another sort of difficulties. For example, see this question in my Hand Dyeing Q&A blog from August 30, 2007: "Did Sennelier TinFix silk dyes cause my wife's hyperthyroidism?" Although the warning label advised consulting a poison control center, both the poison control center consulted and an endocrinologist were unable to provide any information, because the dye manufacturer refused to release information about the identity of the dyes. Another question, from the October 2, 2007 entry in my Hand Dyeing Q&A blog, asked, "Sennelier TinFix dyes are irritating my throat and affecting my voice. Are they toxic?".
In contrast, if you use known dyes for silk painting, you can find more information about each one, and possibly find or mix better alternatives if one or two colors are unsatisfactory. Besides the French silk dyes, you can also consider painting silk with fiber reactive dyes, such as the Remazol dyes (which ProChem sells as their Liquid Reactive Dyes, and Jacquard Products retailers sell in three different lines of dye, the Vinyl Sulphon dyes, the Jacquard Red Label Silk Colors, and the Jacquard Green Label Silk Colors), or Procion H dyes (which G&S Dye in Canada sells in many different colors, premixed with auxiliary chemicals). You will still need to steam these dyes to set them, but the steaming process requires less time, and the results are frequently a great deal more resistant to fading from washing, and in some cases more resistant to light fading. (As a rule, fiber reactive dyes are much more resistant to light fading than basic dyes are, though there are other, less suitable, dyes that are more light resistant still.) You can also paint silk very effectively with acid dyes, but it's more trouble to prepare them for use, since they are purchased in powder form and must be dissolved and mixed to make the colors you need.
It is sometimes possible to overdo steaming time, though I've actually heard of this happening only with dyes that require significantly less steaming time; for a dye that (unlike the dyes you're using) requires only half an hour of steaming, several hours of steaming can "blow out" some colors. The Sennelier company recommends steaming times of from one and a half to three hours, depending on the size of the bundle of silk you're steaming. Do you think it's at all possible that your steaming time might actually have been excessive for the thickness of your batch of silk? Or (more likely), did you already try shorter steaming times, with this same result?
Finally, are there any alternatives to the specific colors that are causing you problems? In the Tinfix color chart at Dharma, Tyrian Rose looks close to fuchsia in color. Does Bengale Red, which Dharma designates as a primary color for mixing, give you the same problems? Perhaps you could mix a tiny drop of purple or blue with Bengale Red to make a close approximation of Tyrian Red. For your black, if you are not mixing your colors together, you might try using a different brand of dye. You can mix Dupont silk dyes with Tinfix silk dyes if you are not going to be using the chemical fixative, but don't mix either with yet another brand of silk dye. I believe that Dupont silk dyes cannot be set with the chemical fixative, only with steam, but if steaming works well enough, you won't be needing to follow up with the dyeset chemical you've been using. Please do a test before trying these substitutions on any large or important project.
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Posted: Tuesday - October 12, 2010 at 09:07 AM