The colors of Ripstop Nylon Fabric (RSN) and Ripstop Polyester Fabric (RSP) that are available to the kitebuilder are usually limited to the colors that the boat sail industry uses. The manufactures will not make a run of fabric unless they can sell it. So the kitebuilder who wants a flesh color usually cannot get it unless they are willing to buy an enter dye lot of fabric and that is usually several thousand yards… but there is one kitebuilding supply retailer that sometimes gets nonstandard colors….

I have heard the question many times “How do I get my colors onto fabric?” well you need to dye them or paint them…

Nylon fibers require the use of a family of dyes called Acid Dye or Disperse Dyes and Polyester Fibers require the use of Disperse Dyes but Acid Dyes do NOT work on Polyester. BUT Acid Dyes are more “Washfast” than Disperse Dyes and they are more readily available and come in more colors at the retail level. Disperse Dyes that are set at atmospheric pressure need a carrier chemical that smells quite bad and I insist that you read and UNDERSTAND the MSDS before you buy it!!!!!

Both Acid and Disperse Dyes need lots of heat and water to bond to the fibers. You can provide this in two methods, either in a vat or as steam.

When vat dyeing you boil water in a non reactive vessel (stainless steel or enameled, Do NOT use aluminum or copper!!!!!!) that has dye dissolved in it to dye a piece one color or to dip only part of the fabric in the vat to dye it….

If you prefer to apply the dyes to specific areas of the fabric like in silk painting techniques or resist dying (like tie dye or Shibori) you MUST set the dyes using steam to keep from disturbing the location of the dyes and to get the necessary energy to the dye molecule so it can bond to the fiber.

All Purpose dyes… Rit and Dylon’s Multipurpose dyes contain two types on dyes in the box. They have Direct Dye which will dye cotton fibers and acid dye which will dye nylon, but half of the box will not dye the fibers you have at hand, so they go down the drain….. Waste,,,, but if you cant wait for mail order to deliver, you might want to experiment with an “All Purpose Dye”, but you are doing it a MUCH higher cost per yard…

As always, do NOT use any tool that was used in dyeing for culinary purposes!!!! Protect your health and the health of your family!!!!! Read and UNDERSTAND the MSDS for all dyes and auxiliaries you plan on using in your kitebuilding!!!!!!

You can buy pots and measuring tools inexpensively at the local thrift store or restaurant supply house.

Further Reading:

Forum Discussions on Fabric Dying

Dyeing Article

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