Saturday, April 7, 2012

Units used in Dyeing and Printing of Fabrics[1-6]
Art Resource

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

This is the second blog in the "Art Resource" series, specifically aimed to construct an appropriate knowledge base in order to develop an artistic voice in ArtCloth. Other posts in this series are:
Glossary of Terms
Occupation, Health & Safety
A Brief History Of Color
The Nature Of Color
Psychology Of Color
Color Schemes
The Naming of Colors
Munsell Color Classification System
Methuen Color Index And Classification System
The CIE System
Pantone - A Modern Color Classification System
Optical Properties of Fiber Materials
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part I
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part II
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part III
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part IV
General Properties of Fiber Polymers and Fibers - Part V
Protein Fibers - Wool
Protein Fibers - Speciality Hair Fibers
Protein Fibers - Silk
Protein Fibers - Wool versus Silk
Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Cotton
Cellulosic Fibers (Natural) - Linen
Other Natural Cellulosic Fibers
General Overview of Man-Made Fibers
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Viscose
Man-Made Cellulosic Fibers - Esters
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Nylon
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Polyester
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Acrylic and Modacrylic
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Olefins
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Elastomers
Man-Made Synthetic Fibers - Mineral Fibers
Man Made Fibers - Other Textile Fibers
Fiber Blends
From Fiber To Yarn: Overview - Part I
From Fiber to Yarn: Overview - Part II
Melt-Spun Fibers
Characteristics of Filament Yarn
Yarn Classification
Direct Spun Yarns
Textured Filament Yarns
Fabric Construction - Felt
Fabric Construction - Nonwoven Fabrics
A Fashion Data Base
Fiber Construction - Leather
Fabric Construction - Films
Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins
Fabric Construction – Foams and Poromeric Material
Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns
Weaving and the Loom
Similarities and Differences in Woven Fabrics
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part I)
The Three Basic Weaves - Plain Weave (Part II)
The Three Basic Weaves - Twill Weave
The Three Basic Weaves - Satin Weave
Figured Weaves - Leno Weave
Figured Weaves – Piqué Weave
Figured Fabrics
Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements

The Glossary of Terms, Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff, A Fashion Data Base, Glossary of Colors, Dyes, Inks, Pigments and Resins, Glossary of Fabrics, Fibers, Finishes, Garments and Yarns and Glossary of Art, Artists, Art Motifs and Art Movements have been updated in order to better inform your art practice.

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Dyeing and printing of fabric spans all languages, cultures and continents. Unfortunately, the units used in the dyeing and printing of fabrics do not!

Most of the world has adopted the Systeme International d'Unites - known in the English speaking world as the Standard International Units (or abbreviated as SI Units). However, the largest economy in the world, the USA, has kept the Imperial System. This has caused some difficulties. For example, one space probe crashed into the Martian surface because the European scientists responsible for one part of its mission, used SI Units, whereas the USA scientists used the Imperial system - neither group informing each other of the fact. Hence the parachute opened far too late to slow the probe sufficiently and it disintegrated on impact with the Martian surface!

Christine Smith attended the In Pursuit of Complex Cloth: Dyeing Approaches workshop, which was organized by the Victorian Feltmakers Inc. at the Hartwell Church Hall in Harwell, Melbourne, Australia. Here you can see Christine's tray dyed fabrics sitting in a multi-dye and soda ash solution, which required careful measurement of the liquid dye stocks and soda ash solutions.

Plastic syringes contained various amounts of liquid dye stock to enable careful distribution of various colours through the cloth using this low water immersion dyeing technique.

Base Units In Dyeing and Printing Of Fabrics In SI Units
The SI Unit is based on a "ten" base system for length and mass. That is, the relationship with one scale of length (such as a centimeter: symbol - cm) is related to another (such as a meter: symbol - m) by an order of ten. For example:
1 m = 10 x 10 cm = 100 cm; 1 kilometer = 10 x 10 x 10 m = 1000 m.

The base units in the dyeing and printing of fabrics is: length, mass, pressuure, time and temperature. In the SI units the base units translates as: meter (also spelt metre) (m), kilogram (kg), second (s) and degree kelvin (K). Note: The symbol of these units are in bold within the brackets.

These units and the associated quantities were precisely measured in order that they could be reproduced.

Meter: It is equal to the length of the path travelled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1/(299,792,458) of a second.

Kilogram: It is equal to the mass of a platinum-iridium cylinder kept at BIPM in Paris, France.

Second: It is the duration of exactly 9192631770 periods of radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium-133 atom.

Temperature (Degree Kelvin): It is the fraction 1/273.16 (exactly) of the thermodynamic triple point of water; that is, the point where ice, steam and liquid water can all co-exist.

Defining some of these base quantities is still an on-going research effort.

Some supplementary units from the base units can now be defined. For example, area is length x width and so it must have units of m x m or m2 (i.e. squared meters). On the other hand, volume is length x width x height and so it must has units of m x m x m or m3 (i.e. cubic meters). The common unit for volume in SI units is the litre (also spelt liter) (l) and it is one thousand of a cubic meter (or 1 litre =10-3m3). Speed is distance divided by time and so has units of ms-1 or meters per second). Degree centigrade (oC) is the scale that spans the point at which water freezes and the point at which water boils (i.e. the range is between 0oC to 100oC, respectively). This range is equivalent to 273.16K and 373.16K. Dyers and printers of fabrics rarely use the Kelvin system, preferring to use the Celsius (i.e. centigrade) or Fahrenheit system instead, whereas scientists use all three interchangeably.

The unit of Force is the Newton(N) which is equal to mass (kg) x acceleration (ms-2) or kg m s-2. Now pressure is just the force you apply per unit area or kg x ms-2/m2; that is, kg m-1 s-2. These units are grouped together to define the unit of pressure, which is the Pascal (Pa).

Energy is defined in terms of mass x velocity squared or kg x (ms-1)2 or kg m2s-2, the unit of which is named a Joule (J).

Density is defined as mass/volume and so its SI units officially are kg m-3, although g cm-3 is often used since they are more convenient units. (Note: cm3 is a milli-litre or ml and so density is sometimes given the units of g ml-1 or gram per ml).

Celsius, Kelvin, Newton, Pascal, Fahrenheit and Joule are famous scientists, who studied the quantities, after which they are named.

Decimal Fractional and Multiples
Dyers and printers of fabric need to understand fractions and multiples. Due to computers most of these are now becoming commonplace.

Fractions (Prefix) {Symbol}
10-1 (deci) {d}
10-2 (centi) {c}
10-3 (milli) {m}
10-6 (micro)
10-9 (nano) {n}

Multiples (Prefix) {Symbol}
10 (deca) {da}
103 (kilo) {k}
106 (mega) {M}
109 (giga) {G}
1012 (tera) {T}

One deci-litre is therefore 10-1 of a litre. As 1 litre is 103 milli-litre or ml, then one deci-litre is 10-1 x 103 ml or 102ml; that is, 100 ml.

British Or Imperial System
The British or Imperial System is now severely restricted in use. Nevertheless, below is a quick overview.


1 foot = 12 inches.

1 yard = 3 feet.

1 mile = 5280 feet = 1760 yards.


1 square foot = 144 inches.

1 square yard = 9 square feet = 1296 inches.


1 cubic feet = 1728 inches.

1 cubic yard = 27 cubic feet.

1 British Imperial Gallon = 277.3 cubic inches = 1.2 U.S. gallons.

1 pint = 16 U.S. ounces = 20 fluid ounces.

1 quart = 2 pints = 32 U.S. ounces = 40 fluid ounces.


1 Dram = 27.34 Grains.

1 ounce = 16 Drams = 437.5 Grains.

1 Pound (lb) = 16 ounces = 56 Drams = 7000 Grains.

Pound per square inch or, more accurately, pound-force per square inch (symbol: psi or lbf/in2 or lbf/in2 or lbf/sq in or lbf/sq in) is a unit of pressure.

1 atmosphere = 760 mm of Hg (symbol for mercury) = 14.7 psi.

Conversion Factors To and From The Imperial System - Base Units
There are numerous internet sites that will automatically convert an SI unit into an Imperial unit and vice versa (e.g. OnLineConversion ). However, sometimes it is useful to do it yourself.

Handy JPEG Table Listing Approximate Conversion Factors.

Let us begin with the base units and then go to supplementary units.


1 mile = 1.609 x 103 meter.

1 yard = 0.9144 meter.

1 inch = 2.54 cm.

1 nanometer (nm) = 10-9 meter (m).

For example, 1 foot = 12 inches = 12 x 2.54 cm = 30.48 cm.

To find the reverse conversion factor, just divide both sides by the original conversion factor. For example,

1 cm = (1/2.54) inch = 0.394 inch.


1 Ton (USA) = 907.19 kg.

1 pound (lb) = 0.4536 kg or 453.4 g = 1.22 troy pound.

1 ounce (oz) = 28.57 g or 1 g = 0.035 oz = 0.0022 pounds.

For example, 10 pound = 10 x 0.4536 kg = 4.536 kg = 4536 g.

1 ounce (oz) = 2.835 x 10-2 kg or 28.35 g.

To find the reverse conversion factor, just divide both sides by the original conversion factor. For example,

1 kg = (1/0.4536) lb = 2.2046 lb = 564.38 drams = 35.27 oz.

For example, 10 kg = 10 x 2.2046 lb = 22.046 lb.

Both the SI unit and the Imperial system have the same unit for time.
1 Year = 3.16 x 107 seconds (s).
1 Month (31 Days) = 267.84 x 108 s.
1 Day = 8.64 x 104 s.
1 hour = 3.6 x 103 s.
1 minute = 60 s.

Using the Fahrenheit scale, water freezes at 32oF and goes into vapor at 212oF. The relationship between the Fahrenheit scale and Celsius (or centigrade) scale is as follows.

oF = oC (9/5) + 32. Hence 100oC is equal to:

?oF = 100x(9/5) + 32 = 212oF

The reverse relationship is:

oC = (oF - 32)(5/9).

Conversion Factors To and From The Imperial System - Supplementary Units
The supplementary units can now also be deduced. We shall only concentrate on the supplementary units used by dyers and printers.

1 square foot = 0.0929 m2

1 gallon(US) = 3.785 litres (l).
1 cubic foot = 28.317 litres.
1 litre = 2.11 pints = 1.06 quarts = 61.025 cubic inches = 0.26 US gallon = 33.81 fluid ounces.

1 atmosphere = 101 325 Pa.
1 mm of mercury (mm Hg) = 133.32 Pa.
One pound per square inch (psi) = 6894.757 Pa (Pascal).

1 erg = 10-7 Joules (J).
1 calorie = 4.184 J.

For example, 400 calories = 400 x 4.184 J = 1,673.6 Joules.

Unsual Conversions
There are many home-made recipes for dyeing and printing with natural dyes and pigments. Sometimes we lose the relationship between a rough rule-of-thumb measurement (e.g. one spoonful) with more precise measurements (1 millimeter or ml). Therefore the following attempts to bring these different approaches into line.

Kitchen Measurements.
1/4 teaspoon (tsp) = 1 ml.

1/2 tsp = 2 ml.

1 tsp = 5 ml. (This illustrates a rough rounding off for 1/4 and 1/2 tsp).

2 tsp = 10 ml.

1 table spoon (tbsp) = 15 ml.

1/4 cup (standard drinking cup) = 60 ml.

1/3 cup = 70 ml.

1/2 cup = 120 ml.

1 cup = 240 ml. (Note: Australian cups are a little larger being approximately 250 ml.)

1 pint (US pt) = 0.473 litres.

1 quart (qt) = 1.1 litres.

1 litre = 35.2 fluid oz.

Size Of Dye Pots.
Most standard enamel pots hold 4 gallons or 18 litres of fluid. Stock pots tend to be larger and are available in sizes up to 10 gallons or 45.5 litres. Copper boilers hold much more than that.

Mordant and Dyebath Temperatures
Generally a slow simmer is between 120oF or 50oC.
A simmer is between 91oC - 95oC (or 190oF).
A boil is between 98oC - 100oC (or 212oF).
Soaping is often used after the dyeing process and so soap is not warmed greater than 120oF or 50oC.

Density Of A Dye Solution.
The density of water at 20oC is 0.9982 g cm-3 or 0.9982 gram per ml. Dye solutions are mostly composed of water and so dyers generally do not take into account the small amount of dye that is dissolved in water. Hence, dyers will use a rough rule-of-thumb and so if they use one ml of dye solution then that measure is also roughly equivalent to 1g of the dye solution.

Other Useful Relative Quantities, Sizes, Abbreviations and Weights Used In An Art Studio Context
Dozen (doz.) = 12.
Score = 20.
Gross = 144 (or a dozen's dozen).

Note: Abbreviations used in knitting.

[1] G.H. Aylward and T.J.V. Findlay, SI Chemical Data, John Wiley and Sons, Elwood (1983).

[2] K. L. Casselman, Craft of the Dyer, University of Toronto Press, Toronto (1980).

[3] R. Mayer, The Artist's Handbook, 4th Edition, Faber and Faber, Norfolk (1981).

[4] Editors. A Jeffs, W. Martensson and P. North, Creative Arts Encyclopedia, Octopus Books Ltd., London (1984).

[5] J. Fish, Designing And Printing Textiles, The Crowood Press, Rambbury (2005).

[6] M-T Wisniowski, personal communication (2012).


Lesley Turner said...

an invaluable reference - thank you Marie-Therese

Anonymous said...

Hi Marie-Therese,
I am interested in your blog and the kind of information you are sharing, however I found that the item on units of measurement made a straightforward subject terribly complex.

Kind Regards


amit malhotra said...

i am really inspired by ur work madam i am amit malhotra from india would like to know more dyeing techniques from u 9818660286

Lynne B said...

The Australian metric standard is 1 teaspoon is 5ml and 1 tablespoon is 20ml. The 15ml tablespoon is American I believe...