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> > Marking poly yarn and similar synthetics without bleeding

TroutnutJune 5th, 2007, 12:08 pm
Bellevue, WA

Posts: 2737
This question is mostly for Gonzo but I'm sure some other people would like to hear (or even offer) answers. In his book he has several patterns with poly yarn, foam, and similar synthetics which are fairly intricately colored, seemingly with markers. I've got the finest-tip craft markers I could find, but I still have major problems with the ink bleeding up and down the material (especially on poly yarn wings).

Anyone have any tips?
Jason Neuswanger, Ph.D.
Troutnut and salmonid ecologist
WiflyfisherJune 5th, 2007, 3:52 pm

Posts: 662
Jason one thing to note. Some synthetics are closed cells and some have open cells. A closed cell like polypropylene fibers will not accept a dye because it's dye sites are closed. Polypropylene fibers are used in indoor/outdoor carpets and you can pour bleach on them without loosing the color, because the dye sites are closed. It has to be dyed when in the liquid state before solidifying into those thin denier fibers.

Other synthetic fibers, such as nylon (Antron), have open dye sites and can be dyed topically. So depending on the type of synthetic material you are using you may have trouble getting the right results.
John S.
InvictaJune 5th, 2007, 4:01 pm
Tulare, CA

Posts: 23

Thatís a great question; Iíve had problems with synthetic coloration for years. As John S. pointed out, I have found the problem in using a marker to color synthetics occurs because there is not a convenient way to incorporate the marker color into the fiber structure of the synthetic. The marker will coat the outside of the synthetic fiber, but the molecules of the color pigment will not easily (if at all) lock onto, or into, the fibers. Itís not like dyeing feathers or fur, where you can lock the dye molecules into the natural fibers with a weak acid (vinegar). Some non aqueous markers are more persistent than others, but it has been my experience that with the right solvent (to include saliva) color movement will occur on smooth synthetic products. You may get a satisfactory color fastness in using material with extremely fine fibers, and working the color into the material so than any color bleeding occurs on the exposed outside fibers, while the inside coloration remains largely intact. On the other hand color migration may not occur easily in water with the materials you are using, so not to worry. One of the products I have used for holding the color in dyed materials is ďConsortĒ menís hair spray; you might try a light application of that product. It has a weak carrying agent so it doesnít affect the ink color before the coating dries.

GONZOJune 5th, 2007, 4:36 pm
Site Editor
"Bear Swamp," PA

Posts: 1681

John and John make some very good points, but I have to say that I've not experienced the bleeding problem you mention with poly yarn. "Permanent" marker color is often less than truly permanent on many synthetics, but the slight fading of color that occurs with time and use is easy to replenish should the fly survive long enough to need it. This is usually a surface coating of color rather than a dying of the fiber, but the color and markings are sufficently long-lasting to satisfy me.

That said, not all permanent marker colors are equal in their performance, even among the colors offered by a single manufacturer. Sharpie colors are usually strong and long-lasting, though the color selection is limited. Prismacolor and Pantone have some colors that work well and others that work less well. For the ultimate in fine markings, I've found that the Pigma Micron technical pens are superb--a choice of several very fine point sizes and very strong pigment--but only in black. What color/manufacturer were you using when you had the problem?
WiflyfisherJune 5th, 2007, 8:10 pm

Posts: 662
Over the years I have had the advantage of being associated with the worlds largest fiber producers and I have several lifetimes supply of materials. The majority of what is used in fly tying is probably some sort of hybrid nylon synthetic that may also have been coated at the factory. (A true polypropylene fiber if you add any marker color it should wipe off with your finger.)

That said, Gonzo makes a good point that not all markers are the same. I personally don't use markers for fly tying anymore but I would bet some hold better than others.
John S.

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