Precision Dyer

Tony Wardle has been in the textile industry for many years and has worked in all areas of the business. The company that Tony works for, Gelvenor Textiles, is a leading global producer of high-technology, industrial, technical and specialised fabrics. “The textile industry is really battling with new entrants. Many see it as a poor industry to go into, and many do not spend enough time in the industry to gain the necessary experience and knowledge, in order to make a meaningful contribution.”

“We have also noticed that many new job seekers have a different set of priorities and expectations today. Most believe that, once they have served a three-year training programme, they are entitled to a five-digit salary, car, cell phone allowance, and many other company benefits. However, you have to ask yourself a question: ‘Do I want a career or a job?’ Career people work with their hearts; job people chase the salary. Promotional opportunities go to career people, and the salary follows; job people hop from job to job, and will more than likely never experience job satisfaction.”

“If everyone would just take some time to realise the fact that most of our ‘awake time’ during our lives will be spent at work, and that we are going to be working for 20 to 40 years of our lives, they will realise that job satisfaction is very important, if one wants to be happy in a career.”


An entry-level salary for a dyehouse worker can be anything between R5 000 and R7000 per month.

Job description

A worker in a dyehouse will initially be trained on how to operate the machines that are used in the dyeing process, as well as learning about issues, such as colour matching, different textiles and general trouble shooting. Once trainees have gained the necessary experience and expertise, they become involved in planning dyehouse activities, monitoring production, checking shades, making up recipes (dye formulations), handling staff, monitoring new shades, new fabric dyeing (first-time dyeing), and evaluating new dye products or new auxiliaries.

Pros and cons

This work is very interesting. Therefore, the pros are many. The fabrics and dye recipe combinations are ever changing, and new technologies are always emerging. We also get to see the results of a good job very quickly. The con would be the hot and humid conditions in the factory.

Required studies and experience

A good matric pass with Maths and Science is usually required, initially. One can then do a course in Textile Technology at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), or pursue other textile studies that are offered through the South African Dyers and Finishers Association (SADFA). One also needs good colour vision in this career.

Personality types

One must be patient, calm, and focused.

An average day

Usually, a dyer will start with a handover from the previous shift. Nothing ever really runs like clockwork, so the day generally involves just trying to get through the plan of the day, while working around any problems that may arise.

The best thing about the job

I always wanted a challenging career, such as working with chemistry, but I didn’t want to work in an office or a small lab environment. This job is exactly what I had in mind. My particular job encompasses all aspects of textile manufacture, of which colouration is a very important part, so my days at work are usually quite varied and interesting.

The worst thing about the job

This job comes with a few safety hazards. We have jet-dyeing machines that dye polyester at 130 degrees, under pressure. I was on night shift a while ago, and literally, two seconds after I had walked away from the vessel, a seal blew. The dye sprayed out of the faulty seal from floor to roof. Had I been in the way, I probably would not have been able to work today.

Nevertheless, we also have our humorous moments … Thirteen years ago, when my wife was heavily pregnant with our first son, I went off to work as usual. That morning, I had some problems dyeing a batch of fabric red. The next thing, I was called to get my wife to the hospital urgently. When we arrived at the hospital, the matrons were panic-stricken. I looked like a mass murderer standing next to a very pregnant woman who was obviously in extreme pain and asking for help. You can just imagine the chaos and confusion!

Chantelle Gradidge

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