Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Wrote this for a post on a fly fishing forum, but couldn't post it there for some reason. So here is a basic idea of the process.  Mostly I use Jacquard Acid Dyes, which are available as small as half ounce jars for about $5 on ebay. All the examples below are dyed using a small fraction of a half ounce jar. For additional colors not in the Jacquard range you can check out the link at the bottom for a wider selection of colors. The magenta is from the other source below.

Magenta from white - Saddle hackles and Snow shoe rabbits foot

Use a stainless steel pot, mine is 8" diameter and pretty deep, about 12" deep. I think I got it’s for $6 in dollar general or some dollar store.Stainless steel is key, because I believe Teflon coated post will suck up dye and will be useless if that happens
Fill with enough water to completely submerge your dye subject.
Bring the water to the boil, then reduce the heat so that it stays hot, about 140-180F I believe is the optimal temp, I don’t use a thermometer, but you can check on Jacquard web site for more accurate details. Just make sure there you can see 'some' water vapor coming off, if its bubbling, the water is too hot.
Add your dye. I use a teaspoon and ditch some in, maybe one third to one half teaspoon. You want the dye bath to turn the color of the dye, and you should barely be able to see through the bath to the bottom of the pot.
Stir it up with a wooden or metal spoon and make sure all the dye is dissolved.
Add your feathers or whatever you're dyeing, stir them up and leave them in the pot until you are happy with how they've taken the colors. About 30 mins is usually good, though it can be shorter. Keep the pot on the heat the whole time.
When you're happy with the dye, you can add some white vinegar. I bought a gallon for a couple buck in Aldi or Bj's or some joint. Pretty cheap.
Just pour some in, maybe half or quarter cup. This is what fixes the dye in the material you're dyeing.
Leave the material in the dye bath another 10 mins or so to completely fix the dye. Turn off the heat, and lift out your material either on a large spoon or with some tongs, and run them under a cold tap. You should see very little color change or dye running off the feathers, if you see dye running off, then they are not fixed properly.

I usually lay out some surround wrap between the stove and the sink, that way if any drips occur with the transfer to the sink your countertop is safe. Also keep your dye powder here too, because unfixed dye will be absorbed by sponges etc if it spills out and is wiped up. I got caught out by that at the weekend and the sponge ended up red! not a big deal, but could have been worse!
There can be some fumes come of the dye bath, so use in a well ventilated space, or else turn on your extraction fan.

If the color you're after is not available from Jacquard, you can get a wider selection of colors from here. This is where I got the magenta dye. Prices are similar. Always use ACID DYES; they are specific for protein containing fibers like wool and feathers etc. Synthetics use a different dye.

Always read the instructions on the dye pot for safety/caution warnings. Better safe than sorry!!

Here are some white duck quills I dyed Lilac, from Jacqard, and this weekend I also dyed Amherst Tail sections red with a Jacquard dye, but no photos take of them yet.

And here is the latest stuff I've dyed. I was going for sunburst, but it turned out a little more 'orangey' than I would have liked. Next time I'll use less red in the dye bath.
This was done with an approimate ratio of Yellow 2.5 : 1 Red - both Jacquard acid dyes.

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