To begin, let me preface this by stating a few things to clear up some confusion that may happen.
1-I am not a hair-dresser of any sort and know hardly anything about how feathers and crimp beads can affect your hair. I simply know about feathers and their specific properties.
2- People will wonder why I am telling people how to get this good of results when feathers are in such high demand in the hair industry. Why don't I just keep this to myself and let people buy them from me exclusively? My answer? The feathers themselves are in high demand, if you have suitable feathers, I want to help you get the most out of them. I have built up a large supply of feathers from fly-tying and do sell locally, but overall, I want to spread the DIY spirit to everyone and SHOW you how to do it rather than sell the product.
3- There are several factors in the feather dyeing process and if you don't get very good results, it may not be the method, but rather, the materials. Leave a comment and I can help you troubleshoot the problem.
This Instructable will show you how to dye feathers for feather hair extensions like a professional. The results I get from this process are very good, and I expect the same for you. This is the easiest method I have used to get vibrant colors to permanently stay in the feather. See the picture for a poorly photographed example of the colors I get by dyeing the feathers this way.
Dyeing the feathers this way, they can still be washed, curled, straightened, and remain durable.
The required materials are minimal, but, care must be taken to do the steps correctly.
Any confusion you have at this point will be cleared up in the following steps. A few key points are bolded for ease of finding them. Not all of them are, but, most of them.
Shall we begin?
Step 1: Choosing the Right Feathers
In order to get a perfect color, you must start with the perfect feather. See my pictures for suitable feather choices.
Personally, I use three criteria to pick out feathers for dyeing and selling. They are:
1-Use--Do you want long slender feathers or shorter, more visible "bang" feathers?
2-Comaptibility--Will these feathers work with this process? Oily feathers will need extra steps. How much time do you want to spend?
3-Appearance--Is the feather naturally undyed and free from visual defects? One has to remember that feathers come from an animal and like the stripes on a Zebra, everyone is different. If you are using a barred grizzly pattern, is it consistent?
I almost exclusively dye Natural Grizzly feathers. This is not a brand, but the term used in the fly tying community to denote that the feather is barred, typically black and white, that NATURALLY occurs on the feather. If you looked at the bird they came from, they would look the same. Only previously undyed feathers will yield optimal results. Also, the lighter and more neutral the feather color is, the better it will dye. For example, white and black grizzly means that the white bars (as seen in the picture) will take the color, and the black bars will remain black. This will be true regardless of the final color. I find that pattern to be the most desired of colors I show people. Also, light brown feathers will take a color but, standard color blending/combination rules apply.
I absolutely do not recommend craft store feathers. These are sub par quality and have almost always been previously dyed. I would use only high quality feathers marketed for fly tyers and fishermen, not art projects.
Once you have picked your feathers (making sure they have been removed from the cape or saddle skin patch if they came like that, it is time to prep the other materials needed.
Step 2: Dyeing Supplies
There are only five basic supplies needed to dye feathers this way. They are:
A Pyrex dish -any size will work but I use an 11"x7" dish. Make sure that it is microwave safe and holds your feathers in addition to about 1/2"-1" of liquid.
A microwave - this is key to helping the chemical changes that take place and get the feathers to absorb color
Kool-Aid - This is the dyeing agent. Hard to believe, but, it works better than any other method (in my opinion). Pick the flavor of Kool-Aid that is closest to the final color of feathers that you want. Blue, Purple, Green, Orange, Red, and a few others give me great colors that are very bright and defined.
White Vinegar - This is almost as important as the dye itself. This helps the Kool-Aid react with the feathers and permanently transfer the dyeing agent.
A bowl filled with water and a drop of dish soap- pick a bowl that will hold your feathers comfortably. You MUST use dish soap. It will de-grease the feathers and help to remove naturally occurring oils in the feathers that hinder the dyeing process.
Now, let's dye some feathers...
Step 3: Prep the Feathers
Put your feathers (I recommend maybe 25 at most at a time) in the bowl with soap and water . Agitate the mixture and ensure that all of the feathers are soaked. You can tell when because they will look very streamlined and slick. Let the feathers sit in this water until you have the next steps done.
Step 4: Prepare the Dyeing Solution
Fill the Pyrex dish about 1/3 full (if you used an 11"x7" dish). If not, fill the dish with about 4 cups of water.
Add 2 (recommended) or 1 (still OK) packs of Kool-Aid to the Pyrex dish and stir. One pack will require longer resting periods but get the same results as two packs, with the exception of lighter colors.
Add a "generous splash" of vinegar to the Pyrex WITH the Kool-Aid. How much is a splash? Maybe 2-3 TBsp. Generally, the mix should smell of both Kool-Aid AND vinegar. If it only smells like one component, add some of the other.
Put this dish near a sink for use in the next step.
Step 5: Put the Feathers in the Dye Solution
WAIT!!! Don't put them directly in. We have to do something first.
Turn the sink on a low flow level. Pick up the feathers from the soapy mix (should be at least 5 minutes from when you first added them to it) and pinch them in your hand so that the length of the feathers are in your palm, but, you have a good grip of all feathers with your fingers. Try not to bend the feathers more than 75deg if you can help it and DON'T run your fingers on the feathers opposite the grain. By grain, I mean you can pinch a feather with both hands and only one hand can move down the length of the feather without ruffling the individual barbs.
If you need to do this in two batches, that's OK.
Once you have a firm grip on the feathers, put your hand (the one with the feathers) under the running water and rinse the soap of of them. You can agitate the feathers if you'd like.
Put the rinsed feathers in the Pyrex with the dye and agitate. The less the feathers are touching each other, the better.
Now, you are ready for the heat application
Step 6: Apply Heat (carefully)
Now, we will heat up the dye solution. To do this, we place the Pyrex with the dye solution AND the feathers in the microwave. Not the most common way to make Kool-Aid but its how you dye feathers this way.
You want to heat the solution so that it is cool enough you can put your finger in the solution, but, not hot enough that you wouldn't keep your finger immersed for more than a few seconds. On average, I would say 2-2.5 minutes on HIGH.
Now, when the microwave dings, do nothing. Wait about 3 minutes before opening the door. This helps retain heat and the resting period is a part of the process.
After that time has elapsed, feel free to check the feathers and make sure that they are taking color. They WILL look darker than they will look dry. That is normal and to be expected.
Step 7: Apply Heat (again)
Stir the feathers in the dye a little bit.
Now, repeat the microwave process . Another 2-2.5 minutes, followed by 3 more minutes of resting.
Once that time is up, you may just be done.
Step 8: Color Adjustments
If you're satisfied with the final color at this point, congratulations. You are ready to dry all of them and put them in your hair, earrings, etc. If not, here are a few hints.
Like cooking, you can always add but you can't easily take away. Always dye lighter if you aren't sure because feathers dyed with this method can be re-dyed using the same process to make them darker.
For a lighter color, say a light pink, use a red color of Kool-Aid and microwave the solution without the feathers. Then, add the feathers and pull one out every 20 seconds or so and see if it is light/dark enough for your taste . I highly recommend a test run if you do it this way with only a few feathers. Feathers are a valuable product and there is no need to waste them.
Use a different feather to start with if you don't like that color tone . I have had good results with white base colors, but, equally as well of results with light brown. Sometimes, you can find a combination of feathers and dye to make truly unique tones. It's all experimentation.
Step 9: Conclusion
Now, EVERYONE should be done.
If you liked this Instructable, rate it, vote it, comment it, share it, whatever.
PLEASE, let me know how well your feathers came out. I always like feedback on my tutorials.
If you have a problem, leave a comment and I will look into possible causes for you, as a courtesy from one Instructables member to another.
If you would like me to fix anything on this Instructable, let me know and I will be happy to do it.
Thanks again for looking, and, good luck!