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Old 03-20-2011, 11:03 PM
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Default Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Gadwall is one of my favorite feathers to use as spey hackle for steelhead flies. Unfortunately if you want it in any color other than natural it get's pricey. I had heard rumors of dying feathers with Kool-aid and decided to give it a try one day, I'm pretty happy with the results.

After doing a little research I found out that Kool-aid works as an Acid dye so it should work well with all protein based materials like feathers and hair.

You need three bowls to dye a batch of feathers.
I fill the first bowl with warm water and some liquid dish soap. I wash the feathers in this bowl to remove any grease or dirt from the feathers.

After the feathers are washed I move them to a second bowl to soak. The second bowl is water and Vinegar. I dont measure but I would guess I used about 1/3 cup of vinegar. Then let the feathers or hair soak for around 5 min. The vinegar helps the dye soak in and set so it does not wash out while fishing.

Click the image to open in full size.

After the feathers have soaked I move them to the third and final bowl. This bowl has two packets of Kool-aid, water, and a little bit of vinegar in it. I make sure the feathers are submerged and put the bowl in the microwave for 2 minutes, let it set for a couple minutes and microwave it for two more minutes. The dye absorbs best while the liquid is hot.

If the feathers are not as bright as you want, let it stand a little longer or give it another shot in the microwave. .It doesn't mater how much water you use, The water actually gets clearer the longer the materials are in it.
Click the image to open in full size.

Rinse the feathers well, until the rinse water run's clear and then a little longer. Make sure you get all the excess dye off. let the feathers dry and then your good to go.
Click the image to open in full size.

Here are a couple I have tied with Kool-aid dyed feathers.
This first fly has a dyed hackle and the second has blue dyed cheeks and the red body veiling.
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Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 03-20-2011, 11:26 PM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Those ties are amazing. Very well done and thanks for the tips on kool-aid use.
I have heard of this but never done it.
I know it will stain the heck out of the carpet!
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Old 03-21-2011, 12:14 AM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

I have been Kool-Aid dying for years. I have never used the vinegar. Vinegar does help lock color, but I have never had a problem with color fade without it. In fact I have over microwaved some, making it darker than I wanted and tried to use hot water to fade it. It did not work in the slightest. I don't think the vinegar hurts, but I don't think you really need it either.
Here is a chart of colors you can get from Kool-Aid:
http://www.thepiper.com/fiberart/koo...rchart-max.jpg
I have a fly tying magazine that had a chart a few years back on mixing Kool-Aid to get colors also. I'm pretty sure it was Fly Tyer, but it may have been American Angler.
Some of the colors you can get from Kool-Aid are really nice. Blue spey
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Old 03-21-2011, 12:15 AM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

I had hair dressers telling me that is one of the methods they use to dye feathers. It is a lot cheaper than commercial dyes.
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Old 03-21-2011, 09:46 AM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Very cool, I'm going to have to try this
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Old 03-21-2011, 10:32 AM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Nice work. I gotta hook up with you sometime when our schedules allow.
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Old 03-21-2011, 11:03 AM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Great info on dying feathers. I've stayed away from dying because of the baths, fixatives, and the dyes themselves. But Kool Aid - I can definitely handle that. And the variety of colors is surprising to me; of course if I were 6 or 7 years old, it would probably all be committed to memory and no surprises.

Do you have to start with bleached feathers, or will natural color feathers always work OK; assming that the natural color will have some effect on the dyed end product?

I was wondering how you got the butt veiling on that Jock Scott to be that nice red/orange color.....

Pocono
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Old 03-21-2011, 11:39 AM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Looks like a great method for small batches of material, like your flank feathers. I've been dyeing full capes and some bucktails, PB, what-have-you the last few days in acid dye (Jacquards). Are you able to dye larger items (like a cape) in Kool-aid? Looks like a nice, simple process. Thanks for the SBS, very helpful.
Gary
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Old 03-21-2011, 12:25 PM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Very cool and a great summary of the process. You mentioned hair...so I am assuming the kool-aid will work for deer hair or rabbit? I think I read somewhere of someone dying rabbit strips
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Old 03-21-2011, 02:44 PM
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Default Re: Dying feathers, the magic of Kool-aid

Pocono, I have only tried it on natural light colored materials like gadwall and mallard flank and and PB hair, Calf tail, that kind of stuff, they are all fairly light in color. I assume natural goose shoulder or something that is darker in color would need to be bleached first.

The veiling on the Jock Scott is ringneck pheasant dyed with cherry, the cheeks are dyed with ice blue raspberry lemonade

GT05254, I haven't ever tried any large items but I assume it would work fine. You might need a little more Kool-Aid or another hit in the microwave but I think it would work fine.

Tyler185, Deer hair and rabbit should work fine.the color might not be as bright because they are naturally a little darker but I think it would be fine

Fyshstykr, we do need to get together, Are you going to the Wasatch tying expo? I'm tying steelhead stuff Saturday from 12:30-4 Pm Dec and Marty are also tying then. I'm also going to sell the stuff I tie at the expo to raise funds for the Utah Stream Access Coalition.
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