For the sake of the example I used grizzly cape hackle, with the intention of tying an awesome John Kent pattern, the Pumpkinhead Leech.
1) Select the feathers you want to dye. For Kool-Aid dyeing, I typically select a bunch of feathers for a specific tie, as I have entire capes or saddles in the colours I use most often (the capes I have dyed I used a commercial dye). In other words, Kool-Aid dyeing can work for an entire skin of hackle, but I usually do up to a couple dozen feathers at a time. I attach them at the butt end of the hackle stem by tightly wrapping a twist tie around the hackles, or use an elastic band. Place them in a solution of warm water and dish soap, and let them soak for a few minutes. This will soften the feather making it better absorb the colour, and also eliminate any oils that can repel the dye.
|A hackle bundle tied together with a twist tie.|
|Soaking the bundle in a soap solution.|
2) Prepare the dyeing solution. For small bunches of feathers you can use a single packet (that costs about 50-cents and is concentrated enough to make 2-litres of Kool-Aid. It's also sugar-free) of Kool-Aid, but you'll probably need 4 or 5 packets (minimum) if you're going to dye an entire skin. NOTE: I haven't dyed a whole skin with Kool-Aid, so I can't give an accurate number. Maybe a reader can offer some insight.
|A selection of Kool-Aid packets.|
3) After the solution heats up, you need to add a couple ounces of vinegar (that helps set the colour into the feather) and drop the feather bundle into the glass. Put it (glass with mixture, vinegar, and feathers) back into the microwave for another minute.
4) Remove the glass from the microwave (careful! It'll be hot!) and use a fork or something similar to retrieve the feather bundle from the dying mix. If you want the feathers darker, try putting it in the microwave for another 20 or more seconds. Once you like the colour, immediately run the feathers under COLD water or immerse them in a bowl of ice-water. This shock treatment will set the dye.
5) Once you're pleased with the results, rinse thoroughly in cold water, and allow to dry. I use paper towel to remove excess water so the feathers dry faster.
|Hackles drying on a paper towel --the orange you see was used to wipe up a spill. The colour won't bleed if you shock it in cold water.|
|Orange and blue hackles dyed using nothing but Kool-Aid, vinegar and water.|
|Finished Punkinhead Leech.|