dying ostrich feathers could be a interesting and fun thing to do

How to Dye Feathers

Ostrich feathers have been a popular choice for decorating hats and other accessories for hundreds of years. These feathers were used in the Middle East and Africa in ancient times, and are documented in Europe in the late middle Ages.

Elizabethan feather fans were popular, and the appeal of these beautiful plumes has continued through the ages. We use feathers in dusters, craft projects, and to decorate clothes. However, it can be hard to get ostrich plumes in the right colors. Here's a short tutorial on how to dye feathers the color you want them to be.

First, you'll have to select your feathers. They range between five and thirty inches long, depending on the feather and how you're planning to use them. Naturally, ostrich feathers are brown, black, gray, and white. Any other color is artificially added with dye.

Choose fluffy feathers with no breakage, in the size that you need for your project. Then choose your dye, depending on the effect you'd like. Natural dyes, such as coffee, turmeric, or onion skin, can be great if you want a subtle effect. If you need something more vibrant, use dyes intended for wool fabric. Animal hair, like wool, and feathers are made of the same substance – keratin.

Dissolve your dye in water, or, if using a natural dye, cook the dye ingredients until they release their colors. Then submerge your feather entirely in the dye. Unlike fabrics, you don't have to wet feathers before dyeing them.

Make sure that the feather doesn't touch the edges of the container that you're dyeing it in, and that there's plenty of room for it. Don't allow the feather to fold or crease in any way. Leave your ostrich feather in the dye until it looks darker than you'd like the final color to turn out. When the feather dries, it will be lighter in color than it appears when wet.

Once you've achieved the right color, take the feather out of the dye bath. Dry it using a hair dryer on the gentlest setting. Don't apply too much direct heat, or you'll scorch the feather. If you smell burning hair, it's already too late. Using a hair dryer is important if you want your ostrich feathers to return to their original fluffiness. Drying them flat will lead to a limp plume.

If you don't have access to a hair dryer, you can pat the feather dry, then lay it on paper and cover it in dry starch. Let it sit for a few minutes, then shake the feather and tap it gently against the edge of a table until all the starch has been shaken out. Don't apply starch until the feather is as dry as you can make it with the cloth, or you'll get a starch paste that ruins the feather. Leaving dry starch on the feather will cause it to look woolly.

In some cases, you may find that the stem of the feather doesn't accept the dye evenly. In those cases, paint the dye on again afterwards with a small watercolor or craft brush, so that it gets an even coating. If this fails, try using acrylic paint to even things up. Paint may not stick well if the feather is going to be handled extensively, however, and should be applied with care.

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