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How do you dye.....

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  • How do you dye.....

    Whats the best way to dye deer hair, and porky quills? I have a ton of both laying around, and I could use them if I only knew what is the best dye to use. Someone suggested rit...but I'm afraid that will fade like it does on clothes. I was thinking of using punk rock red hair dye on the deer tails....but I'm afraid that will be to harsh for the deer hair.

    Does anyone know of natural dyes that work well? Do things like beet greens and onion skins really work? And what materials are they best used on?

    Thanks :)

  • #2
    Use Rit clothing dye and hot water. It's the best for dyeing feathers, quills, or hair. You can get it almost at any cloth shop or supermarket.
    Last edited by Tsi-tse Wa-tsi; 08-29-2002, 03:31 PM.
    Tha-ke'-tha-pi Wa-kon-ta


    • #3
      all the above things that Tsi Tsi mentioned are best dyed with Rit like he says...but I thought I would tell you is because they are they will hold the dye better than cotton will.
      Don't worry that it's not good enough for anyone else to hear... just sing, sing a song.sigpic


      • #4
        Thank you both! I just couldnt see rit doing a good job because every time I've used it on clothing, it has faded quickly and never came out as vibrant as I wanted. Thanks for the explanation Blackbear!


        • #5
          I have been using Rit dye in warm water follwed by a cold water and vinegar wash that serves as a fixer for years for deer tails, feathers of all kinds and quills.

          Stuff is great. Just layout out on newspaper to dry later on. Just did some goose and owl feathers with Rit for a second bustle for myself and works smashingly well.



          • #6
            Yeap, the use of some form of mordant is important. I use a salt solution, with the caveat that the piece must be rinsed afterwards to avoid crystalization. Vinegar works for some dyes on some materials because it lowers pH encouraging some types of attachment reactions. It is best to test any of these post-dye treatments first.

            With quills, I wash them in a dilute solution of Tide in warm water. If there is a slick of grease in the rinse, I let them dry and wash again. Then, I use the dye hot; I keep it on the stove with a thermometer about 110F-120F. I try not to keep the quills in too long, since I have found long soaks seem to weaken the quill. If I am going for a dark shade, I will dye them several times. I used to have old window screens I used as racks. A pair will keep the quills from blowing away and you can rinse right through them. Once you get the shade you want, let the quills dry completely. Then rinse and rinse and rinse until you get clear water. The cutin layer of the quill doesn't take dye, but the core does. And any dye on the cutin will rub off.

            Please, wear safety glasses when using the dyes. And be careful not in inhale the powdered dyes.

            My experience is that RIT will transfer to alum tanned hides in very short order. Just laying on the quills will dye the hide. I have some quills I dyed way back in college when I was learning and they were dyed with fiber reactive dyes and they didn't bleed. The catch is fiber reactive dyes are expensive, hard to use, and can be hazardous to your health if you aren't careful. The other key to color fastness is to keep the dyed objects out of the sun. (Molecules that are highly colored feature lots of double bonds -- they are unsaturated like certain fats -- and these bonds can be broken by light, causing the molecule to lose its color.)

            RIT webpage --

            The chemistry of natural dyes --

            (Oh, and the feather in the picture is one I made for display purposes for a friend's show. It is turkey fluffs dyed with diluted black and burnt umber Tandy Pro Dye.)


            • #7
              YES -- I said Kool Aid

              I have a friend that uses Kool-aid to dye quills with. He gets some really nice and vibrant colors. He doesn't add the sugar as if it was to drink. He does add a touch of salt and some vinegar to help set the dye. It make some really nice light blues and green, which are colors that I have never had good luck achieving using Rit dye. Like everyone else I would also suggest the Rit dye for most colors.

              By the way, thanks for the links Chemist.

              "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." Pablo Picasso

              "Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift...that is why is it called the Present." Master Oogway - KungFu Panda

              My comments are based on what I have been taught and my experiences over the years I have been around the circle. They should in no way be taken as gospel truths and are merely my opinions or attempts at passing on what I have learned while still learning more.


              • #8
                Opps, I seem to have managed to mess up posting the picture.
                Attached Files


                • #9
                  I bet Kool-aid would be a good dye. I can see the color names now, great grape purple.... I'd wonder about the color fastness for things that aren't protected by a relatively mositure resistant layer like quills. I guess if you want to make it permanant you need to strap the material to be dyed to a three- year-old in white clothes who has been given a glass of kool-aid and told to stay clean:)

                  Onion skins do in fact produce a lovely pale yellow. I've never tried beet greens, but based on my aprons I imagine you could get a lovely pink from pickled beets, LOL.

                  Natural dyes tend to be more senstive to factors like pH and mineral content in your water, because unlike commerical dyes they contain no buffers or conditioners. (Iron in water will wreak havoac with many dyes, natural and otherwise. Dye molecules tend to be weak acids, this goes hand in hand with their fider binding ability, but it does cause them to be effected by their environment. And a number of the plant dyes used are also natural pH indicators, meaning that have pronouced color differences between the acid and base forms of the dye.) Actually, if you have hard water or on a well with lots of iron and sulfur, using bottled water for any dyeing. Natural dyestuffs also are more strongly influenced by the types of mordants used. I've seen yarn turned from yellow to army green by the use of iron sulfate mordant rather than a sodium chloride solution.

                  (Are you sorry you asked yet? :) )

                  Dying is a lot of fun (at least yarn and batik), but be aware that natural doesn't necessarily mean safe. Just looking at some of the plants listed on some of the sites, below, many are toxic and many are potential allergens. Strong colors often go hand in hand with stong defensive chemicals. Nature has been an incredibly inventive synthetic chemist and made most of the "really good" poisons. And some mordants are poisious and can burn the skin. So, use good ventilation, gloves and protective gear, get advice from an experienced artist, keep your dyes out of your kitchen, and treat all these substance with caution.

                  Links for natural dyes:

         -- in the quills section. (They have a really good tip about the application of some kind of animal oil after treatment. The mink oil used for mink coats can help condition dry quills and furs.)

         -- sells natural dyes stuffs

         -- as much as I hate to post a link with a link the Martha Stewart, this is a huge link list of natural dye sites



                  • #10
                    OL Chemist,
                    Found that Rit 'ecru' makes a dandy color for duplication of eagle breath plumes for large turkey plumes. Put a couple on sundance whistles for fellow sundancers and they did not know the difference and when I told them, thought they were great and where they get more!!

                    So much for fake feathers in sacred situations.

                    Your breath plumes on the medicine wheels are pretty close to them.

                    I agree them porky quillss are dirty and have used detergent in sink to clean up and get the grease out so the dye would properly adhere.



                    • #11
                      If it helps, I know it's already been said about the salt, and vinegar, but at one of our Girl Scout Leader wordshops, an expert from Rit came and taught us all about using the dyes and stuff for tie dyes for the girls,(as if some of us older Ladies didn't already know how to tie dye) but she did teach us all something we never thought of, and that was one cup of salt in the water when we warm(not hot) water rinsed the clothes after dying them, it helps set the dyes!

                      One lady mentioned that she dyed porky quills, and deer hair, and she was told to dip what she dyed in a bucket of salt water (warm or cold) and then let it dry ....
                      Your Heart Shows by how Your Words and Actions Affect Others.

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