If you’re wondering how to dye ostrich feathers, you’re not alone. Ostrich feathers are some of the best for costumes and craft projects because of their size and texture, and fortunately, dyeing them is quite easy to do. Here’s what you need to know.
What You'll Learn Today
How Are Ostrich Feathers Harvested?
Ostrich feathers are harvested in one of two ways.
The most common is when the bird is slaughtered. Feathers are then harvested post-mortem. Ostriches are often raised or hunted for their skin, which is used to make shoes, bags, and other products) and for their meat (which is a common delicacy in Africa).
Ostrich feathers can also be harvested via plucking when the bird is still alive or collected when they occasionally drop out. Ostriches don’t go through a rigorous molting season like many other species of birds do.
What is the Best Way to Dye Feathers?
Whether you want to dye ostrich feathers for a craft project, costume, or something else, it’s easy to do with food coloring, fabric dye, powdered drink mix, and many other methods.
Naturally, ostrich feathers are gray, black, brown, or white. Any other color you might want will have to be artificially added with dye.
Before trying any of the methods listed below, know that you should always start with the best quality feathers. Look for those that are fluffy with minimal to no breakage. They don’t have to be the largest – look for the size that will best fit the project you have planned.
How to Dye Ostrich Feathers With Fabric Dye
Using specialized fabric dye is one of the best ways to dye ostrich feathers, since it’s made just for this purpose and this purpose alone.
To get started, begin by preparing your workspace and yourself. Put on some gloves and a pair of old clothes. If you’re working on a table, put a few layers of newspaper down so the dye won’t ruin your tabletop. Keep paper towels or old rags on hand in case there are any spills.
Then, mix up some dye bath in a bowl. You can use either liquid or powder fabric dye, but you’ll need to refer to the specific instructions on the package to find out the ratio for water to dye. On average, you’ll use about a quarter cup of liquid dye for every quart of hot water.
Mix the dye with a stir stick. Ideally, you should use a wooden skewer or something else that you won’t mind throwing away when you’re done. Combine until the dye is fully dissolved.
Then, you’ll wash your feathers with regular dish soap. Choose the mildest soap that is available to you. If you’re using natural ostrich feathers, which is likely the case, you need to remove any oils that might prevent the dye from sticking.
Put the feathers in the bowl of dish soap and water then swirl them around. let them sit for a few minutes, then rinse with warm water.
Submerge the feathers in the color bath, pressing them down to make sure all the tips are fully submerged. Let the feathers soak until they become the right color. It might take as long as 15 minutes. You might want to stir the mixture every now and then to make sure the dye is fully absorbed.
It’s a good idea to allow the feathers to soak a little longer and get a little darker than you might think is necessary. That’s because small amounts of color will come out when you rinse the feathers. Letting them soak a bit longer will ensure that they reach the proper shade.
After dyeing the features, go ahead and rinse them with cool water. Let the feathers air dry, placing them on a few layers of newspaper. Turn them several times throughout this process to make sure both sides dry fully.
How Do You Dye Feathers With Food Coloring?
To dye feathers with food coloring, follow the same steps listed above in order to prepare yourself and your working area.
Then, fill a container with two parts hot water and one part vinegar. Add a single drop of food coloring at a time until you get the water to your desired shade. You’ll usually need just six or so drops.
You can then follow the same steps for dyeing feathers with food coloring as you did to dye them with actual fabric dye.
How to Dye Ostrich Feathers with Powdered Drink Mix
You can even dye ostrich feathers with a drink mix, though it might not last as long as regular fabric dye.
However, this is a very cost-effective way to dye ostrich feathers, and also more accessible when you consider that most corner stores sell powdered drink mixes. You don’t have to worry about finding a nearby craft store.
Simply start by preparing yourself and the working area as you did in the procedures listed above.
Then, use one package of drink mix (most are 6.2 grams) for every cup of hot water. Add the mixture to a large bowl, then add more drink mix if necessary. If the color is too intense, just add water to dilute it.
Again, after creating your mixture, you will dye the ostrich feathers in exactly the same way you would if you were using actual fabric dye.
How Do You Whiten Ostrich Feathers?
Unfortunately, dark ostrich feathers won’t show the color of dye well – it’s harder for them to absorb colors from dyes. Try to work with white or light-colored feathers whenever possible.
If you want to turn your non-white ostrich feathers white, the easiest way to do so is to bleach them with hydrogen peroxide.
You can mix together a powder bleach that’s typically sold for lightening human hair with a 20% solution of hydrogen peroxide. Apply it to the feathers with a brush or simply allow the feathers to soak in the solution.
How to Store Ostrich Feathers
Store your ostrich feathers, dyed or not, in a cool, dry place where humidity will not damage them. You can store them in sealed plastic containers or cardboard boxes but make sure these boxes are acid-free since standard cardboard boxes can cause the feather color to fade.
Still looking for more information? Here’s another helpful video to watch as a quick tutorial to dyeing ostrich feathers:
If you’re feeling nervous about the process, don’t be! The easiest way to get started with dyeing ostrich feathers is to just jump right in. You’ll have gorgeously colored feathers to use for all your crafts in no time!