**Direct from John Kent**
When I first developed the Pumpkinhead it became quickly and abundantly clear that it was impossible to find the appropriate hackle to mass produce this pattern and I would have to buy natural coloured hackle and dye it myself. For the first year I had the perfect fabric dye, Dylon, until it was discontinued much to my chagrin. Through the course of researching other fabric dyes I came across an article on dyeing with Kool-Aid and after experimenting I slapped myself in the forehead for not discovering this years ago. It is easy to do, it’s virtually impossible to go wrong if all the key steps are followed:
Instructions For Kool-Aid Dyeing
1. Prepare feathers to be dyed by rinsing under warm water with a mild detergent such as Sunlight dishsoap.
2.Based on how many feathers you’re going to dye, boil enough water to cover feathers in whatever pan you’re using. A pan of nonporous material is best but not essential.
3.Let water simmer and add kool-aid and it is absolutely crucial that you use non-sweetened kool-aid. The number of packs you use will depend on how vibrant you want the colours to be. For dyeing a complete cape I use 5 packs. After adding kool-aid, add a jigger of vinegar (approx. 1 ounce) and stir. The acid in vinegar will help cut the colour into the feathers.
4. Add feathers to water and, using a wooden spoon or reasonable substitute, submerge feathers making sure every part of the feathers are subjected to the dye.
5. It usually only takes 5-10 minute for the feathers to soak up all the dye leaving the water almost clear.
6. Once the desired colour is obtained remove the feathers, put on a paper towel and place in microwave. When dyeing a full cape I heat them in the microwave for 30 seconds and this helps the feathers to remain colourfast. (When I’m tying with the finished product I get virtually no colour on my fingers from the material, unlike black marabou)
7. After removing feathers rinse under cold water to remove any excess dye.
8. Hang to dry, I use potato bag clips and the feathers are ready to use the next day. You can speed up the drying process by applying a blowdryer intermittently.
With different flavours of kool-aid you can experiment by mixing different colours to achieve your own colours but make sure you document portions when you come up with that special concoction. Have fun with it and once comfortable with the process you will be amazed at how easy kool-aid dyeing can be.
Here is a link to a related article about kool-aid dyeing