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How to Dye Horsehair using Natural Dyes
Natural dyes can come from a variety of sources such as berries, flowers, bark, roots and plants to name a few. The colors that are derived from natural dyes are much softer muted colors than from commercial chemical dyes. Horsehair doesn't react the same as yarn but it's similar so natural dyes used for coloring yarn can also be used for coloring horsehair.
Here are step by step instructions for using natural dyes to color horsehair. I always recommend starting with natural white horsehair to achieve the truest colors. You can dye either raw horsehair in a bundle or make it into pulls for hitching and then dye the pulls.

Step (1)
  Begin by gathering enough material to fill a large cooking pot 1/2 to 3/4 full. Dyes can stain cookware so you may want to select a pot that will only be used for dyeing. I picked one up at a thrift store for a few dollars.

Step (2)
  Cover the material with water and simmer for at least 45 min. to an hour. I will sometimes simmer dye material for several hours. You may need to add a little water from time to time as the water evaporates. Don't add too much water or you'll dilute the dye bath you're creating.
    Use a wooden or plastic spoon to stir the material frequently. The water should be showing signs of becoming a dye. Some plants make better dyes then others so you'll have to experiment to see which ones work best.
Step (3)   Squish the dye material with a potato masher or any flattening tool to help release extra dye trapped in the material.

Step (4)
  Pour the dye mixture through a fine strainer to remove any solid pieces from the liquid. Rinse out your cook pot and then pour the liquid back in. Discard any solid material.
Step (5)   Add 3 tablespoons of white vinegar to help the dye set.

Step (6)
  Place your horsehair pulls or horsehair bundle in the liquid dye bath and allow it to simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes. Leave the hair in the dye until it's a little darker than you want your final color to be. (the final color will be lighter after you rinse)

Step (7)
  Remove the pulls and rinse under warm water until the water runs clear. To make sure the horsehair is completely rinsed leave the pulls in clean standing water for 10 min. If the water is clear after that time the hair is fully rinsed. With some darker colors you might need to do this step several times. If the pulls are not rinsed properly the colors can bleed later.
Step (8)   Lay the pulls out on a towel or hang them with plastic clips to dry.
  Make sure you dye enough pulls for your project because natural dyes do not store well. Dye can be kept in a glass jar in the refrigerator for about a month or two. If you want to use it again just reheat it.

Here is a link to a basic color guide for natural dyes from different plants, berries and flowers.





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