Tuesday, April 10, 2012

How-To's Day: Tea Dye Fabric

Tea staining is one of my favorite ways to change fabric with on-hand natural materials and very little effort. It helps make things look aged, more natural and can even help dull bright fabric to give you a whole new take on the overall feel of the fabric.

Here you can see where I took six different pink fabrics and stained them all together yielding a wide range of results.  These fabrics will be a part of a wedding we are working on where the bride is going for a vintage feel. The tea stained fabrics are the perfect touch to emphasize the vintage theme and she really loves the muted pinks we get from the tea staining!  It might have been nice for me to have gone a bit lighter on the tea- this would be considered a strong batch in my opinion, if I had lessened the amount of tea bags by half the pinks would be less beige-y. ALSO: Keep in mind you can always redye the fabric again to make it darker, but if you go too dark at first you cannot lighten it up once you stain your fabric.

This method works for fabric made with all natural fiber (cotton, linen, rayon, silk) but it also does some cool things with  mixed blends where it will change the portion of the threads where the natural fibers are and leave fibers like polyester or nylon in its original state.

First things first, you want a big pot to "cook" everything in. This has been my go to pot for natural dyeing since college and it is needed/ helpful when making a large batch because you want your fabric to be able to move freely for an even dye.  The great thing about using tea and other natural dyes is you don't necessarily need to have a "non-food pot" just for dyeing since the tea is safe and edible.  

I like to tie all of the tea bags together in a clump so it is easy to fish them out. However you would like to do this- feel free to let them float individually and do a quick fishing out before adding fabric, that works too! For this intensity I put in 12 Lipton tea bags into the pot and waited for it to come to a boil.

While the pot is starting to boil take your fabrics and make sure to fully soak them in water in the sink or another bucket. You want the fabric to soak for ~10 minutes so that you are sure that it is wet all over completely. This will help it dye evenly without patches or faded looking spots.

Take the tea bags out of the boiling pot and turn the heat down to a simmer. Slowly put the soaked fabric into the hot tea mixture. You want to make sure to stir and separate your fabric so that it dyes evenly. You will want to stir and move the fabric around for ~30minutes. 

NOTE: For a lighter stain use less tea bags or less time, and for a deeper stain you can remove the pot from the heat and keep your fabric staining overnight.

Once you fabric is stained you can reuse the tea water for another batch. If the fabric is your desired color and want to reuse the tea you will want to fish out the fabric. If you are finished using the tea water and are not saving it, pour everything out in a sink where you can wash your fabric out by hand to lock the color in.  I like to run the water as hot as my hands can take it (Make sure you wear gloves or be careful with this step- the fabric will be hot from the pot) rinsing the fabric out until the water is mostly clear. Then shift to cold water and get the last bit of the residual tea out completely.

Once your fabric is clean it just needs to dry and it is good to go! Personally, I like to hang dry my dyed fabrics but you can use a dryer if you must. It is way more Eco-friendly to skip the dryer- so invest in some pants hangers with the clips and place everything in the shower to dry or hang outside if you are lucky to have a spot to do so.  Either method you use to dry you will probably need to iron everything before it looks "crisp" and smooth again.

The cool thing about dyeing your fabric is you take off all the sizing on the fabric as well as makes sure it is pre-shrunk. If you have ever worked with fabric without doing this and had the project get ruined once laundering- dyeing it first will save you the heartbreak of shrinking it later.

We hope you can try it out and enjoy! I would love to see your projects or hear any tips you find from tea staining you own fabrics :)

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this tutorial. I needed a nude colored leotard for my daughter's Halloween costume, but all I could find were pink.
    I used this method to dye the pink one, and it came out perfectly!


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