Thursday, August 16, 2007

Tutorial: Tea Dying Fabric

Many people tea dye fabric for many reasons. Sometimes the fabric is too bright, or you want an aged antique look, or you just like the colour, or your trying to get a uniform look for a lot of different fabrics. For me all of these are good reasons to tea dye fabric. As I needed to dye a fresh batch of calico the other day, I decided to share how I do it.
Here I am going to show you how I tea dye fabric. Its very simple, and very affective.

I use my laundry sink to do this as I nearly always dye a large batch of fabrics at one time. ( I do this because I am essentially lazy and it saves a lot of time and effort.) If you are dying small amounts of fabric, you can use a bowl, or even your kitchen sink.

Step 1: Put the tea in the sink.
Get some cheap tea bags, loose tea is a no go as it will just stick to everything and be quite painful to get off. Remove the tags carefully from the tea bags (if they have tags) and place in sink. I am dying 3 meters of calico here so I put in 50 tea bags, to get it nice and dark.
The amount of tea you use depends on how dark you want your fabric to get. You will have to experiment on this as it is a personal preference thing.

Step 2: Add Hot Water and Fabric.
Fill the sink with enough hot water to cover the fabric you are dying. Place fabric in the tea.
Swirl your fabric around making sure it all gets wet and ends up under water. I pre-washed 2 meters of the calico and put in 1 meter that hadn't been pre-washed.

Leave fabric for half and hour or so, then go and check it. Move the fabric around and make sure that any bits that have been sticking up above the water are pushed under now.
You can leave it for 2 to 3 hours and then take it out. This will usually give you a good even coverage. For some reason unknown to me I left this lot in for 24 hours. Keep in mind that the fabric will end up much lighter after you have washed it.

Step 3: Wash the fabric.
Carefully pick all the tea bags out of the water. I put mine in a bucket and then add them to the compost heap. Squeeze the water out of the fabric and put the fabric in the washing machine. Use your normal wash powder, and set it on a normal cycle. *Please Note* I have only ever washed mine on a cold water cycle, so I do not know what results you will get if you wash the fabric on a hot water cycle. The calico in the middle is the one I didn't pre-wash.

Step 4: Iron it dry.
As I do not posses a clothes dryer I iron my fabric dry. Hanging calico out on the line will result in very wrinkly fabric that is horrible to iron when you do want to use it.

Step 5: Use it!

There are so many things you can do with tea dyed fabrics. Here are a few past projects as examples.

Various Stitchery Projects

A skirt where the fabric was initially too pink for my tastes.

Table Runner


I hope this gives some help to any fellow crafter's out there who are interested in tea dying fabrics. How much fabric, tea and the time you leave it to soak are all up to you. Experiment and live a little.


Dragonfly-Crafts (Fiona) said...

Thank you for sharing. This does inspire me to try tie dyeing.
Love your stitcheries and other projects.

samantha said...

great tutorial - do you get an uneven result when you tea dye? and if you wash the fabric later will the tea dye come out? see what a novice I am :)

May Britt said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I have some very very white fabrics I never use so I think I give it a try.
Your softie angel is sooooo cute. Is there a pattern for this angel somewhere?

Anonymous said...

Looks like fun! I wonder how it will work with loose leaf tea? I usually buy loose teas rather than tea bags just because of the difference in flavor. I am going to try it and see.

Ginger said...

Thank you so much for the tutorial,Now i want to try it and make anything lol .Was a blessing you hared that with each one of us thank you again.
hugs ginger

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing. I'll give it a try.(Looked like muslin fabric instead of calico, but it all works the same...)

Leonie said...

Thanks for sharing. It was a big help. I am about to dye 10 metres of gorgeous white linen. Wish me luck.

Jennifer Leible said...

I've been toying with the idea of tea dyeing in my washing machine...wash it on hot water and toss some tea bags in... Am I crazy? Would love to hear if anyone has tried it or heard of it. I think it would be great for large amounts of fabric.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your pictures.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to know, can you iron a tea-dyed shirt? Because I was going to tea dye a plain white shirt and iron in a print on the shirt.

Little Mysteries said...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wanted to know, can you iron a tea-dyed shirt? Because I was going to tea dye a plain white shirt and iron in a print on the shirt.

Dear Anonymous. I should think you could iron a tea-dyed shirt. Although once you have ironed on your print you will have to be very careful ironing the shirt after that.