Some weeks ago I spilled a cup of tea down the front of my favourite white dress. This was hardly surprising as (a) I am clumsy, and (b) my previous few drinks had been alcoholic. Well, that will teach me won’t it? Actually no, it probably won’t.
Then I remembered reading about dyeing fabric using tea bags. I decided to give it a try. Because all my best ideas come when I’m inebriated.
I began by testing small samples of cotton crochet fabric. The results were so impressive that I eagerly moved onto larger pieces. Thankfully, I was sober at the time so I even remember how I did it, and can share it with you.
You will need:
- 100 tea bags, I used ‘fair trade’ black tea
- 500g salt
- A pot large enough for the fabric to move freely
- Large spoon or thongs to stir
- Up to 500g dry fabric, natural fibers work best eg. cotton, wool, silk
- Wash the fabric first to remove any manufacturer’s chemicals which may interfere with the dyeing process. I recommend experimenting with small swatches first.
- Fill pot with water.
- Simmer tea bags with salt for 30 mins.
- Turn off the heat.
- Remove tea bags from the pot.
- Add fabric to the pot. The fabric must be damp first, to eliminate air pockets.
- Soak fabric for up to one hour, depending on the desired shade. Stir every few minutes so the fabric takes the colour evenly.
- Rinse in cold water.
Depending on what kind of tea you use the colour will vary from honey tones to a milky coffee colour. The colours will be muted and echo the plants from which they were derived.
The simmering, giant pot of tea made my house smell of deliciousness. I dipped my mug into the dye bath for a taste, but forgot about the salt. Eew.
Many recipes I found claimed that salt is not necessary, as tea contains it’s own mordant (fixing agent which binds the colour to the fabric). However, through experimentation I have found that salt gives a more permanent, colourfast result.
It is important that you wash your tea-dyed fabric/garments separately in cold water. Use a mild soap, as modern detergents are designed to remove tea stains.
Dyeing with tea is a sustainable alternative to modern synthetic dyes. In our continual quest to be greener, this month we have included a few tea-dyed dresses in our Kitsch Bitsch store.
I have been searching for sustainable dyes to use in our business and the answer was right there in front of me.
If you have any questions about tea dyeing I am happy to answer them in the comments section below, or you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The original tea-stain never came out of my white dress, but I salvaged it by adding it to the tea dye bath.
Sometimes the problem can be the solution.