Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tea Dyeing

I am doing a number of home decor projects for a room with something of a zebra theme. The fabric at the top of the following picture is the upholstery fabric I found. The fabric at the bottom of the picture is inexpensive 100% cotton black and white zebra print for other stuff in the same room. To make the color of the bottom fabric a little closer to the upholstery fabric I tea dyed it.

Tea dyeing is the incredibly simple process of brewing a vat of tea and soaking your fabric in it until it is stained the requisite shade of off-white. Tea dyeing is often done by quilters who are trying to give their quilts a more antique look. It is also used as an overdye to unify a very scrappy pallet.

I prewashed the fabric to remove any residue from the manufacturing process that might impede the tea from staining the fabric. I was trying to go from a stark white to a pretty dark brown, so I brewed a very strong tea. I used about half a gallon of tap hot water and about twenty tea bags (technically decaf black tea . . . I mean, who drinks decaf black tea?). I let them steep until the water was cool.

Then I took out the tea bags. Leaving them in might result in uneven staining, which would be cool if that's what you're going for, but I'm looking for a more even all over stain. I put in the fabric.

It immediately soaked up some color, so if you want a small change, you could do it quickly with a dark tea. I left the fabric to soak for an hour and a half. Then I cut a swatch and ironed it dry to see how dark it was.

I think it reached the right value, so I squeezed out the excess tea and threw the fabric in the dryer. Due to the flash, both fabrics look a bit lighter in this image, but as you can see the tea dyed cotton on the left looks pretty darned close to the color of the upholstery on the right. Certainly close enough for my purposes. And so easy!

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