Using a tea-dye for fabric is natural and produces a variety of shades. The resulting color depends on the type of fabric put into the dye bath. The color varies from a slight tint to a rich brown. Additionally, the dying process is a lot of fun, and the anticipation to see the results is exciting!
The Beauty of Natural Dye
Naturally dyes produce color that penetrates fabric unevenly in places, so there are sections where the color may be lighter or darker than the rest. I find that imperfection to be beautiful.
We get natural dyes from plant materials like flowers, leaves, and bark. Other sources of dyes come from minerals and insects, as well as fruits and vegetables.
Furthermore, making natural dyes is open to experiment! It invites trying new plants, barks, lichens in combination with mordants and modifiers to see what will result. I recommend this book, it has been really inspiring to me.
In addition, the spectrum of color from natural dyes is extensive and complete. Shades from all the colors are available, but they are gentle and soft. Most times we get lovely, muted colors from natural dyes.
A Few Natural Dye Sources:
- Reds- Cochineal (a type of beetle), Madder root, Pokeberries
- Orange- Madder, Eucalyptus leaves, Orange Cosmos (when used with baking soda)
- Yellow- Marigolds, Dyer’s Chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria), Dandelion
- Green- Ivy, Daffodil petals ( olive green), Mint leaves ( when an iron modifier is added)
- Blue- Japanese Indigo, Blueberries, red Cabbage (when certain modifiers are used), Woad
- Pink- Blackberries, Oak bark and acorns ( when used on silk)
- Purple- Hollyhock flowers (dark red and purple-black varieties)
- Browns- Black Walnut, coffee, tea
Mordants like iron, alum, copper, and tin fix the dye into fabric.
Modifiers like vinegar, salt, baking soda, ammonia, and lemon juice can alter results of color. They allow different colors to result from the same plant or other natural material.
Why Use A Tea-Dye?
Plain black tea, Camellia Sinensis, is a perfect natural dye to begin using. It is readily available and easy to use, mostly in tea bags. However, I have used loose tea in a pinch and it has been just as easy.
Many of us have it in our homes already. I buy the really inexpensive boxes of black tea for making tea-dye.
I save my organic loose black tea for my kombucha.
Best Fabrics To Tea-Dye
Tea-dye performs best on fabrics made from natural fibers. Use cotton, linen, silk, and wool fabric for best results. During this project of tea-dyeing, I have used several different cotton fabrics, linen, and silk.
The silk fabric changed the most and absorbed the tea-dye best.
Rayon is a plant fiber but highly treated, so it will not perform as consistently well with tea-dye.
Polyester and nylon fabrics are synthetic and will not hold a tea-dye. Synthetic dyes will color synthetic fibers.
I recommend that you pre-wash your fabrics. They will still have manufacturing residues on them, if they are straight from the factory or fabric store. It is my practice to wash all my fabric, due to the chemicals on them. They will interfere with the tea-dye, and they are also unhealthy to have against your skin and in your home.
Supplies Needed For Making A Tea-Dye
There is no need for any elaborate equipment when tea-dyeing fabric. All of your supplies can be found in your kitchen.
- Pan for boiling water
- Tap water
- Inexpensive plain black tea bags
- Large bowl to soak your tea-dye and fabric in
- Wooden spoons
- White Vinegar
Notes About Supplies
- I used a two quart saucepan to boil water for the tea-dye bath because I did not have a large amount of fabric to dye, about a yard and a half total. Use a stockpot or other large pan if you are dyeing an amount that is two yards or more.
- The number of tea bags you use is dependent on how dark the tan or brown you wish the fabric to turn. I recommend having 10-20 tea bags available- you can experiment to achieve the effect that suits you.
- If you prefer, you can do this whole process in a stockpot and skip the step of tea-dyeing your fabric in the large bowl. If you dye more yardage of fabric, that will be the easier option.
If Using Loose Tea
As I stated above, in a pinch, I have used loose tea to make a dye bath. You can try the same. The ratio I have used was two teaspoons loose tea for each one cup boiling water added to the bowl.
After the water and tea steep for twenty minutes, strain the water through a fine mesh colander to remove the tea leaves. That is so the leaves don’t get stuck to your fabric.
My loose black tea is organic, so after I use the leaves, I throw them into the compost!
How To Tea-Dye Fabric
Step One: I chose to use seven tea bags for this batch of fabric. I unwrapped the tea bags and twisted the labels and strings together to make them manageable to hold onto as I poured the boiling water into the bowl. I decided to remove the tea bags after they steeped, but an option is to let them stay in the dye bath with the fabric
Step Two: I boiled two quarts of water and poured it into the large bowl to steep my tea bags. I allowed the tea bags to steep for twenty minutes.
Step Three: I removed the tea bags from the bowl and squeezed all the liquid out of them.
Step Four: Next, I put my fabric into my tea-dye bath, and pushed it all down into the tea with my spoon. I made sure my fabric was submerged.
Step Five: Once I had my fabric in the dye bath, I set it aside in a place where no one would spill it. I left all my fabric in there for ten to twelve hours.
Step Six: After my fabric soaked all that time, I poured out my tea and squeezed out my fabric thoroughly to remove the liquid.
Step Seven: Then, I put my fabric back into my bowl and poured one cup of white vinegar into the bowl and covered with cold tap water.
I allowed the vinegar to soak for thirty minutes. This “sets” the color into the fabric fibers.
Step Eight: Next, I drained the vinegar water into the sink and squeezed out my fabric thoroughly. I did not rinse out the vinegar. Then I put it all the fabric into the clothes dryer on a high heat setting, until it was completely dry.
Step Nine: I ironed all my fabric to remove the wrinkles.
My Final Results
Some of my fabrics changed dramatically and a couple of them barely changed at all. My silk fabric had the biggest change, and I think it all turned out beautifully!
A really good project for you to sew your new tea-dyed fabric into, is my Beehive Clothespin Bag!
The shades of my tea-dyed fabric seem perfect for sewing up any projects for autumn decorations!
What can you imagine doing with tea-dyed fabric ? What types of fabric have you had success tea-dying? Please let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for stopping by The Rosemary Wreath!