tea dyeing

IMG_1835If you feel white isn’t for you, but you have a gorgeous fabric in white/with white background/with white in a pattern, think about tea dyeing your fabric.

Important!  Be sure you can put your fabric in hot water.  Cottons get best results.

I’ve done this many times, when I wanted something more vintage-looking, or just wanted to tone down a too exuberant pattern.

Important!   Try this with a small scrap of fabric first, so you can judge how strong to brew the tea, how long to leave fabric in the hot tea, if there’s any shrinkage, and what it’ll look like when dry.  Fabric colors do look different when dry!

Here’s a large bathroom project I finally completed about 3 years ago.  The pattern was too bright for my purposes – a shower curtain (below) & under-sink storage area curtain (top).  (In these photos, the background looks white, but it’s not!)  Finally, after looking at the fabric for at least a year, I was looking through a magazine one day & it hit me: The problem with the fabric was it was too darn bright.
So I tested a strip of it with some tea and it came out exactly as I’d hoped.  Hurray!

However… with something using this amount of fabric I couldn’t do my usual tea method.  I cheated.  I found some brown Rit dye and put a cap full in the washer with the fabric.  Perfect!

Then I set the dye by pouring in some white vinegar in the final rinse water.  (Never seen any measurement for how much vinegar to use.)  Vinegar’s always worked for me, and is a method I’ve been told and read about forever.

Incidentally, I used tea & vinegar several years ago on some smaller projects.  They’ve never run or faded, and I wash them in the washer with regular setting.

So remember to have fun with your tea dyeing, and be sure to have some white vinegar around to set it once you’ve got what you want.

any black tea will do, and any white vinegar

 Added later …

Because I did this project 3 years ago, I don’t have a before photo of the fabric. Instead I just now took a photo of a bit of the fabric combined with a white tissue, so you can tell the difference in background colour of the fabric.  Hope it helps explain the subtlety I was trying for.

top is white tissue, bottom is tea dyed fabric
top is white tissue, bottom is tea dyed fabric

11 thoughts on “tea dyeing”

    1. Thank you sooo much for this, and for allowing me to accept without going through all the details… as my blog-reading list is so short.


    1. Thanks for all your comments!
      Perhaps you can understand why, with those bright, vivid colours, I didn’t want a stark, arctic white background, too. That really gave everything tooo much pop!


    1. Just added a photo comparison of the fabric with a white tissue at the end of today’s post.
      Hope it shows the difference, cause I don’t have a bit of the original fabric in stash – it’s all dyed!
      (Knew I shoulda done that photo, but was being lazy.)
      Thanks for keeping me on me toes, Josée!


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