How to tea stain fabric

Written by laurie meekis
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Tea stained fabric is fun to use for making aged or antique looking fabric crafts like dolls clothes, faces, ornaments, fabric bags, Christmas ornaments and stockings, or any other fabric craft. Paper can be dyed using a tea stain too for paper crafting. Try this technique with eggs too. This is a simple technique that most crafters can do. Tea stain adds an old fashioned look and feel to the finished craft or art project.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Teas bags or lose tea (Dark teas work best)
  • White cotton fabric
  • Big Mixing bowl or sauce pan
  • Pot or kettle of boiling water

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  1. 1

    Pick a fabric to use for your project. The best and easiest fabrics to use are looser weave like a simple white or off white cotton cloth. Once the cloth is dyed the fabric will look aged and marked or stained. Prewash the fabric before you start the tea stain process.

  2. 2

    Heat a pot of water to boiling as of you were making tea to drink. Once it is boiled, pour it into a large mixing bowl or large sauce pan that can withstand boiling water. Some plastic containers may melt if you pour boiling water in them. Then put tea bags or loose tea in the boiling water. Make sure you add a few tea bags. The more you put in the darker the stain will be.

  3. 3

    Test some extra bits of fabric to see what strength of tea may be necessary for the project the tea stained fabric will be used for. Let the water cool to warm while the tea darkens the water.

  4. 4

    Once the water is the desired darkness, remove the tea bags or loose tea from the water. If you do use loose tea try putting it in a tea strainer or ball to immerse it in the bowl of boiling liquid so you don’t have to pick all the pieces out of the water before you put the fabric in.

  5. 5

    Immerse the fabric in the bowl of tea-coloured water. Let it sit there until it takes on the amount of colour needed. Be aware the fabric will dry somewhat lighter in colour than it looks wet. Closed woven fabrics will take longer to dye than inexpensive plain cotton cloth. A loose-weave basic cotton cloth looks the best with tea stain and has a more old-fashioned look.

Tips and warnings

  • Because of the boiling water, this isn’t a good project for young children but the fabric can be stained ahead of time for use in crafts younger children make or wait until the water has cooled to let small children try this.

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