Tea gives fabrics a tan or light brown colour, although the colour can also range to orange or pink tints depending on the variety of tea. This natural dyeing process works most effectively with natural fabrics such as wool and cotton. Both loose and bagged teas work well as dye, although the exact amount of tea required depends on the intensity of the colour desired. Practice on fabric scraps first to determine the amount of tea and soaking time needed and to check for acceptability of tint.
Place tea bags in a large pot. If using loose tea, place the leaves in a cheesecloth square. Gather and tie the edges of the cheesecloth so the leaves can't escape.
Fill the pot with 1 gallon of hot water. Allow the tea to steep until the dye bath is several shades darker than your desired colour.
Remove the tea bags. Add 1 tablespoon alum and 1 teaspoon cream of tartar and stir it into the dye bath. The alum helps fix the dye to the fabric, which prevents fading.
Add the fabric to the dye bath. Bring the water to a simmer then simmer the fabric in the dye for one hour, stirring regularly.
Remove the fabric from the dye bath with a pair of tongs. Rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Air dry the fabric.
Tea-dyed fabric should be hand washed only and air dried to prevent fading. Dye wool and natural fibre yarn for knitting or crocheting.
Tips and warnings
- Tea-dyed fabric should be hand washed only and air dried to prevent fading.
- Dye wool and natural fibre yarn for knitting or crocheting.