This is a compilation of QUILTNET postings about tea dying. All comments are the OPINIONS of the person who posted the message......................

Tea Dying FAQ


A friend tea-dyed gloves when she got married. The gloves were too white, so she soaked them in a regular cup (maybe she used a bowl) of tea. Something like Lipton would work.

But dye it in stages; take it out and let it dry, check how you like the shade. She left the gloves in too long and I think they dried too dark, so then she had to bleach them a little.


What I have heard of this is simply to make some strong tea (several bags, or English tea is best as it is much stronger than say, Lipton), bring the water to a boil first before pouring over the tea bags. Probably best to put into a bit pot, and let your fabric soak in this. I don't know that I would put it into really hot water, but maybe let it cool a bit. Depending on how much tea you used and how long you soak, will determin the amount that is soaked into the cloth.


I haven't tried this yet, but Judith Montano says tea dying lace is as simple as making a cup of tea. I presume you can use the same recipe for tea dying fabric, but hopefully a more experienced quilter can confirm or deny this assumption. Anyway, here is Montano's recipe:

"To make the tea solution, boil a gallon of water with four tea bags in it for 15 minutes. Strain the solution and return it to simmer. Wet the lace in plain water, then put it into simmering tea. When the lace has simmered for 15 minutes, take it out and put it in a setting solution of 1/2 cup white vinegar in one gallon of water. Let it set for 15 minutes, then rinse it thoroughly and press."

- from "The Crazy Quilt Handbook"
by Judith Montano
C&T Publishing, 1986

Montano says this is also a great way to mask stains.

I have been planning to try this. But I'm curious about two things. First, has anyone ever had any problem with material dyed in this manner fading in the wash or bleeding? Second, has anyone ever attempted (or is this even a good idea) to attain a slightly different tint by dying fabric or lace in peppermint tea, strawberry tea, etc.?


Concern about tea dying:

This may work, but from what I've heard from other teachers, no way should anyone be using tea to tea-dye if you're concerned about the longevity of your finished project. The tannic acid from the tea will eventually destroy the fabrics.

In a class I took on creating new quilts with an old look, Barbara Brackman suggested using Tan RIT Dye to give fabrics an aged look. Sounds a lot more reasonable to me, though a lot less romantic. :)


I have been tea dying my material in my washing machine. What I do is buy a box of tea, usually the cheapest on sale and use any where from one half to the whole box of bags at a time. I then make a very heavy brew. Using about 4 cups of boiling water and the tea bags. I let that sit for some time. While the tea is brewing I fill my machine to the low or medium load line with warm water, depending on how much material I have. I then add the brewed tea. I some times I even add the tea bags in a mesh bag. I then let the warm water and tea agitate for a minute or so before adding the the material. After adding the material I let the machine agitate for a long while. I then turn the machine off and let the material sit in the water for awhile or until I like the shade of the material. I then turn the machine back on to rinse and spin (using cold water). This method has worked for me many times. I have read that tea dying can weaken the material, but haven't seen any evidence of it yet. I'm sure that this isn't the "proper" tea dye method, but it's easy and it works!


When I've tea-dyed things, I've just made up a fairly strong solution of tea and crammed the items into the bucket, jug or whatever in handfuls. I make it strong because I'm too lazy to want to keep checking on it forever. The way you push it in makes it darker in some places, and that simulates the actual antique ones better. It's worked wonderfully for me--just remember to get Orange Pekoe-Pekoe Black. Herbal tea is too light


>>From what I hear on the net, tea dyeing is not a good thing to do for fabric if you expect it to last. Tea contains tannic acid, and the stronger the tea, the more tannic acid is going in to your fiber.

I would recommend finding a nice shade of brown procion MX dye and overdyeing your fabric with a very faint amount of dye. You would get the same effect, but your overdyed fabric would be lightfast and colorfast and not inclined to deteriorate.
B I'll play with my favorite brown and see if I can come up with a nice recipe for overdyeing fabrics. I'll report back, hopefully before Dec. 1st!


My step-great-grandfather was a model-builder par excellence. He did model sailing ships and ships-in-a-bottle that even had blue plaster water. He cast little lead men who stood in the rigging. (He was from Denmark.) For his tea-dyed sails, I remember hearing that he "boiled" them in tea. It may be that the extra heat helps set the color. They stayed antique-looking for as long as I knew of them.


I use hibiscus leaves for a beautiful dye on my doilies. You could use the Celestial Seasonings type, but I prefer the leaves straight! Make the infusion in water with white vinegar added to help it stay. A better permanent dye is to buy a red beet at the supermarket and chop it and boil it in water and vinegar. Strain and then dye your goodie. Kathrine in New Mexico
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