Tea staining is one of the best kept secrets that designers use to distress and alter upholstery fabric to give an aged look when recovering antique chairs, drapery and linens. Staining fabric can turn some of your existing fabric remnants into naturally aged material which could be a source of new accents for your home. Tea staining a fabric doll could be the perfect centerpiece for your child's bedroom, or create some vintage throw pillows for that room that needs a touch of old-fashioned character.
Photo credit : Tea Died Primitive Ticking From Beaver Creek Primitives and Wools on Ebay, Althouse Blog
How to Naturally Stain Fabric with Tea
Tea staining works the best with natural fabrics such as cotton, wool, muslin, and linens. Synthetic materials will not accept stain. The very first thing you will need to do is wash the fabric which removes the chemicals and starch from the manufacturing process. From the wash, you are ready to dye your fabric with tea. Your fabric is needing to be damp, than dry. If you're starting with dry fabric, soak it in water briefly, then squeeze out the excess water. Utilize a pot big enough to hold your fabric allowing ample room for the water to move around the fabric and folds easily. Bring the water to a boil, and add in the tea bags.
NEXT let tea bags steep for about five minutes in your boiled water, and then remove the bags from the water. Mixing both the tea bags and fabric together will result in darker stains which could be a detail that may look horribly dirty than naturally stained. Remove after the color achieved is to your liking.
“Tea” comes from the Chinese who transformed this popular drink from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. There are six basic varieties of tea; white, yellow, green, black, oolong, and pu-erh. The differences are determined by how they are processed, as some such as green tea are dried, but not wilted, while others go through a enzymatic oxidation, which is called fermentation. Standard black teas will give a soft brown or cream color to your fabric, while some of the herbal teas leave more of a red tone.
Dying Fabrics with Modern Dyes
After spending 8 years dying fabrics, I feel as though I can pass on some valuable tips that will help you through the fabric color altering process.
I started dying clothing as a way to improve my existing clothing. As a young single woman, I needed a way to improve what I already had without spending money, so dying was the perfect solution in my eyes. Over the years I have become much better at dying clothing, and with some respects you can waste a lot of money on dyes in comparison to going out an just buying a new outfit. Today, the prices on clothing are relitively inexpensive, that dying material is only to really change something special. It only makes sense if you have a number of children's clothes that just need a color refreshment, or you are needing to produce a specific antique look on a piece of furniture or throw pillows.
Some things just don't dye well, and one of those exceptions are jeans. The new hot trend is to have really dark navy colored jeans which are supposed to be slimming while being chic, but dying jeans darker simply don't work. I have mixed both navy blue and black die to achieve this designer look and it left several jeans in horrible condition. I have tried dying a good 20 jeans over the years, and even left some pairs with the dye to settle in for a week, and it simply does not work. They can turn out chalky and very unnatural. Natural oils will also dye uneven. You will not be able to dye napkins, because of the oil build up over time. This also applies to shirts. As white as the shirt may be, the oils that may exist under the arm or around the neck will turn out a different color, leaving you to throw out the item. The seams of some jackets may turn out darker than the overall color.
The overall rule of dying clothing is if it is special and something you use, dying may or may not improve the overall appearance. I have thrown out bags of terrible dye jobs over the years, so don't pick something that is valuable or something that you use unless you are willing to let it go if it doesn't turn out well.
Clothing Dyeing Rule 1:
You will need enough A) water, B) dye and C) ample room to move the fabric around to properly die a piece of clothing or fabric. These are the number one reasons why most dyed materials don't turn out well. When I first started dying clothing, I did so with a large pot on the top of my stove. I found that most of my clothing came out uneven because the lack of room for the water to move around. After a number of items turned out poorly, I then moved to my bathtub which I would highly discourage. In one rental I scrubbed the porcelain for hours before I was able to get it gleaming white again. I was fortunate I didn't permanently stain the finish. Ideally you would like to purchase a big galvanized tin tub which holds lots of water and gives a lot of room for the dye to move around. You can find these tubs at your local hardware store, or online listed below. It will allow you enough room for large pieces of fabric, and you will be almost guaranteed your dying process will turn out even. I have a couple tubs in my home that I have painted in a swedish finish to look antique. They are absolutely beautiful to look at if you like over sized decor.
Clothing Dyeing Rule 2:
The second reason why I ended up throwing out bags of clothing over the years is because I let the fabric sit for hours without turning the fabric. Once the fabric is uneven, no amount of bleach will get it out. You might as well throw it out, than spend more money and dye to fix it up.
Fabric in dye needs to be turned, especially if the water is saturated with more dye. Stiring the fabric will allow the dye to get between all the folds. If you have a lot of water in your tin tub you could let the piece of clothing sit, but I highly suggest while dying clothing that you be present than letting it sit for hours. The temperature of the water can speed up the color process making it much darker than you originally wanted, and beach will do little to get it to the color you were after.
Clothing Dyeing Rule 2:
Using warm water will allow the die to saturate into the clothing. After I stumbled on this fact I started using boiling water which is a huge mistake as the die will burn into the clothing resulting in an uneven finish. Warmer water is the best temperature for dying materials.
Clothing Dyeing Rule 3:
Clothing and materials should be slightly damp, than dry. If you place a dry piece of material into dye, the dye will cling on to the first couple inches and then be lighter towards the bottom of the material causing the dye finish to be uneven.
Your fabric will dry a shade lighter. If you find that you have waited too long and the dye has turned out darker than anticipated, bleach could turn it a few shades lighter.
Either, 1- Fill up your washing machine with water with some bleach, and allow it to go through a cycle in the wash, or.......
2- Fill your galvanized bucket with water and bleach and turn your material around in the bucket until you are happy with the color.
WARNING- If you choose to use the bucket method, please please please cover your face with a mask and a exterior towel over the mask. Many years I have felt very light headed bleaching materials, and the effects of the bleach can make you very sick, as well as cause you breathing problems that could land you into a hospital. Opening up a large amount of bleach in a condo, or apartment could cause you to feel suffocated, as the particles never seem to get out of the space even with a number of fans and doors open. Proceed at your own risk, and always consider using this technique outdoors.
For additional Information on dying fabrics check out this article by Dawn Jacobson who gives some unique tips that I have found useful.
Dying textiles can recreate something quite ordinary into something with antique charactor. It can transform a set of roman shades, a vintage stuffed animal, or a childs vintage dress. Dying fabrics will never go out of style and could be a technique to add some historical character into a your home.
Country Living Magazine suggests for a darker stain, soak the fabric in water with a capful of fabric softener before submerging in the tea. They this technique prevents the color from fading over time.