Thursday, November 8, 2012

on Tea Dyeing.

Something I've wanted to do for a long time is dye fabric. I've bought some dyes - some RIT dyes, some iDyes - and hoarded them for a few months while waiting for the perfect opportunity to try them out. I also live in an apartment, so I have to be extra careful not to dye anything that isn't mine (particularly the carpet, which is off-white).

A few months ago, I picked up the Frosted Pumpkin Stitchery's "Dessert of the Month Club". Reading the directions, I immediately went out and purchased the darkest, 14 count Aida I could find - which also happened to be sparkly. I thought it would be just dark enough.

Alas! This was not the case. Maybe the filter makes it look darker here, but on some of the desserts - especially that truffle at top - it made it difficult to see. So, I decided, I'd get a darker version next time. 

When I bought the fruit of the month club, I went a different route - one I'd read about before, recommended in the directions. Tea-Dyeing! It seemed simple enough, so I thought I'd give it a try.

What I didn't realize is how much I'd love it. After using a black tea - namely Earl Grey - on an oatmeal colored Aida, my fabric came out darker. The colors were more vibrant! 

It definitely helped. I recently purchased the Kawaii Winter sampler and double-dyed the fabric for this one (as you read about in the last few posts). I'm happy to say I've started on my sampler - although I've no pictures yet! - and I love the result.

So here's some quick instructions on tea-dyeing and a few pointers that might help you out if you decide to go the same route!

First, decide what kind of color you're looking for as a result. If you want something brown, you need to find a black tea. Earl Grey and Irish Breakfast work great for this. 

If you're looking for a pinkish/purple, go for an herbal tea with berry flavors. True Blueberry from Bigelow will give you a great purple-ish pink, as will Red Raspberry. (The Orange Blossom Hibiscus pictured below gave off a lighter color than the two mentioned previously, but it was still a pinkish-brown).

Green teas tend to give off a yellowish-green tint; I've used a plain Green Tea, a Chamomile, and others, and usually the result is a slightly darker, yellowish tint that ages your fabric.

I read about this process before I began it myself, and what I saw recommended here on was that you use 4 cups of water for every yard of fabric. I used mostly scraps and long pieces of different fabric, so I never measured any as a straight yard. What I did do, however, is use about six cups of water in the end; this gave me enough water to cover my fabric. 

I used 14 tea bags in each batch; since the purpose is for dyeing, I wanted to make sure I had a good, strong color as a result. You could use more or less if you wanted!

Bringing the water to a boil, I threw the tea-bags in.

I steeped my tea for about thirty minutes; this way I really reaped all the color from the bags.

In the meantime, I rinsed all of my fabric with cold water and let it sit. IMPORTANT: polyesters and non-natural fabrics will not dye. It'll run right out! Make sure you're using 100% cotton. I used a variety of fabrics, even some doilies. For me, the goal was both to experiment and use fabrics I hadn't thought of using in other projects.

 If you're looking for a patterned fabric, they have white-on-white fabrics at Hobby Lobby and Joann's that make for a beautiful result! Polka dots, stripes, and even some smaller prints. 

When you've steeped your tea, remove the tea-bags. I like to press the remaining tea out of the tea-bags; I do the same thing when I drink tea, but you don't necessarily have to. I poured all of my tea into a bowl:

(These were from the Lipton Herbal Tea. The tea bags were like plastic!)

Squeezing all of the remaining water from your fabric, submerge it in the tea. I made the mistake this last time of leaving the fabric in a stationary position, folded over, and the result was an uneven finish. It's better to move it around occasionally so that the finished product is a smooth dye.

How long to leave it in? I've left it in for an hour to two hours and still achieved a good, dyed result. For my Aida cloth, I wanted it to be darker, so I left it for nearly 11 hours, and the color was richer. Ultimately, it's up to you! 

When you're done dyeing, pour the tea out and rinse the fabric with cool water. Yes, this will make the result lighter; so will drying it. If I wasn't pleased with the richness of the dye, I dyed it again. You can alternately leave the tea in your bowl until you see how deeply your fabric has dyed.

I tumble dry mine on high heat; the result has always been beautiful! On the RedDawn page, it also offers the alternative of nearly drying it and then ironing it on a high setting. Ultimately what you're doing is setting the dye, so it's a step you don't want to skip.

Voila! The finished product. On the left is the fabric dyed with Lipton's Orange Hibiscus Herbal Tea; a light, red-pink color. On the right is the tea dyed with Morning Thunder by Celestial! In the middle are the fabrics I dyed from for comparison.

Great things about this process:

1. Naturally dyeing a product you may have on hand for little cost!

2. There may be a few tea splashes here and there, but there's little to no mess!

3. Your house will smell AWESOME.

Things that maybe aren't so great?:

1. These dyes don't come in "rainbow", so no rich greens, or blues.

2. Kind of time consuming? (But not any more so than dyeing with RIT dye.)

I'm currently making a quilt out of these fabrics, pairing them with shirtings and plaids I have in my stash. I'll post the result when I'm done. That said, I haven't washed these fabrics multiple times and don't know how well those colors hold up after multiple washings! Perhaps if I end up washing it a bunch I'll add on to this post :) 

You can e-mail me here with any questions, or post on this page!

My next experiment? After the RIT Dye, I want to dye with plants!

Later Days!

- Kait

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