View Your Cart

Step-by-Step Instructions for Tea dying by

Primitive Stitchery

~~Tea-Dying Muslin & Homespun Fabric~~


If you would like to give your projects that aged look, tea dying is just the thing to add years to your fabric projects.

I spend two or three days dying enough fabric for months. 

~~Here is what you will need~~ 

-unsweetened, no lemon instant tea

-large pot to dye your muslin in tea

-muslin in one yard lengths or less

-heavy untensils to weigh the fabric down in the pot

-stove top

-clothes line or some rope strung across to hang muslin for drying
or dryer (which I like best) but you must be willing to clean it well later!!

-clothes pins

-tea bags (optional for spot dying)

     First you need to add water to your large pot about half way to start.  Put on stove top, add instant tea.  You will use a lot!!!  The more you use the darker the fabric. (This is why I dye a lot of fabric at one time) Bring to a boil stirring to dissolve the tea.

     When the tea has dissolved, turn off the stove.  Now add your fabric.  I only add enough that will stay completely under the tea/water level at one time when pushed down. After you have your fabric in the pot, I then weigh it down with any heavy kitchen utensils to keep all of the fabric below the tea/water level to ensure even coloring. (I use my heavy spatula's and spoons etc.)

     This process could take up to 24 hours depending on how dark you would like your muslin. The more tea used, the quicker the dying process!!! I always use at least one whole jar per dying session.   A session could be a couple to a few days.   If I used more, it would be even quicker!! Let sit.  You may check from time to time to see if it has reached your desired color.  Remember it will look darker when wet then when dry.

     You may also want to restart the stove to reheat the tea throughout the process. You may also need to add more water or tea.  If you add more tea, you should do this when the fabric is not in the pot to keep from spotting the fabric. REMEMBER NEVER TO LEAVE THE POT UNATTENDED WHEN THE BURNER IS ON!!!!
      When you have reached your desired color, put the pot in the sink and wring the fabric over the pot.  I then shove the fabric in a plastic bag to carry to my line or dryer.   You may also lay flat if you like a blotched effect (which is not my favorite through this method of laying) Then I start the next batch for dying.  It is now, that I check my water level and add more tea if needed.

     I suggest that you hang your fabric from a clothesline using spring style clothespins and attaching at the very edges as anything draped over the clothesline may give you a streak.  You also may wish to turn it a couple of times during the drying process to ensure color eveness. Let dry.

     After drying completely, you may choose to put in the dryer for a couple minutes to soften the fabric or you choose to iron.  If you do iron, make sure that you use an old iron as the tea will stain the surface of your iron. 

     When making pillows or candle mats with a homespun fabric backing, I like to tea dye the homespun also as it gives a more authentic look to the entire piece.

     Once your fabric is dyed and you are ready to stitch, stitch your project following directions.  When you are finished the project (before stuffing), you may choose to spot tea dye to give your project an even further worn look.  To do this, you may dip a tea bag in water and dab the area you desire to darken.  This will give a different effect than just all over tea-dying alone. 

     After dab dying, you may wish to place your item in the stove to darken it.  (this step is optional)  Place aluminum foil on a  cookie sheet. Lay your item on the cookie sheet.  Make sure that your item is contained within the cookie sheet and that there are no edges hanging over the sides.  Place on the middle rack of oven so that there are no heating elements touching fabric in any way.  YOU MAY NOT LEAVE THIS UNATTENDED FOR EVEN A SECOND.  YOU MUST WATCH THE ENTIRE TIME!!!  
This process does not take long..maybe just a minute or two. 

     To finish drying or if you choose to omit the oven, you may hang dry again turning every now and then to ensure even color when drying, or throw back into the dry, or lay flat for the blotchy effect.

     When dry, your project is finished and ready to be stuffed or used depending on the item.
Don't forget to tea dye your Warm & Natural especially if you are using it for a project with an unfinished edge.  There is nothing stranger looking then to see a nicely worn stitched front and back with white Warm & Natural sticking out the sides.  Warm & Natural is great too  because it tea dyes so beautifully!!  Remember to save those scraps for using to create snowman dolls and ornaments!!!
Barb's Secret Tea-Dying Method:  Barb's favorite method to tea-dying and adding age to her pieces (as shown on this site) is to tea dye after you have stitched.  After she has finished tea-dying, she then scorches her piece with an old iron while still wet.  Barb likes to scorch the piece until she gets the desired effect then she finishes drying the piece in her dryer.
Marlene's Tea Dying Method:  is also another example of tea-dying the entire piece after your item is stitched.  This method gives the shadowing between the stitched areas.  Marlene likes to use tan rit dye at times instead of tea.  You may do this in your washer but remember to run a bleach cycle afterwards to clean the washer!!  If you use the dryer, you should also throw some OLD wet towels into the dryer to clean the sides before drying any laundry.  I do this at least twice!!  To be most cost efficient with any of these methods, it is best to work in an assembly line tea or rit dying a lot of pieces at one time.  It is also easiest when using your dryer to only have to clean it once rather than many times!!






Back to Articles