Tea Staining Tutorial

Tea stain is the simplest way to make something look old, soften stark white or bright colors, or learn to do some simple and safe dyeing at home.  I love to do tea stain.  It's so easy and fast!  I use tea stain to dye pure white muslin for printing my basil, fern, poppy and Scarborough Fair wooden blocks.  I also brushed tea onto my IKEA lampshade and ended up with some very neat patterns after the tea dried.  Here's a closer shot of the lampshade.
I have taken this lamp to craft shows, and people just love it.  I even had someone offer to buy it, but I love it so much that I had to say no.

Okay, enough talk!  Onto the tutorial.  Here's what you will need:
  • Black or Pekoe teabags
  • Fabric to be dyed (Must be made from 100% natural fibers*)
  • Vinegar
*Synthetic fibers are made from plastic, which will not accept dyes after they have been made.

I printed up a batch of shirts for my family's reunion coming up this weekend, and the only color we could get for my daughter's bodysuit was much brighter than the rest of the shirts.  I decided that a tea stain would tone down the brightness a bit and help it fit with the rest of the shirts a bit better. 
To begin, boil up enough water to fully immerse your piece of fabric.  I usually just eyeball it.  While the water is boiling, rinse your fabric out in the sink to remove any chemical residues.
I flipped the shirt inside out, since I wanted to make sure the printing didn't get messed up in the dryer after the staining.  After the water is boiling, you can remove it from heat and add your teabags.  I used six, but you will want to use more if your fabric is larger.  
Allow the tea to steep for 5-10 minutes.  At this point, you can either remove the teabags, or leave them in there.  If you leave the bags in, it will give your fabric a splotchy look, with darker spots nearest the bags.  I did this with my wooden blocks, but with this shirt, I removed the bags.  Add your fabric to the pot and push it down into the tea with a spoon.
Leave the fabric in the tea for about ten minutes, agitating every couple of minutes, then check the color.  Keep in mind that the fabric won't be as dark when it has dried.  If you want it darker, leave it in longer.  When you are pleased with the color, rinse your fabric out again in the sink.  
After it's all rinsed out, chuck it in the dryer with a bunch of towels that you don't care too much about.  There are chances that they can get a little stain on them during the dry, but I didn't have any trouble with that.  Once it's dry, check the color.  If you want it darker, you can stick it back in the tea and do it all again.  If you like it, you can soak it in a vinegar-water solution(1 tsp. vinegar to 1 gallon water) to set the color, or just go with it and the color may or may not fade with subsequent washings.
All done!  This would be a great project to do with kids.  I'll have to get a photo of my girl in her shirt at the reunion and add it later to show you how it looks with the rest of the shirts.

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