"Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber." Proverbs 31:19 NLT

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Aging with Tea (Dyeing, not Dying)

I've had a pile of white doilies, a piece of Christmas fabric and even a piece of white lace trim, all waiting to be tea stained. The doilies were some my mother crocheted many years ago and were slated for this summer's garage sale. I whisked them out of one of her many boxes, asked for them and got permission to "age" them with tea. She said, "They are yours now - do with them what you want." Oh, goody! The Christmas fabric was from the same set of boxes and had been my grandmother's. Something had been cut out and presumably sewn up. It is little red and green bouquets of poinsettias and was on a white background. White is great and I actually wear white better than tan, but for my house, it has to be tan, or at least beige, all the way.

Well, a couple of days ago I finally had a bit of time and was sick of looking at the pile waiting to be "aged." So, while hubby was out and about, I had him pick up some Lipton yellow-label black tea - likely the cheapest black tea available. He, of course, found the "new-and-improved" version - Lipton PREMIUM Black Tea!! Kinda of defeated the purpose of Lipton yellow-label. But then it is what I had.

The process is much like I showed in Dye-ing for Kool-Aid, but tea staining is great fun, too. I'm sure many people have tea-dyed things and probably there are many blog posts about it. But I will add my photos to the numbers. It is always fun to see how the articles take the tea and taking the photos are an added bonus - at least for the blogger.

Here is the pile before the staining. I thought it was
good lighting but now I can't go back and
re-take - they are stained.

Here's my dyeing supplies. (Oh, wait,
not the water pot, it
doesn't hold enough water.)

I didn't really
know how many tea bags to use
so I used 18, tying them together
in clusters of 6 each. 

Here is my standard dye pot. It is actually a canner but hasn't seen any canning for many years.

I brought the water to a boil with the tea bags floating in it. Unlike preparing tea to drink, I slow-boiled the bags for about 20 minutes and added about 3 Tablespoons of salt. I hear that helps the color be more color fast.

After about 20 minutes I removed the tea bags and inserted the items to be stained. In my excitement, I forgot to wet them all down first, but that would have been the next step before putting them in the tea water.

I kept the heat on low, just below boiling and stirred the items often, hoping for an even staining on everything. The lace trim was no doubt partially polyester, so I didn't know how it would take the stain. And there was a doily crocheted with white crochet string, that had a strand of silver plied with it. I was interested to see how it turned out. So I kept stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting….

After a couple of hours I turned the heat off, covered the pot and let it set overnight.

In the morning I rinsed the items out in fresh, cool water and then heaved them over to the washing machine. I have a new machine and its delicate cycle is very delicate so I actually decided to put the items through that cycle to get a good rinsing.

After the final spin, I simply laid everything out on a carpet in a low traffic room to dry. Except for the fabric, which I dried in the machine with some washed sheets. And here’s the final photo shoot. 
As you can see, some other wool items were also washing at the same time. Those I just soaked in hot water and dish detergent and then rinsed in the same approximate temp that the water had cooled down to. And then I spun out the water before I laid them out on the same carpet. Wool items are very easy to wash if you don’t change water temps quickly and don’t squish them around to “scrub” them.

I'm more pleased with the Christmas fabric now - it's much more "vintage looking." Don't know yet what I will do with it, but I'm quite sure it will be nice. ;^)

Here is the mentioned lace trim and the silver laden doily. I don't think the silver shows up in the photo but it does in person. I'm kind of excited to use it on my coffee table - it's very large. (Oh, the blue looking spot on the doily isn't actually there.) And the lace is not as dark as some of the items so does have polyester in it. But it is a much nicer, vintage-looking piece.

I have tea stained doilies before. In fact, all the ones I use around our living room are aged that way. They are much more pleasant to my eye than bright white.

P.S. As I preview this post, I see that "it" thinks the whole thing is one big photo and caption. It makes the format very annoying and I can't see any easy way to fix it. Hopefully it isn't as annoying to you.


  1. Those doilies are beautiful and the tea dyeing has really helped them. Of course you could crochet them in beige (or similar colour) and then not need to dye them!

    1. Thank you, Gillian. My mother did all of them except for the 'diamond' one. My grandmother did that one. I couldn't crochet them in beige or any other color. ha


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