Thursday, 4 December 2014

Tea dyeing. (And recipe)

It's best to tea dye the fabric before sewing, and to make sure you have enough extra for any possible mistakes in cutting out the pattern pieces.

Here's how I make my tea dye mix and dye my fabric or garments.

In a pint jug, I use two ordinary PG tips tea bags. Any brand will do.

Pour in hot water, I make about 3/4 of a pint, depending on how much fabric I have.  It's possible to dye a piece of fabric large enough for a dolly garment in a surprisingly small amount of liquid.  I can get a fat quarter of cotton voile or lawn out of 3/4 of a pint of tea.

Squidge the tea bags around if you want a strong brew. Use more or less tea bags, or leave them in for a longer/shorter time to make tea for deeper/paler fabric.

Remove tea bags.

Add 1 heaped teaspoon of salt for every 3/4 of a pint.

Mix well so salt dissolves.

Dunk in your fabric, ensuring it's soaked through and mostly covered by the liquid. Poke it around with a clean spoon. I put my fabric in dry, not damp. I like a less-than-perfect effect, with natural lighter patches or deeper patches. For a more uniform effect, you can try damping your fabric first.

Leave for an hour or so.

Rinse until the water runs clear (shouldn't take long with smaller pieces.)

If I'm dying garments as opposed to just fabric - I'm brave, and I let the clothes dry on the doll. DO NOT DO THIS IF YOUR DOLL IS BODY BLUSHED. EVER. It will ruin the sealant, or the paint, or whatever is used to blush the doll. DO NOT RISK THIS ON A PALE BODIED RESIN DOLL, BLUSHED OR NOT.
I dry the clothes on the doll because I know it is rinsed well, and damp clothes can be styled on the doll's body to great effect. I don't do it on pale resin dolls, only my vinyl ones, or the darker skinned resin dolls.

I know for a fact damp clothes or wigs can ruin a faceup or body blushing. I don't think my well-rinsed garments would stain my pale resin dolls, but I won't take that chance - I strongly recommend you don't either.

*Climbs off soap box*

I use pure cottons for dyeing.  Acrylics and polyesters don't take well to any dye that isn't specialist.   A poly-cotton mix might work, but I haven't tried it. I believe the effect will be paler.  Viscose fabrics work beautifully too, viscose is actually a natural fibre.  I imagine if you're using silks, vinegar will be better to fix the colour instead of salt, but I haven't tried it yet, so don't take my word for it. 
Here's the Jedi outfit I've made all dyed and put on my Lucas. I've styled them the way I like them, so they drape nicely, and I'll wait for them all to dry before I put on his belt and boots, etc.

 One adorable but slightly soggy little Jedi:

 The clothing will probably dry a little paler, but that's okay.   I've dyed the trews as well, because they were too similar in shade to the lining of his robe for my personal liking.

All the work is done now. This will take overnight to dry, but I'll try and get some pictures of the complete outfit uploaded tomorrow.  :)



  1. Looks great... will be interesting to see it when it's dried and is all finished.... fabulous job though!

    1. Thanks Trish. :) He's all dry today and I'm just about to put on the rest of his clobber.

  2. Wonderful work as always, Tess, and thank you for a most thorough treatise on tea-dyeing. I have some muslin that needs a bit of coloring, methinks . . . :-)

    1. Thank you! <3 Muslin works beautifully. Also - if you use already slightly beige fabrics or even pastels, you can get a few different shades out of it.


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