Tea Dyeing

I'm not very good at dyeing in general but I've had quite a bit of luck tea dyeing and thought I'd share what I've discovered.  Tea dyeing is great for a bunch of reasons, it's less messy and toxic than regular dyes, nearly everyone has tea of some sort in their cupboard so it's not something you need to buy specially, and it's pretty easy to do.  I usually use tea dyeing when I have a color that's a little too bright that I want to dull, or I have a while that is too stark that I'd like to turn into an ivory or off-white.
Experiment with different teas to see what color you'll get.  Some herbal teas are too light to dye well, and some, like hibiscus are very pink in tone.  Usually I use a plain black tea, this is usually the darkest and the most color fast.  Tea bags are best, otherwise you can end up dealing with bits of leaves in your fabric!  The number of bags depends on how dark/strong you want the color to be.

Here are a few different teas so you can see how different the colors can be:

Green Tea
You will need:
  • Gloves
  • Spoon or tongs to stir the fabric
  • Large bin or pot to dye in - the nice thing about tea dyeing is it's okay to use a pot you use for cooking.
  • tea - 6 + bags depending on how strong you want the color
  • salt to act as a mordant 
First you need to get the fabric wet and wring it out.  This will help the dye take evenly. 
You will need to add boiling water to cover the fabric, so make sure your bin is large enough to cover the fabric without over flowing.

My wet, un-dyed fabric
Put the kettle and any large pots on to boil so your water will all be boiling at nearly the same time.  Add the tea bags to the pots before pouring them into the bin with your fabric so the color is more uniform, but don't worry if it's too light, you can always add more tea bags if you need them.

My fabric in the tea dye - 6 bags of Assam
Put the rubber gloves on, pour all the tea into the dyeing bin, add about a 1/4 cup of salt and swish the fabric around with the spoon.  You don't need to stir constantly but you should stir and pick the fabric up and turn it every few minutes so it dyes evenly.  You'll want the fabric to look a bit darker than you actually want it - wet fabric is darker than dry.  Once it's the color you want wring out the fabric and put it in the dryer on hot to help set the color.   Here's my final product:

The eyelet was the exact same shade as the white fabric before dyeing

One final warning, test fabric that has been embroidered or has other stitching on it like the eyelet I used before dyeing.  Some poly threads won't take the dye and you'll end up with a two-tone fabric.