These are a Few of My Favorite Things

These are a Few of My Favorite Things
These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tea and Coffee Staining Fabrics

Tea staining has been around a long time and was first used to hide stains on linens.  Tea staining is a easy way to create an "antique" or primitive look.  In our experience, the differences between tea staining and coffee staining are subtle.  Tea is lighter and gives a more "dirty" look.  Coffee seems browner and gives a more "old" look.  Just be aware that coffee is much more aromatic than tea, and your finished item will smell like coffee for a long time to come.  We have found that some fabrics (or paper) look better tea stained and some look better coffee stained.  We have tea stained and coffee stained with both brewed and instant and both gave satisfactory results.  I just find using instant is easier but there is not near as much color selection.  Tea/coffee staining only works on natural fibers.  Tea is orange-ish if it contains orange pekoe tea; fabric dyed with such teas becomes more orange over time.  Earl Grey is usually the tea of choice, but English Breakfast is ok too.  check out your grocery store or specialty shops and buy black tea for a gentle, soft brown, antique look. 

Tea/Coffee dye solution for 1 yard fabric:
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups instant coffee or tea
4 T. vanilla extract (optional)
cinnamon to dust
1 yard fabric (cotton prints, muslin, cheesecloth)

In a container large enough to hold your fabric, bring water to a boil, remove from heat and add instant tea/coffee.  Add vanilla or cinnamon (optional).  I feel the vanilla scent does not stay.  Dip the fabric in the dye solution for 20-60 minutes.  You may want to check the fabric every 10 minutes or so, until the color is dark enough.  Generally, the color will dry lighter that it looks wet.  I like to crumple up the fabric for a mottled effect.  If you don't like it, recrumple and re-dip.  If you still don't like it, soak fabric in dye solution or rinse it out with water and start over.

When you like the color, hang the fabric to dry.  I like to crumple the fabric up as it dries to get a variation in color.  I have put fabric in the dryer, (in an old pillowcase to protect dryer) to soften the fabric when it gets too stiff.  If you want a grubbier look, place your fabric on a foiled baking sheet and bake at 225 degrees for a few minutes.  Keep an eye on it so it does not burn!  When you like the look, take it out to cool.  When the fabric is dry, repeat the process if you want it darker.

If the fabric is going to be used for something that is going to be washed, set the color with a mordant.  I use 2 T. alum to about 2 gallons water and soak overnight.  Then I machine wash the items with my regular laundry.  There are other mordants such as . . . Recipe (1) Soak it in a gallon of cold water to which you have added 1 tablespoon of vinegar.  Recipe (2) Soak the stained fabric in two parts vinegar, one part water, and two tablespoons salt for 15 minutes, rinse thoroughly, fry in the dryer and press.  Recipe (3) Because vinegar is smelly, return the fabric to dyebath and add 2 t. alum, soad for 5 minutes.
You should wear gloves since your hands and nails will turn brown too.

I put a strong coffee solution in a spray bottle to use on small projects such as samplers and dolls.

(Information taken from

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