I've had so many compliments on the fabrics I've been using lately. Thank you so much! I thought you might like to see how I do it. I know I've told you how before but hearing and seeing are two different things! Now you can see how easy it is. Use this method to get the spotty-dotted, antiqued look such as the fabric my Prairie Schooler Twelve Days of Christmas ornaments are being stitched on.
Notice: I am aware many of you have been told how horrible tea dyeing is for fabric. How the acids in the tea will ruin your projects and simply make life miserable forever after. My opinion is this is pure bunk. If tea was so bad people the world over would be going about in holey clothes and ruined furnishings after the acids from their tea break spatter ate it's way through. Simple solution to remove the tea after dying by washing and rinsing the fabric. It cracks me up how much people love to tell you how wrong you are!
Start by boiling tea. Any tea, whatever you have in the cupboard is just fine. Make strong tea! Use several tea bags and just a little water and boil it well. Today I threw a little loose-leaf tea in with my tea bags.
While your tea is boiling, lay out something to protect your work surface. I usually use plastic wrap and paper towels but my kid "borrowed" my roll of plastic wrap and didn't return it so I used a piece of aluminum foil instead. (I've put plastic wrap on my grocery list.) You can use newspaper too, you just want to keep tea from staining your counter top or table.
Lay the fabric out. Use dry fabric to get the best spots. I've tried it wet and the spots don't show up very well. However if you want really subtle spotting wet fabric will do.
This is the fun part! I use a pipette to suck up tea and squirt it over the fabric. You can also use a spoon or eyedropper or even a paintbrush. Spot and dot tea all over the fabric. Trying not to spot and dot your work surface and clothing!
When you have have enough spots, put some hot water in the sink and pour your concentrated tea in. You only need enough water to cover the fabric. It looks weak in the photo but that is just the camera flash, it's actually pretty dark. Stuff the spotted fabric into the bath and let it soak. Don't let it fool you: this will still stain like you wouldn't believe! Use rubber gloves! The first time I tea dyed I thought, "It's just tea!" and went around with orangey-brown fingers for a week.
After the fabric has enough color (I guesstimate) I fill the other side of the sink with water and some laundry soap. (I usually save the tea bath until I'm sure I have enough color.) Wash the fabric and rinse a few times to remove the tea. If it isn't colored enough for your taste pop it back into the bath. Once it is washed, squeeze out the water and lay the fabric out on a clean bath towel. It is going to appear dark while it is wet but it will lighten in color considerably after it is dry.
Now, use a warm iron to dry the fabric. You don't have to iron it dry. I just hate waiting for hours when I can have it finished in minutes. I always iron my washed finishes too. Impatience is my middle name.
Isn't that pretty? If I was less impatient, I would zigzag stitch around the edges before I start to prevent unraveling. You did read that last paragraph, right? What I wouldn't give for a place to leave the sewing machine set up and ready to go. Or own a serger. A serger would be so cool.
Wasn't that easy? I like easy and the effect is really nice. I enjoy hand-dyed fabric but so often the design you want to stitch just looks better on a more neutral fabric. The tea-dyed fabric makes a lovely neutral and the spots and dots of staining give it a lot of interest. Be brave and try it yourself!
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