DIY: tea staining tie dye

I heard about tea staining a long time ago when I was watching the Martha Stewart show. yup. I was watching Martha Stewart. but really, she's taught me a lot of stuff, like show to fold a fitted sheet. anyway, I remembered about this method of coloring fabric just recently and decided to finally give it a go. I've been really inspired to change up my living space slowly but surely, and thought this would be a fun summery thing to do.
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basically, it's like tie dying, except you are using extremely strong black or herbal tea as the dye. it can give you brownish, yellowish, or slightly reddish tones depending on the tea. back in the day before artificial dyes and colors, people used things found in nature to dye their clothing such as tea, different leaves and berries. this is a fun way to get that dingey, antique look to fabrics either on your clothing, sheets, curtains, or anything!

the strength of tea is important. even using extremely strong black tea, the stains will be fairly light. it's hard to make it too dark, but you still have to be careful depending on the look you're wanting. it took me a few times and different methods to understand how to get the look I want! this was my first time doing this, so I now know what to do differently in the future.

{{now that this project is finished and I've seen how its turned out, I probably wouldn't tea stain sheets, because the effect it's given basically looks dirty, haha! but I still enjoy the antiquey feel and it doesn't really bother me! it's a look that's not for everyone, but there are ways of making it look more intentional too.}}

what you'll need:
  • black tea bags [I got the biggest, cheapest box I could find]
  • boiling water
  • large pot or bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • white vinegar
  • rubber bands
  • something to stain! preferably 100% cotton, such as sheets, shirts, or curtains. [I used a white tank top, 2 jersey pillow cases, and a white sheet set, with flat and fitted sheet + 2 pillow cases]
I recommend doing this outside if you can, and make sure you cover stainable surfaces. the tea did stain my hands a little bit but nothing crazy. this is definitely a project you want to have time for, so plan it out!

let's start!
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1 // boil water, enough to submerge your item you want to stain. add tea bags. I added 12 family sized bag to start... I wanted it really strong! I ended up adding a few more later. doesn't have to be precise! I made 2 batches to experiment. I used black tea in the bigger bowl and this blueberry tea in the smaller bowl. the blueberry tea wasn't blue at all, but almost more yellowy. I didn't notice a huge different in color variation between the two though.
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2 // make sure your white fabric is clean, if there are any stains they will show up very dark and noticeable after the tea has stained it. I added rubber bands around my pieces in different places to make a tie dye affect. this will leave whiter spaces on some parts. if you don't want this, just add completely it into the tea so its fully submerged and your item will have consistent color all over.
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3 // when the tea is hot, it will take color faster. I left my shirt in for just a few minutes. the longer it cooled, the harder it was for the color to take. I think it depends on the fabric itself too. the first pillow cases I did were a jersey cotton and they took better than the still 100% cotton sheets I did. I also dyed the sheets when the tea had cooled down.
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4 // leave it in and keep checking the color. remember it will lighten a lot when it is dry and all the tea had been rung out. I set a timer for 15 min. 
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5 // after you are happy with the color, ring out all the tea and rinse with cold water to remove the acids and extra tea. then submerge in a cold water and white vinegar mixture. I didn't measure this, maybe 1/2 cup of vinegar and then added water. this will help set the stain in.
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6 // the instructions I read said to dry the garments and then wash separately with cold water. I haven't done this yet so I can't tell you how much more it will fade, but I'm assuming like any other dyes, it will fade with every wash. just don't use bleach, duh!
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7 // I left some parts out of the tea altogether on the sheets, considering they are so big and it's kind of a messy project. it has more of a subtle stained effect and less of the tie dye effect, which I don't mind!
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after i rung out the items, and rinsed with vinegar and cold water, i threw them in the dryer and checked them out. a few of the pillow cases weren't colored enough for me so I played around and added them into the tea again. this one pillow case turned out just how I had hoped! the shirt also is perfect.

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give this a try and let me know what kind of results you get!
different fabrics, lace, paper, and different types of teas! I want to know and try it all.

x's + o's
kaitlin elaine