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Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL

Day 290: Mad About My Me-Made Makeup Bag
Day 288: Off The Grid Dress

Not all of my refashioning efforts end well.  Here’s an example.  I began with this stark white coverup.

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 2
So pristine!

There’s nothing really wrong with it, but I hate wearing white.  I’m really clumsy, and it’s always just a matter of time before I end up dousing myself in mustard or marinara sauce.  :/

A couple of people have suggested that I try dyeing a piece or two with tea.  I’ve seen quite a few things that have been dyed this way (mainly period costumes), and thought it was worth a try!

First, I brewed a pot of tea.

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 3
Mmmmmm! Chamomile!

I used Chamomile, as my extensive (Google) study on the subject of tea dying assured me I’d end up with a pretty yellow hue.

I added my dress.

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 4
It all seemed so straightforward at the time...

And nothing happened.

I left it in the tea bath for a couple of hours.

Nothing continued to happen.

I have no idea where I went wrong on this one.  The dress was 100% cotton, but it wasn’t taking the dye at all!  🙁  I removed it from the tea bath, rinsed it, dried it, and looked at it again.  I hoped that if I squinted hard enough, I’d be able to tell a noticeable difference.  Yeah…no.

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 5
The hell???

Time to go back to square one.  Tea clearly wasn’t powerful enough to dye what should have been a really easy to dye dress.

It was time to level up!  🙂

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 6
I am clearly out of my gourd.

My next attempt, as you can see from the photo above, was to dye the dress with coffee.  My logic went something like this:  Tea isn’t strong enough to get me going in the morning.  Coffee is.  Therefore, if Tea isn’t strong enough to dye a flippin’ 100% cotton dress, Coffee should suffice.

I let the dress steep in the hot coffee for a couple of hours.

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 7
This should work, right?

I felt like maybe this time I had managed to make this white dress look at least a tad less white and more antique-y.  I rinsed it, dried it, and put it on…

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 8
Wipe that smile off your face, missy. This looks exactly the same!

Egads!  It still barely took any color at all!  Ugh!

So…that’s it.  This one was a dismal failure.  They can’t all be golden, but geez did I ever try!

If anyone knows what I did wrong here, please please let me know!

Despite having barely made any sort of a difference to this dress, I still enjoyed wearing it at the beach all day!  🙂

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 9
Loving that ocean air!

Hmmmmn…maybe if I use a little fancy photo editing, I can fool you guys into thinking this actually worked…

Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL 10
Anybody buying it? No?

I promise to do better tomorrow!



Day 290: Mad About My Me-Made Makeup Bag
Day 288: Off The Grid Dress

35 thoughts on “Day 289: Tea Dye FAIL”

  1. Pingback: nfl jerseys 2012
  2. Yep yep, agree with the other posters. Your info was wrong. Chamomile may apparently when fresh and used in large quantities give you yellow – with a mordant. Coffee won’t really colour your cotton, especially without a mordant. Black tea (NOT related to chamomile) WILL give you a brown colour, either with a mordant such as alum, or with iron (such as a solution of vinegar+rusty nails that have sat for a while). Iron gives a good brown colour with tannin-rich dyes such as tea.

  3. You needed to use a mordant. With reguar tea or coffee the acids in it act as a mordant, but most of your natural dyes need an added mordant; usually a metal. One of the most commonly used (and most readily available) mordants is alum, you can find it at most any grocery store. Alum is a great mordant because it doesn’t alter the color, it simply sets it….adding cream of tartar will help to brighten up a color. Because different metals affect dyes differently you want to be careful with what sort of pot you use to cook up your dyes, stainless steel or an enamel lined pot is best, or aluminum; those won’t affect your color. A copper pot will impart a bluish hue to whatever you’re dyeing–a very good thing when using natural products to get a green, most of those wind up pretty brassy and the copper will mellow them. You should always avoid using any cast iron to dye with because iron will dull down a color, if you’re using an enameled iron pot check it over thoroughly to make sure the enamel is intact.

    Giving something a good rinse in vinegar water after dyeing is another way to set your color.

    You can get great yellows with turmeric, it’s not going to give you everlasting color, but I have things done with turmeric (woolens) that have held their color for a few years. The fun thing with turmeric is that like many other natural dyes, it’s a pH indicator. Adding an alkali like washing soda to the dyebath will take it from a school bus yellow to an amazing blood red! You can get some pretty cool effects by dyeing with turmeric and then flicking washing soda onto the item while it’s still wet, you’ll wind up with bright red splotches wherever the soda lands. You could also mix up a stong soda solution and squirt it here and there onto the item for a more splashy effect!

  4. Maybe you should try dying red wine. I imagine it to be really pretty! Thanks for doing this blog! My sister and I love it, and have been doing refashioning lately. I’m even going to get a dress form!

  5. When I have tea dyed an item I have soaked it and, when it was the shade that I wanted, I took it out and rung out the extra liquid and put it straight in the dryer to set the stain. No rinsing! After it has been dried you can wash and dry as normal. Love your site!

  6. There’s always RIT! I have an old book on natural dying. Different plants for different colors. Or you can try kool-aid. I use kool aid on my wool upcycling. Works great and it’s easy.

  7. I agree with vxb222Betty and girlzed. I haven’t done too much dyeing, but when I do I always do some sort of natural dye. I was given a white bridal corset/bodice at one point.. but I couldn’t do a thing with it as it was. I made up a strong pot of coffee and poured it in a pot. Then I poured in almost as much apple cider viengar as coffee. I put the corset in and let it sit about an hour, at which point I had a gorgeous darkish beige/tan bodice with brown lace.

  8. Try cellulose, It’s what i use when dying cotton, soak it for at least 30 minutes, also make sure it doesn’t have anything like scotch guard on it.

  9. Professional yarn dyer here, and I work mainly with cottons. First off, don’t bother with the easter egg dyes, those only work for protein fibers (wool, cashmere, silk, nylon) and not cellulose (cotton, linen, ramie, rayon). To get cotton to dye with a tea or coffee solution you need to add something that would be a base to the solution. Alum (found in with the spices) is a good thing to use. It’s called mordanting, and is a much needed step when dyeing something using natural dyes. Usually you soak the item in a boiling hot solution of the mordant and water, than let dry and than dye it using the tea/coffee. Protein fibers don’t need a mordant because the tea and coffee already have acid in them, though a splash of vinegar will help. Heat is needed to set any natural dye.

    Also, beets are a stain, not a permanent dye.

  10. Have to comment even though I know this post is an older one. Next attempt at one like this, think Easter Eggs. Remember how when you did Easter eggs as a kid, you always had to mix those little tablets (just condensed versions of the rit dye in actuality) with vinegar? The vinegar is what pulls and sets the color. Try adding about a cup or so of vinegar to the dye bath next time. 🙂

  11. I’ve always used instant coffee to stain fabrics, the coffee/water ratio and time will give you varying levels of darkness. Loving the blog, I’m inspired to try some of my own alterations!

  12. I love your blog! It inspires me to actually out my new sewing machine to use! If you ever try to antique fabric again might I suggest using instant coffee? I’ve done that and it works perfectly! Happy refashioning!!

  13. There might be oils in the cotton still. Boil it in hot water wih a squirt of dawn for 30 min, throw it in the wash and dry it. Then try with something to fix the color.

  14. You need to check what the fabric is made from, if it has too much polyester, it won’t take the color. The more cotton content the better.

  15. Hi – I love your blog and you’ve inspired quite a few re-fashions for myself and for my two girls.
    There is a lovely book called Eco Colour by India Flint if you want to do some natural dyeing – you need to add a mordant to the dye bath to ‘fix’ the dye – things like salt and vinegar and pot-ash are mordants. Onion skin gives a good strong colour. It’s a lot of experimenting!

  16. never heard of using chamomile…I can’t get it to even turn color when I drink it much less affecting an article of clothing. But as was said above, black tea may work. Maybe just try a hanky first? A hanky halter top for summer? good effort! :o)

  17. Ha ha oh dear.. I assume that this should wot the same way as with dyeing fabric naturally with plants, in which case you would also need to add a ‘mordant’ to the water, usually a substance called alum and also some salt.. The fabric would also need to be scrubbed beforehand, it’s best if it goes in already a bit damp. It’s quite a tricky process!

  18. This made me laugh… mainly because I am a fellow(ess) klutz too. You KNOW that if you HAD worn that out as it were (pre dye)…. and consumed a nice cup of chamomille tea, that schtuff would have spilled and you would have had a permanent yellow spot on your top. It’s just the way it rolls for chicks like us, HAHA! Cute nontheless!

  19. Maybe the concentration of tea/coffee wasn’t strong enough? Weird. I would have thought it would have taken the color at least a little bit! Wonder if the fabric was ever treated with a stain guard??

  20. Beet juice would make a beautiful color. I can’t get beet juice stains off my kids clothes and its such a pretty pink-ish fushia-y color.
    I know what you’re thinking: ‘your kids eat beets!? Like actually put them in their mouths???’
    I know, I don’t get it either.

  21. Well: if it won’t dye it may not get stained, so why dye it at all? 🙂 (never heard of cotton that won’t be dyed …)
    I sometimes use a so-called “organic hair dye” and it says “add red wine, black tea (!) or coffee” for more colour (reddish brown). So maybe if you tried black tea instead?

  22. Seriously?! if you were drinking tea or coffee and spilled on that pretty white top it would surely leave a stain!
    I love the crisp white though…maybe it’s a sign you’re supposed to wear it white and just bleach out any unfortunate incidents.


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