Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tea Staining Fabric for a Vintage Look

Tea staining fabric is an easy way to give fabric that warm, vintage look by tinting it brown. It can give new fabric that antique look of old linen. This technique works well with fabrics made of natural material such as cotton, linen, muslin and wool. Synthetic fabrics will not absorb the stain.
My mom used to tea stain fabrics she used in quilts to give them the aged look. She said her mother would use tea stain to camouflage small light stains on tablecloths. My mom taught me how to stain fabric, and I'm thinking of her today as I'm brewing my stain. She was a master quilter and craft queen; a teacher by profession and at home, the leader of numerous organizations, an avid reader, and my example of pure love. I will share with you my mom's method for tea staining fabric.

Our garden is suffering through the final weeks of summer. Honestly, it is just too hot to be out there so I have turned my attention toward redecorating my breakfast room. The painting is done. The new cushions have been ordered for the nook, and I am starting to sew new decorative pillows.

This fabric is my inspiration for the room.
The birds are just so colorful which is perfect because this room needs to be cheery. I am a lover of color. My house is not full of neutral colors which are so popular today. I have to have color, and these birds just make me happy. The background is ivory so when I started looking for fabric for the backs of the pillows I was hoping for green with ivory. Being fussy about such things, I looked everywhere for just the right green. It couldn't be too lime, it couldn't be too avocado. It had to be somewhere in between.

This was the closest I could find to my perfect match but it is a bit too lime.
The print is white instead of ivory and since these are pillows I will see up close everyday, the white would bother me against the ivory in the bird fabric. What can I say, I'm picky about color.
Tea staining toned down the green and brought it to a place which is more aged. The pattern is now ivory, just as I had hoped.
I wasn't sure the white part would pick up the stain because the pattern is printed onto the cloth, not woven into it. Sometimes the printed area is not penetrated by the stain, but it worked on this fabric.

Here's how to tea stain fabric.

Wash your fabric to remove the sizing which is the chemical treatment used during the manufacturing of the fabric to protect the fibers. This will allow the fabric to absorb the stain. Wash the fabric according to the washing instructions on the label. The fabric should be evenly wet before you place it in the tea stain.

Bring a large tub of water to boil on the stove. You need enough water to completely cover the fabric.

The type of tea you use will determine the shade of the tint. Black or brown tea will give you brown or cream tint. Using green tea, herbal tea, or raspberry tea will result is different shades. Hibiscus tea is wonderful to drink, and it also creates lovely pink shades when used as a fabric dye. English Breakfast tea was my tea of choice today since that's what I had in the pantry.

Add several tea bags and let them steep for several minutes. The more tea bags you use, and the longer you let them steep, the darker the stain. I used 8 tea bags in my largest pot and let it simmer on low for 8 minutes.

Remove from the heat and use tongs to remove the tea bags. If you leave the tea bags in the water, they will create dark spots on the fabric. 
Use the tongs to put the fabric into the tea. Be sure the burners are turned off so you don't catch the fabric on fire. 
Try to submerge all of the fabric which is difficult due to air trapped under the folds of fabric. Stir it often to make sure the dye soaks all of the fabric evenly. 
Check the fabric periodically and continue to let it soak until the desired color is reached.
Remember that the fabric will dry a shade lighter.

Rinse the fabric in warm water with a mild dish soap to remove the tea. This is important because the tea contains acids which can damage the fibers over time. I do this in the kitchen sink.

To set the color and prevent it from fading when washed in the future, soak the fabric in cold water with a little vinegar in it. Use one tablespoon of vinegar to one gallon of cold water.

Rinse the fabric well in cold water, then dry it in the dryer or line dry it. 

Now my fabric is a perfect match. Perfectly perfect.

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