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Dyeing Cross Stitch Fabric at Home – With Tea!

July’s Pixel Stitch RPG quest was about dyeing some fabric. This is something I’ve been meaning to try for years and just never got around to. It still feels daunting, but seeing everyone else give it a try for the first time really helped inspire others to try. Including myself!

This is not a tutorial. Not really. Though you could follow it as such if you wanted to try and recreate my results. But I do want to make it clear I don’t have the experience or training to speak about best practices for dyeing fabric. I do hope that it does inspire you to give it a try, though. If only to get over the hurdle of trying and get you invested on experimenting with it if you enjoy it. But please do your own research in addition to this blog.

Materials

Fabric dyeing materials

Pretty basic materials for this one.

Fabric

I used some fabric squares that had gotten ruined when my basement flooded. It kinda gets color balanced in the photo, but if you squint you can kinda see that there’s some blue blotches all over them. I wanted to see if I could easily dye over it and make them useable again. Later I also threw in some random 6″ square scraps of 14 count aida I had on hand from making kits.

Tea

I used some tea that had been sitting in the back of my cabinet that we didn’t really drink because we didn’t enjoy the flavor as much as some of the other teas we have.

From my research, the main thing I wanted to note is that you want to use tea with high tannin content to make sure it is strong enough for dyeing your fabric, and doesn’t just stain it. In other words, black tea is less likely to wash out or change color over time.

While herbal/berry teas will still color your aida, they may wash out or fade, so keep that in mind. They are still fun to experiment with, though!

You could also use coffee, but keep in mind that will likely wash out as well!

Container

Just something to put your fabric and dye into while it does its thing. Since I was just using tea, and did not add chemicals or anything to the mix, I was okay using the same casserole dish from my Washing your Cross Stitch post.

If you are using chemical based dyes like RIT, use a container that will never be used for food again.

Preparing the Tea

Overbrewing tea

I literally just boiled a quart of water and then dunked like 7 bags into it. Nothing fancy.

Do use a lot more bags than you would when drinking your tea, though. You want it to be dark. It will lighten up on the fabric, as you’ll see later.

preparing fabric to color with tea

I did give it ~5 minutes to brew, but didn’t wait for it cool down considerably. Pretty much just poured it on as-is.

submerging fabric in tea for dyeing

You’ll note I started it off with the frame backside down, and didn’t quite have enough tea for it to be fully submerged. I would just occasionally flip it over to make sure the back was getting colored as well, but obviously the front was more important.

Dyeing with the Scrunch Technique

Adding more fabric to the tea mix; dyeing with scrunching.

I don’t know if ‘technique’ is the best word for this. But I wanted some splotchy dyeing jobs too, so I crumpled up some scrap aida and threw it in there with the frame.

I splashed some tea on top so that some parts were untouched, some just had a thin layer of tea, and other parts were still submerged in the brew.

Washing Off the Excess Dye

Preparing a wash

While waiting, I prepared another container some lukewarm water with a drop of soap. I also was cooking dinner at the same time, so I honestly couldn’t tell you how long I let the fabric sit in the tea. At least half an hour, if I had to guess.

Rinsing off excess tea

I unceremoniously dunked the square into the wash and swooshed it around a little. While that soaked, I stretched out the scraps and decided whether any spots seemed too light, and put those parts back in the dye to soak up a bit more color.

Drying and dyeing

You’ll see that the square is a bit lighter already just from washing it. But it’s still wet, so let’s leave it out to dry on this towel for a bit. Obviously there’s still some tea on the fabric and tea can dye fabric, so use a towel you don’t particularly care for. Or a black one if you have it.

Time to Dry

Drying fabirc

After giving the scraps a bit more time, I washed them and put them out on the towel to dry as well, then gave them a good ironing. The scraps, that is. Obviously I couldn’t really iron the pre-stretched canvas.

Completed dyed tea fabric.

I love how they turned out! I just need to decide what to stitch on them now.

Have you tried dyeing with tea? How’d it turn out? I’d love to see it!

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