Monday, November 30, 2009

Tea Dyed

I love dyeing yarn with things that I've found in my kitchen. I have had great success with Kool-Aid and vinegar and food coloring. The colors tend to be very saturated and vibrant, so I wanted to play with methods of making more muted colors.


I know that you can stain paper and fabric with tea, so I decided to give it a try with my undyed wool.
I allowed 1 tea bag to seep in 1 cup of boiling water (with 1T white vinegar) for about 1 min. I removed the tea bag and added pre-soaked undyed wool. When I achieved a light brown, I transferred the wool to some luke warm color, but a fair amount of color leaked out (although the yarn was still definitely tan). I added more vinegar and microwaved the mixture on high for 1 min. The color did not get any darker...

Green ("Green Tea"):

I added 2 drops of green food coloring to some of the remaining tea/vinegar/water mixture.

Unlike my previous dyeing experiences, the dye in the water did not completely absorb to the yarn. A large amount of green remained in the water, even after multiple microwave and cool cycles. The only assumption I can make is that the yarn became saturated with the remaining tea in the water, and could not absorb any more color. (I'd like to point out that in my Dinky Dyeing extravaganza, I used 12 drops of green with a similar amount of yarn, and all of the color got absorbed.) Since I had achieved the color that I desired, I did not worry too much.


Warm tea/vinegar mixture + 1 drop red food coloring. Since I wanted a pale pink (think pig colored), I did not allow the yarn to soak in the colored water for long, but would dip and remove until I achieved the color I desired. The dye water was still pink, but the pink in the wool stayed!

Experimental handpainting:
1 skein was dipped in cooled-left over pink water (to get some vinegar), placed on the plastic work area and painted with 4 drops of blue and 4 drops of green food coloring. The remaining pink water was brought to a boil, and the skein was dipped into the boiling water.

I was prepared to loose the variegation. I let it boil for about 30 seconds, and saw that most of the dye bled out (which was not unexpected). I was not prepared for the yarn to remain so muted with 8 drops of food coloring! I let the yarn sit in the boiling dye mix for longer, and the color would not completely absorb! I blame the tea. I'm so excited that I've found a way to play with color, but to achieve paler colors! I even still have some variegation:

In Contrast...
For comparisons sake... I did some primary colors at the same time (just vinegar and some food coloring. 4 drops blue, 2 drops green and 2 drops red total. I microwaved the skein for 1 min, and let the wool cool before washing in luke warm water with mild soap. See how vibrant?

Tea Conclusions
Using tea water helps keep the colors muted. Whether it is a change in ph (doubtful) or just the compounds in the tea limit the ability of wool to absorb colors, I do not know. I was, however, successful in achieving the colors that I desired. This was the first time that I did not see full or mostly absorption of the color into the wool. I could have used a LOT more wool with this dye amount....

(After the fact, I found this article on tea dyeing if you would like to do more reading on the subject.)


  1. It was the Buddhist priest arranges that have not just spread the drinking of tea among the populace yet that had likewise assumed control over the planting and handling of tea. Before long tea as refreshment had been presented during the Han Dynasty, Buddhism was related with tea.

  2. Incidentally, the 'proficient' method of drinking the meager Chinese tea is to pour a touch of tea from the thermo into the cup, whirl it two, three times around inside the cup and afterward to pour it on the ground. tea cups

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