04 January 2012

Dyeing Fiber With Tea

I love tea.

I love tea so much that I often end up drinking 6-7 large cups a day.  Inevitably, I have had some situations where I have accidentally spilled tea and found that it dyes a variety of surfaces fairly easily. Naturally, I had to experiment with it.

Being one of those people who never wants to jump into a situation without background knowledge and a firm plan, I looked at what others have done.  After clicking around for a while I found a pretty good tutorial on how to dye yarn with black tea at a blog called tinateaspoon.

I didn't deviate too far from what she did; however, because I am a scientist, I feel obligated to record exactly what I did to allow for repeatability and to share the results of my experiment.

List of Materials Needed for Experiment: 
-- 1 skein of non-acrylic yarn
For this experiment I decided to use some unloved Knit Picks Bare Swish DK (100% superwash merino wool) that I had crammed into my closet.  Also, for the love of yarn, please skein and secure your yarn properly before dyeing or it will become a huge mess.
-- 3 bags of Lipton black tea 
I'm fairly sure that fewer tea bags can be used, as my dye bath was pretty strong.  I also do not think that they have to be unused tea bags either.  I think that any black tea can be used, but that the Lipton is going to be a cheaper option.
-- Large stainless steel pot and spoon for stirring
As far as I'm concerned, any kitchenware used with food-based dyes can be used for cooking again, but this is really up to you.

1.  Soak yarn in warm water for 1 hour.

2.  Fill a stainless steel pot with water and bring to a boil.

3.  Add tea bags to the pot and steep at a gentle boil for 1 hour.

4.  Remove tea bags and gently add pre-soaked yarn to dye bath, ensuring that the yarn is completely submerged in the solution.

5.  Keep solution at a gentle boil for 1 hour, stirring very gently (to avoid felting) every 20 minutes.

6.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

7.  Remove yarn from pot, rinse gently to remove excess dye, carefully squeeze to remove excess water, and then hang to dry.


Beautiful, naturally dyed yarn that you dyed yourself

with a gorgeous color you cannot easily find anywhere else.

Now I get to cross off my first fiber goal for 2012!
- Dye fiber/yarn with tea

Have you ever dyed with tea (or some other plant)?  Please share your own experiences!


  1. No, but now I want to! And your tutorial is awesome! I really want to learn how to dye on the stove because I always just use my microwave. That yarn is so pretty!

  2. I am not drawn to dying yarn myself but that is a lovely colour you've got there.

  3. NEAT! I have some herbal teas at home I bet could create some lovely hues! Your yarn turned out beautifully!

  4. Thanks for all the wonderful praise! If any of you decide to try this on your own, especially with herbal teas Michelle, please let me know how it works out for you!

  5. I haven't tried this yet, but now I really want to! The color is so lovely and warm, and your photos are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Ohhhh, I think you've inspired all of us! Amazingly, I was just about to buy some natural wool and while I hadn't thought to dye it, I plan to dye at least one skein with tea. Thank you for such a great post!

  7. Wow, that color is stunning! I'm really impressed! And that looks easier and less messy than lots of other methods, hmm...

  8. It's a gorgeous color! Tea colored exactly.

  9. How do you find tea for dyeing in terms of colour fastness? Have you found it to stay true to its' colour after being washed? I'm really interested in having a go as I want to have a go with not only tea but onion skins and beetroot but am not sure if I would need to add anything else to keep the colour intact. :)


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