Pure white is considered angelic, pure, and divine. But not everyone is keen on being this otherworldly. I prefer something which is more earthbound and natural – a fabric that looks as it has naturally aged. If you are like me in your love for the vintage look and want to go the natural route to dyeing you can use tea and coffee in your pantry to get that worn-it-well look.
The best thing about dyeing with tea and coffee is that they belong to the substantive dye/ direct dye category – these are dyes that do not need any extra mordant to adhere to the fabric. You just need the dye bath.
A simple coffee and tea solution can easily convert a white colored cloth to a golden hued one or a brown one or an ecru color or tan.
It is not just white fabric/clothes that you can dye to a beige color with tea or coffee – you can also dye printed fabrics with white color showing through which you do not like – the tea dyeing gives an aged look to the fabric.
The Recipe for tea or coffee dyeing
You can use regular roasted coffee or instant coffee powder or raw ground coffee; for tea dyeing you can use tea powder or tea leaves. The tea leaves can be the regular kind or the ones with fruits/flowers.
If you want the regular brown color of tea use the original tea – if you want different tinges, you can use the special tea leaves. Coffee gives a more browner color than tea. Tea dyed material looks a dirty brown. You can decide on the effect you want.
Decide on the depth of color you want. Make the tea or coffee concoction with this in mind. Generally, the consensus in natural dyeing is that the dye bath should have 1/ 2 water and 1/2 dye stuff. The amount of dyestuff you use depends on the fabric you have. Checkout the weight of the fabric you have. Take 1/2 of this measure – this is how much tea or coffee powder you should use to make the dye bath for a deep color.
How to dye with the tea/coffee
Warm tea or coffee powder/leaves in a steel vessel with the same amount of water over the stove. Slowly bring to a simmer in a low-temperature heat.
You can keep tea leaves in a teabag made of cheesecloth to avoid sieving later. Or Pour the tea bath through a moistened cloth (sieving) into a mixing bowl ready for dyeing.
If you are short of time, you can also keep the solution in a glass bowl in the microwave. Ensure that it does not spillover.
Add two tablespoons of Vinegar. (This is used as a mordant; though you do not need a mordant, it is advantageous if you use this. The color will last. You can also use alum, instead)
Mix your dye bath in water enough to immerse the whole material you are going to dye.
Dampen the material fully so that the dye will penetrate evenly. Wring all water from the material.
Keep the material inside the dye bath fully immersed – you can keep it in 10-60 minutes ; As little as one minute is enough to tint the fabric to a slightly worn look.
Rinse in cold water. Check if the color is to your liking.
Dye again if the color is not deep enough
If you want a slate color, you can use tea-grounds boiled in iron and set the color with copper sulphate
Spoiler: Tea and coffee dyeing color does not last long, when used without mordant; the color fades with subsequent washing
Updated on July 25, 2022 by Sarina Tariq