*How To: Tea Dye or Grunge Fabric

Tea Dying is a Subject on Which Everyone Has Their Own Opinion:

I must confess I am not a fan of tea-dying - what the sale sites and blogs don't tell you is how smelly your project is (and remains that way for quite some time).  I even tried putting putting cinnamon in the mix once to help offset the smell, but, well, grunged up items are not for those who like the smell of shall we say lilacs or other nice things in the house.  I should talk - I have a house full of huge dogs, but still......
I tea-dye not for personal use, but for retail items and for basically 3 items:
primitive dolls, primitive stitcheries (not yet pictured) and painted fabric items:
The grunged up old quilt doll is obvious - I use to sell dolls like her at a local shop now defunct and you see similar items all over the internet for sale.
The second is my painted Lab - why would I need to grunge him up first if he is going to be painted?  And, oh, by the way, I found that the painted Labs did not have residual tea-stain smells...
I found by trial and error that trying to paint directly onto muslin fabric was one big mess and one HUGE headache.  I discovered by accident if I HEAVILY tea-stained my Lab bodies first (and I mean heavily), I wound up with very stiff little doggies which were a nice smooth canvas to paint on.
Of course, most prim sellers would go on to grunge up my little guy, but my buyers wanted their little black Labs to LOOK like little black Labs and not like they were beaten up in a demolished house.

So - trick to anyone who wants to paint anything - tea stain first.
My own formula varies because I can never remember exactly what I did and also depends on whether or not I am using the formula to paint (I will make a really heavy formula to paint my doggies with).  I use a combination of tea bags AND coffee - I found tea alone did not produce the desired results.
Another step I take is to "bake" my tea stained items after the product is completed (lowest oven heat, rotate often).  I also use wooden skewers over a cookie sheet to elevate all my items (a cross hatch system of laying out the skewers on top of the cookie sheet and then laying the items to be baked on top of the wooden skewers) - keep the sheet in the middle of the oven and WATCH it.
**Make sure no buttons or beads or anything that will melt (no hair) has been added before baking; dolls can be dressed and baked.  I make & stuff my doggies from muslin and sew them shut.  I then bake them before painting.
As I was looking up links, I was very surprised to see the number of people who washed their fabrics afterwards; I wouldn't do it in your washing machine and I would experiment with a small piece first.  Washing will bleed out some of the color you just went to all that effort to put into your fabric.
**One Last Note: for the truly grunged up look (like the old quilt doll), even a heavy formula and baking were not usually enough.  I often used a washcloth, dipped it into my formula and randomly stroked sections of the doll, sometimes dipping into dried granules of coffee first for extra grunging.  It would go back in the often for another baking after any extra "bathing".

So here are other links on the topic of tea-dying/staining
Remember to visit and support their websites/stores:
Home Page RIT Dye Company (However, did not see any info specifically on tea dying).

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