About: I'm always working on too many projects; if I see something interesting, I'll try it out.

Sometimes you want things to look old and musty, as though you just took them out of the attic. Here's one way you can accomplish that.

Step 1: Gather Materials

You will need:

Materials to be dyed. These should be primarily of silk or cotton, or an animal or plant based fibre. Not all of these dye equally, so be prepared to experiment.

Tea. It can be any kind, as long as it primarily contains tea leaves. If you have something old lying around, but hate drinking tea, now's your chance to get rid of it. Coffee will also work, and you can use coffee grounds that have already been brewed. It gives browner colours than tea. If you do use coffee grounds, makes sure to tie them up in a loose woven cotton like cheese cloth, or double layer of nylon tulle so you don't have to pick the grounds out of your dyed material.

Boiling hot water. Don't burn yourself.

A bowl or vessel to hold your materials being dyed and the tea/coffee grounds to dye them with. Make sure there's enough room for your materials to move around freely without the hot water spilling.

Step 2: Dying

Place your materials to be dyed into the bowl Pour enough boiling water on them just to cover. You don't want to dilute your tea too much, or it will take much longer to dye.

Put the tea into the boiling water., and poke at it a bit, to get the dye to disperse. Add more tea, if necessary. When you think there's enough tea in the water, go find something to do for a while, while you wait for the material to dye. It can take anywhere from a few minutes for a light tint to an hour or more for darker colours. If you need a really dark colour, you'll get the best results from several dye sessions.

The cloth to the right of the bowl is what I was aiming to match the lace to during this project.

Step 3: Finishing

After a few minute have passed, you'll want to see what colour your material is. Be careful not to burn yourself. I use a fork to fish the lace out of the hot tea, to check the colour. Do note that the dry material will be lighter than it appears when wet, but may darken over a period of months or years, or shift warmer and browner in tone.

When you're satisfied with the colour, take all the material out of the bowl, and run it under cold water, until the water runs clear.

Leave the material someplace warm to dry.

Have fun with your newly dyed stuff!

Step 4: Variant: Sun Tea Dying

If you've ever made sun tea, this is the same concept, except that you're adding in material to be dyed, so you'll probably want more teabags than you'd put in a jar of sun tea you intend to drink.

If you're not familiar with sun tea, here's a basic set of steps:

Gather the same materials except replace boiling water with tap water, and bowl with a glass or plastic lidded jar.

Put materials to be dyed in the jar.

Pour on enough water to cover.

Add tea. Start with three or four bags, and add more later if you think the solution is too weak.

Put the lid on the jar and set it outside in the sun, or in a sunny window inside. The important part is that the sun is contributing heat to aid the tea in dying your materials, so if the jar sits in the shade, it will slow the process down. Hot summer days are the best time for this method.

After an hour, check your materials to see how they're progressing. They'll take longer than the boiling water method. When you're satisfied with the colour, rinse your materials under cold water until the water runs clear, squeeze out the excess water, and hang to dry.

Have fun!



    • Sweet Treats Challenge

      Sweet Treats Challenge
    • Warm and Fuzzy Contest

      Warm and Fuzzy Contest
    • Paper Contest

      Paper Contest

    12 Discussions


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Sprinkling (by crumbling it between your fingers) a small amount of instant coffee over the material before drying creates a nice effect, like those little brown spots in old stuff that aged extra much and became a little browner. Nice tutorial.

    4 replies

    Good idea. I don't drink instant, so never would have thought of that, but it seems similar to the technique of using glauber salt when dying and painting silks.

    I don't either really. I saw it suggested on a documentary on art forgery (in this case rather lame forgery - basically making something that passed first glance and sold to dealers under the impression that you had no idea what it was worth basically asking them to rip you off). After seeing the results it looked kind of cool (with tea staining) so I did an old looking charcoal sketch of Spongebob and it turned out pretty cool.

    Heh, that's an interesting use of 'aging' things. I have quite a few friends who really enjoy Steampunk; maybe I can age some photos if I print them onto nice heavy coverstock and use them as gifts. Do you have photos of how your sketch turned out?

    Unfortunately no. It was quite a long time ago and I ended up losing the few scans I made of it and the sketch itself. I basically traced it with charcoal on rough sketch paper from a heavy line-art printout using soft charcoal. It looked like a very old document, which was sort of the interesting part - it's clearly contemporary due to the subject matter :-).


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    They're just different. Tea gives orangier colours, coffee gives browner colours. Try both, and see what you like.

    Yeah, that's true. I wasn't even thinking about that, but I have dyed paper for projects when I was in school and wanted to make them look more interesting.