The Easy Way Out: Dyeing with Tea

Yes, I took the easy way out for my first shibori edible dyeing project, electing to use tea as the main colorant. Yep, just plain ol’ ordinary, in my case Trader Joes English Breakfast, tea. It was easy to simply save the bags from my afternoon tea for a few days and go for it.  I didn’t even take it out of the little bag, just placed the used tea bags on the stove with some water and two pieces for my dyeing project–a piece of silk organza (my very fave) and a bamboo scarf from Dharma Trading. You can see that the tea took to the different fabrics VERY differently–the bamboo fabric, folded on the upper right, is a pretty cream while the organza that’s being ironed here is almost tobacco-colored.  Same pot of water, same amount of time to steep (overnight).two tea stains

Finished shibori pieces, plus a few extras where I took the technique further, will be posted tomorrow, so stay tuned!

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Brett Barker

Brett Barker is a painter, textile artist, art/design instructor, and writer whose career spans more than 25 years. Originally from New Mexico, she now resides in Redondo Beach, California. She has taught fine art, artistic design, and textile design to numerous individuals, art guilds, and organizations throughout the U.S. She has a Master's Degree in Art Education from the University of Nebraska. Her artwork sells throughout the U.S. and is available on her website, She is currently undertaking a year-long investigation of Japanese shibori dyeing that will culminate in a trip to Japan to study under a master shibori artist in September of 2016. Her shibori blog can be found at Her surface and textile designs can be found at

4 thoughts on “The Easy Way Out: Dyeing with Tea”

  1. Normally I do not learn article on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been amazed me. Thanks, very great post.

  2. Hey Brett… Congrats on these stunning new designs. You are really pushing the art in a very personal direction. Fantastic pieces. Always fun to see the progress of first to final results.

  3. Wow, Brett! The dark tea dyed fabric is wonderful! I tried dyeing white jeans for a mummy costume this week. It worked fairly well but I did not get the kind of color you did! I wonder how coffee would work?

    1. Hey Jenn,
      Did you soak your jeans in a soda ash bath before you dyed them? I’m noticing a big difference when I pre-soak cottons in soda ash in addition to adding dissolved soda ash to the dye bath. However, as you can see from my first tea-dying post, plant-based materials do NOT take the tea dye as well as protein-based materials like silk.
      I’ve been saving my daily morning coffee for an experiment next week, I will have something on the blog about it so you can check it out. Thanks for the comment!

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