If you are dipping your toes in a natural dye, tea is a great dye to try first. But years later, I still like to paint with tea. This tutorial is a little special … wait until you see the examples!
Why do I like to dye with tea? Almost all of us drink a little tea behind a cupboard, which contains tannins and fiber surprisingly well. Plus, you don’t need any special equipment – you can use your cookware as we work with completely edible dyes.
In this tutorial, I will show you how to dye your furoshiki-inspired cloth bandages. It is a perfect project for beginners in the field of natural coloring. For the colors I used black tea, rooibos and dried nettle leaves.
Plus, it’s a great idea for zero waste. I used old cotton sheets and tea in my kitchen. Of course, you can reuse old tea bags or empty tea leaves to paint!
In this lesson, we will dye cotton with diluted milk before dyeing. Yes, that’s right – we will make samples from milk! Milk fibers cover cellulose fibers with a thin layer of protein. Then we wait a few days and let the milk stick to the fibers, then we will dye the fabric to different types of tea. Areas with milk will take on a darker color and patterns will appear. Different dyes react a little differently, and some teas give clearer patterns. Nettles are the most delicate and take the longest to dye. Black tea contains the most tannins and is the fastest dye. The non-milk backing is just darker than the tea.
Shown in the photo below: nettle dye (top left), black tea (bottom left), rooibos tea (right).
I played with two types of milk that you can see below: soy milk in the store (soy in the UK / soy in the US) and homemade almond milk. I painted the words with diluted milk and black tea. Can you see that the expression in a piece of soy is bolder and clearer than a piece of almond milk? Soybean protein has special sticky properties and is something I use in the rest of my botanical coloring. But I was very happy to see that it works very well with almond milk. Try it with other types of milk and see what happens!
It’s an incredibly simple and rewarding way to prepare samples. You can paint any fabric using this technique, and on this occasion I decided to make a few pieces of fabric. But why not try a shirt? Or a scarf? It’s a great way to experiment with different patterns, and I felt free to bring back an old layer and not worry too much about what the pattern would look like. I enjoyed sprinkling milk around!
Soy milk in my book is a pre-treatment option Botanical color at your fingertips. In my book, I show you how you can soak a whole piece in soy milk before coloring. To make the fibers look like protein fibers, we can cover the fibers with a thin layer so that they adhere better to dyes. Milk acts as a binder and helps to dye dark colors. This complete method is written in my book Botanical color at your fingertips to follow step by step.
What happens when you dye milk with a cloth?
Similarly, when we soak a whole piece in milk, the paint will be darker throughout the whole piece. When you paint only certain areas with milk, these areas become darker. This opens up a world of all the options for making patterns! I hope you enjoy this soy milk curl!
What do you need
- Old 100% cotton sheets
- Milk *
- A paint brush
- Pots (no matter how big, there is room for the fabric to move evenly and dye evenly)
- Fine mesh sieve
- Another pot to pour tea while straining
- Rubber gloves to protect your skin when working with wet, dyed fabric
- I used a number of teas – black tea, rooibos and nettle
* What kind of milk?
I used store-bought (organic) soy milk for this lesson, but it also works with other types of milk. I tried it with homemade almond milk and it worked. I’m interested in trying the next oatmeal. Whatever you have at home, you can use animal milk. I haven’t tried all types of milk, and you can see that some work better than others in terms of both the color of the fabric and how long the colors last.
- The methods described in this manual will work with a wide range of natural dyes, but it is better to limit ourselves to 100% edible dyes as we will use our kitchen pots. This is it only When I use kitchen utensils for painting.
- I also like to dye with a lot of food waste, such as avocado, pomegranate and onion peels, but since we don’t eat these peels, I always recommend using a separate coloring bowl and other equipment. Although other plants are natural, they are not edible parts of the plant and can be potentially toxic in concentrated forms. It’s best to dye your avocado skin (and other food waste), especially in the bowl you set aside for dyeing.
- But I think we can make an exception for tea, because it’s actually a drink. I also recommend using 100% cotton fabric and not using any chemicals. In addition, if you choose to clean your fabric with soda ash, of course, I would not use it to dye your kitchen pot.
Use only kitchen utensils when working with completely edible dyes such as tea (or coffee, etc.). Do not eat food waste such as onion peel and avocado peel, use special paint containers for these dyes. I feel that tea is one of the only exceptions to this common rule.
Okay, let’s get started
1. Wash your sheets in the washing machine and allow them to dry. If you have a newer layer or fabric, you may need several hot washes to remove the coatings on the fabric. I used an old sheet that had been washed endlessly. The older the fabric, the better it will be because it will be more absorbent.
2. Divide your fabric into pieces. These will be your furoshiki diapers, so choose the size you want. The sizes I chose were 50x50cm and 70x70cm. You may decide to cut to a larger size. To cut the piece, I make a small incision with scissors, then tear along the grain in the piece. This keeps your lines straight and is my favorite way to cut a medium weight piece. It may not work, especially if you work with a thin or thick piece – it can stretch thinner pieces and will not work on thicker pieces. As a rule, cut with scissors using a grain of cloth.
3. I decided to leave my edges raw, but you can choose to sew a simple skirt around the edges.
4. Dilute your milk with water. I used soy for milk 2 tablespoons soy milk + 3 tablespoons water. It is important to dilute the fabric so that it does not become too thick, as this may cause the milk to peel later. We are aiming for a beautiful light milk dress that will soak into the fibers.
5. Paint your fabric the way you want. I like to hold the fabric firmly and hold it with my other hand to stop it from slipping on the table while painting.
If you use too much milk on your brush, you will create larger spots. Test on a piece of cloth to see how you can adjust the amount of milk in the brush until you are satisfied with the effect. It is often a matter of trial and error, but if you paint a few of these pieces, you may be pleasantly surprised to see your milk coloring skills improve after a few attempts. I had fun brushing some of the samples almost dry, and other times I enjoyed sliding the milk over the cloth.
It can be difficult to see where you are painting on white fabric, so you can always hold the fabric up to the light and see where you are already painting. These wet areas indicate that the paint will be the darkest. The milk will soon dry out and become invisible.
6. Dye your entire fabric and allow it to dry. Wait a few days (ideally a week) before dyeing your clothes. This allows the milk to stick to the fibers.
7. After a week, decide which paint to use first. I decided to use black tea, rooibos tea and dried nettle leaf tea.
8. Prepare a strong tea pot by heating tea bags or empty leaves in boiling water. I used 3 tablespoons of empty tea leaves to give a rich color to give an idea of the quantity. I used my largest soup bowl and half full of water.
9. Allow the tea to soak in warm water for a while to darken the color. If you want, you can leave it on your feet for a few hours or overnight and then return to a really strong river.
10. When you are satisfied with the intensity of your tea, strain the tank through a strainer or fine mesh sieve to release a clear liquid.
11. Take your piece and moisten it slightly under the tap, then place it in your tea pot. When we first moisturize the fabric, it helps to get the dye more evenly. Reduces the likelihood of woven air pockets, and the fabric looks more like it to stay below water level and dye evenly.
12. Return your pot to the oven and cook your pot for about 15 minutes (you may need to heat it with nettle tea for a longer period of time), stirring frequently to help it color evenly. Turn off the heat, then sit there for a while. The longer you leave, the darker the color, but there is a risk of staining with uneven patches, so if a single color is important to you, continue to visit your paint container and mix regularly.
Can you see the pattern starting to appear in the photo below?
13. When you are satisfied with the color intensity, remove the fabric and squeeze the excess liquid and allow it to dry.
14. You can wash immediately if you want, but generally if we wait a few days, more color will remain. But if you are desperate for the fabric, wash it beforehand.
15. Allow your fabric to dry, press with a hot iron to smooth wrinkles, and use to wrap gifts.
Notes on the teas I use
- In the photo above, from left to right, the patterns are: rooibos, black, nettle (white and gray zigzag pattern), black tea.
- Rooibos gives a warmer and lighter brown color than black tea, while nettle gives a gray / dark tone.
- One thing to note about nettles is that the dye takes longer to dye the fabric than other teas. At first it may seem like nothing, but let the fabric sit inside the paint overnight, and if you want the lid open, the pattern will be clearer until the morning. The non-milk backing has almost no color, so if the fabric sits in the pot for a few hours without mixing, the risk of uneven staining of the fabric is low.
- Black and rooibos tea dyes the fabric in a few minutes, and when the fabric is immersed in hot paint for several hours, the background and pattern darken. With these two teas, the fabric is rubbed into the paint bowl and if not mixed regularly, the background is likely to be unevenly stained.
How to use these diapers
There are many ways not to use these diapers, and this is just one of the simple wrapping methods:
- If your object has straight sides, rotate it 45 degrees to orient it diagonally.
- Close the two opposite corners. Make a double knot.
- Close the other pairs of opposite corners.
- Optionally, place a small leaf or dried flower in the middle of the rice.
Will the edges wear out?
Yes, it can fall apart a bit with reuse and washing. You can cut them to make them last longer. Or maybe you like unfinished edges and crush them a little more to turn them into a feature. I love unfinished edges and I know my diapers won’t be used much.
Enjoy your painting experiences! Tag me with #rebeccadesnos on Instagram so I can see what you’re doing! I would love to see!