Friday, January 27, 2012

Dyeing Nylon Lace with Tea

I've decided to scrap my original Make This Look Idea, and go for a different dress instead. In order to do that, I needed some cream-colored lace. I had this brilliant, blindingly white stretch lace that I ordered from Fabric.com that was perfect for what I had in mind, other than the blinding part. So, obviously the solution is to dye it.

Comparison of the tea-dyed lace and the original, blinding white version.

I knew that it was possible to dye nylon with tea by using an acidic bath (usually man-made materials, like polyester and acrylic, are impossible to tea dye, but nylon has a unique chemical make-up). The result is a nice, antique-looking, beige cream-colored lace. I like dyeing with tea because it's pretty hard to mess up, as long as you aren't looking for a very specific shade of beige. No tricky measuring or timing required, and you'll never end up with too dark of a shade. Perfect for taking the edge off of very white whites.


Start with a large pot of hot water (not boiling, but definitely steaming), several tea bags (I used six packets of barley tea from our local Japanese market since there are no tags attached to the bags), and a handful of salt.

I used our largest stock pot, the outside of which badly needs washing.

Simmer until it's nice and dark.

Double, double, toil and trouble...fire burn and cauldron bubble...

It certainly looks as if it could've been eye of newt and toe of frog, instead of just over-brewed barley tea.

Take out the tea bags, dump in your nylon fabric and swirl it around, making sure that every part of it gets good and soaked. Stir it for a good ten minutes, make sure that the water is still steaming but not boiling. The heat helps the tea color bind to the cationic amino groups of the nylon.

It will look scarily brown, but fear not!

Add in about a cup of vinegar and let it all swirl around for another ten minutes. The vinegar acts as a mordant, which helps the dye to "take," so that it doesn't just wash out. Pull out the fabric, drain, and let it cool.

At this point, it smelled like death and looked like a weird brain/turkey.

Once it's cool, rinse it well with cold water until the liquid squeezed out runs clear. Let it dry, and then you can use it!

Much better. Nice and creamy.

Alright. Let's see how long it takes to cobble together this dress.

11 comments:

  1. I've always wanted to tea dye something but never knew what to use as a fixer (I could have looked it up on the internet pretty easily, but I'm lazy). This looks much better than blinding white!

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    1. Yeah, it took a little Internet sleuthing before I felt confident enough to dye my precious fabric, but it's surprisingly easy!

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  2. I've never understood what a mordant does chemically. Going to have to go and google that now :-)

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  3. The colour is beautiful! Does it stay the same after machine washing?

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    1. It holds up to hand washing. It's a pretty delicate material that snags easily, so I don't want to throw it in the machine with my other, sturdier stuff. But given my experience with accidental tea stains on clothing, it will get a little lighter but still retain the creamy hue. Sorry I can't offer anything more definitive!

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  4. I'm so excited to see what you're going to do with this lace! Also, I'm wondering what Eric thought when he saw it simmering on the stove;)

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  5. This looks so good, I'm definitely going to try this sometime! Thanks for the fab tutorial! Xxxx http://thesecondhandrose.blogspot.com/

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  6. Thanks for this info. I used this technique to turn a white bra (88% nylon/12% spandex) into a medium shade nude one. Very large pot, 3 Luzianne family size tea bags, soaked 15 minutes, then added vinegar and soaked 10 more minutes.

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  7. Thanks! I just bought some lace leggings online that were a shockingly neon green. Just tea dyed them into a pretty sage color!

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  8. Oatmill. April 17, 2013 Thanks for your suggestion. I have nylon/elastan lacey plants in white. They are so comfy but show through white trousers so I wanted to dye them beige/nude. Other dyes did not work so I tried your tea method and lo and behold I now have my extremely comfy pants a lovely natural colour which does not show throw white clothing.

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  9. Follow on from last post. I have put them through the washing machine and colour has remained the same. Thanks again.


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