Underwear, when new, can be a bright glaring white. I’m working on a costume that requires the underwear to look old and worn, and it was suggested that I dye it with tea. This is not something I have done before so I bought a test garment, in the same fabric, and tried aging it yesterday afternoon.
I have read many online articles about this process and a chapter on dyeing materials in a text book. All they really told me is that you use tea and water. There is no way to know what colour the end product will look like, which is not good when you only have one costume and you can’t get another one if you mess up. Everyone uses different tea, different amounts of tea, they are vague about the amount of water they use, or how long it will take. Do you use salt in the water? Does the garment need rinsed or washed first? Do you add vinegar at the end?
I bought a black lipton tea and put four teabags and 3 litres of hot water in a large basin. I added a teaspoon of salt. I removed the tea bags after five minutes and then added the garment, which I had rinsed in warm water. I let it steep in the solution for one hour and then removed it and rinsed it in warm water. The garment certainly dyed but I didn’t like how it looked. It’s much browner than I wanted and I think that the brown almost has a pinkish tinge to it. The colour is also patchy, which makes me think that I will need to stir it during the dyeing process to try to get a more even colour. Or I need a bigger container to dye it in, but I don’t think I have one.
Before and After Colours
Today I’m going to test strips of white cotton with a different tea solutions to see if I can get close to the colour I want. I completely understand now why people use bottled dyes that mimic this process as at least then you will have clear instructions on how to use the product and a much clearer idea of the expected outcome. I realise that my garment is not the same as a strip of cotton, but it’s the best I can do.