Thursday, September 06, 2012

Coffee and Tea Dying

I recently wound up buying a highlighter-pink tee shirt that was just too cheap to pass up. I can't be too picky given the demands my swelling belly has placed on my wardrobe. Not that highlighter pink is intrinsically bad, of course--it's just bad in proximity to me.

And I do have a few tricks up my sleeve for dealing with bad colors--tricks that broaden my options when cruising sale racks or thrift stores.

First I tried tea-staining it. This was moderately successful, but highlighter pink is very tenacious. So I raided my husband's supply of single-origin small-batch-roasted coffee beans. I only needed an ounce, which I ground and threw into a pot of boiling water. (Forgive me, Sightglass.)

I let that brew for a while, then brought up the heat again and added the shirt. Letting the shirt simmer in the acidic coffee for 30 minutes helped strip some of the pink dye, while the coffee itself added a shade of sepia. The end result was a very nice dusty rose color, far more palatable than highlighter pink.

The basic method is so wonderfully simple. You can even make a stronger brew and paint the tea or coffee directly onto surfaces, like lampshades or sneakers. And you can experiment to obtain other colors. A little turmeric with tea, for example, will get you yellow hues, and the skins of yellow onions give you reddish-orange colors. Whatever blend you use, you'll want some tannins from tea or coffee (or walnuts, or oak leaves?).

1 comment:

Ken Albala said...

I was about to suggest onion skins. Or even better if you get something like woad or alkanet, you can make some wicked shades. I was just doing tie dying last week. Why didn't we include that in the book??