Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dyed Tea Towel

We had a ladies' fun and frugal night at church where we all brought items from our homes that we no longer wanted, and traded stuff (I highly recommend it!). There was also visiting and some food involved and even a couple craft activities. Part of the craft was drawing designs on a plain tea towel, to take them home and embroider or applique later. Um, my patience for that flew out the window when I had kids, so I sat and visited. When I got it home, I remembered that I have one of those 300 Decorating Ideas Under $100 books at home with an idea in it I had been wanting to try for years...


Plain drapery panels (or other material you want to dye)
Red paste food coloring (optional)
White vinegar
Microwave-safe bag

Step 1. Silk and wool fabrics work best for this project. Wash and dry the panels. Iron the fabric and tape it tautly to a paper-covered work surface.

Step 2. Shake the mustard and apply it in spirals directly to the fabric. (For better contrast, darken the mustard by adding a smidgen of red paste food coloring to the container.) Let the mustard set for about 30 minutes until it's nearly dry. Rinse the fabric with a high-powered spray of warm water until the mustard is dislodged and the water runs clear.

Step 3. To set the color, immerse the fabric in 10 quarts of warm water and 1 cup of vinegar, agitating it to remove the excess mustard. Seal the wet fabric inside a microwave-safe plastic bag and turn on at 50% power for five minutes. Watch the fabric carefully so it doesn't scorch. Caution: towel and bag will be HOT.

Step 4. Line-dry the fabric; press with an iron to further set the design. (Clothes dryers do not get hot enough to set a dye.)
A couple hints from me:

1) I put the mustard in a melting/decorating squeeze bottle which I found easier to get a nice bead out of. It works better if you keep the tip pressed onto the fabric and don't get a big fat bead of mustard. Fat beads won't dry, and when they rinse off they will drip down the fabric and get stains all over where you don't want them.

2) I did not use the food coloring and it is a little muted but I like it.

3) I was only doing a tea towel, not curtains, so I used 1/5 the recipe for the vinegar water. And, I don't know if there is such a thing as 'microwave safe bags'...? My normal one worked fine.

I really like the idea and might try this recipe for making dye out of plants and fruit, in different colors. It would be really sweet for organic baby or children's' clothing, but I'm not yet sure how it holds up in the wash. Fun stuff.


  1. Very turned out good! I have dyed fabric with beet juice before. It turns out a pretty pink color! :)


  2. So fun! I will have to try that! That would make a good, cheap present.

  3. I LOVE this! I will try this soon!! Do you know an inexpensive place to buy tea towels?

  4. I am guessing she got them from the craft store - all her supplies were basic and the material seemed like it was average quality.