Thursday, June 9, 2011

In Which Gail Carriger Dyes with Tea & What's On the Dummy

My dearest Fashionable Readers, I'm working on a new steampunk outfit (the direct result of finding a matched over-skirt to one of my favorite corsets at a thrift store last month).

That's what's On The Dummy right now.

Unfortunately, the only shirt I have that goes with this corset is white. White doesn't work with the skirts.

So I decided I would try tea dyeing for the first time. I have dyed before, but not with tea. Why not? It is, after all my favorite beverage!

I had some old American Twinings lying around that I knew I would never drink so, the adventure was afoot!

In addition to the shirt, I added a pair of white gloves and a garter belt, both of which I felt might get more use if they were cream instead of white. I washed them all in clear water.

"Steam rises from a cup of tea
and we are wrapped in history,
inhaling ancient times and lands,
comfort of ages in our hands."
~ Faith Greenbowl

I did have to forcibly stop my father from dipping a hopeful mug into the tea bath! Since there was a cup of salt in as well, it would not have been a pleasant experience. His comment was, "What a waste." There is some truth to that.

About 10 minutes in I began to see some discoloration and staining in the arm pits of the shirt and the fingertips of the gloves but proceeded willfully along. (The thing about salt is that it's a fixer, including the salt produced by your own body.) I simmered in the tea for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly. Nice to have the house smell like tea instead of dye chemicals for once!

Rinse and result! Sorry the photo isn't great, turns out I was dying the fabric the same color as my floor! The shirt (muslin) was somewhat stained under arms and in a few creases on the torso, the gloves (cotton) were badly and unattractively stained (chucked em), but the garter (polyester) came out beautifully.  I'm so used to polyester bring the difficult one!

All in all I liked the color: a little more rose than a standard cream. And how did it work with the outfit? You be the judge.

I'll do more blogging on this outfit once it comes completely together and gets more steampunk. I have plenty of time. I'm thinking its maiden voyage will be at TeslaCon this November.


  1. Very cool! Like you, I've done chemical dyeing before, but never tried it with tea (except when aging paper for theatrical props).

    I have a shirt with similar sleeves that I use with my Steampunk outfit. If I ever decide that it's too white, I might have to try this myself.

  2. My husband tried this for the first time without really reading up on how to do it. now i know what he did wrong no salt and he left it in for only a few minutes, so no wonder it didn't set. thanks for sharing!

  3. I've used tea for staining/painting, but I've never tried dyeing with it before! Hm. The outfit looks great though!

  4. I've only dyed paper. Looks great!

  5. Honestly, to me, there couldn't be a better use for Twinings than using it for dying. Because God knows it's undrinkable! (None too fond of Lipton's either. Best tea I ever had was Wissotzky - which is a kosher tea.)

    My best friend, Erin, when she was on one of her healthy spurts (she had cystic fibrosis and passed away at the age of 26) dyed a pair of white corduroy jeans with tea. She did them in a somewhat tie dye way if I remember correctly. I do remember that it left some unusual patterns on the jeans at least.

  6. Tea dying is so easy and creates lovely with your outfit. Can't wait to see the whole ensemble.

  7. I would say that, as a whole, is was quite the success! It is a lovely outfit!

  8. This is a lovely project. However, I wish you would not refer to salt as a "fixer." Salt does not fix dye. Salt makes it harder for dye to bind itself to water molecules, forcing it to bind instead to the fabric. The dye effect from tea isn't really "fixable" as repeated washings will remove the stain. You might find Paula Burch's page on this subject interesting:

  9. I have only tried tea dying once. Usually use chemicals and mix various colors along with tossing in a good dose of cream of tartar. I have to say though the chemise that I did for an Irish Dress did come out quite nice. And the left over fabric went for a Jedi robe.

  10. So the key is to dye only NEW clothes in tea. Old stuff gets RIT dye.

  11. The outfit looks gorgeous. I can't wait to see the complete ensemble.

    Would anybody have any suggestions on where to buy a corset? I have never worn one and would like to try it, but are somewhat intimidated by finding the right size/fit via the internet.

  12. It is a pity the gloves did not turn out as you hoped, but the shirt and the garter did turn out lovely. I did not know about salt being a fixative. Learn something new every day.

    And it has to be said that that skirt is absolutely stunning. As is the entire outfit thus far.

  13. Oh, how fascinating. I remember one of my favorite books as a child, *All of a Kind Family*, has a chapter in which a character does an emergency dying in tea (she's borrowed her elder sister's white dress without permission.)

    @Tina Christopher, get a custom one if you possibly can. I know they are more expensive, but you'll be glad when you suddenly find out that the distance between your waist and underarm is different on each side of your body. I got mine from here: Underbusts are more comfortable and they really aren't naughty if you plan on wearing a chemise and several layers on top.

  14. I worked for a professional custom corset maker, Dark Garden, for nine years and have amassed a vast collection. I am hoping to do a blog all about corsets at some point in the future. I'm glad there is some interest. I'll probably do it specifically on how corsets shape the breasts ~ the different styles, the angles of the stays, and so forth. ~ Gail

  15. This was very interesting indeed. I've done dying with coffee, but not with tea, and only for new items. I wonder if there is any way on avoiding those darker stains? Anyway, the shirt still looks lovely with the other bits.


If you are using LJ to comment, it may not work.