View Full Version : Dyeing with tea and/or coffee

04-25-2007, 03:48 AM
Tomorrow, if the LYS permits (doubt it though, I'll probably have to order a hank from KP), I shall be attempting my first go at dyeing yarn at home. I've been looking for a nice earth tone yarn, but have yet to find any I like, so I might as well try to make my own, right? :teehee:

I know that I'll need to soak the yarn in a vinegar water base for at least half an hour first. That's easily accomplished.

I plan on using my crockpot for the dyeing as I am using coffee and/or tea for the coloring agent, so it won't ruin my crockpot. Though, I do admit, my roommates might be sick of the smell of coffee after a while. :teehee:

I was planning on making a thick batch of coffee, and doing the slow immersion version of dyeing, where I let the yarn soak a little bit more in a thicker dye mix piece by piece. Hopefully that will make it beautiful.

But, as this is my first time dyeing, I was wondering if there was any advice. Anyone try using coffee before? Are coffee bags (like tea bags but with coffee) better than straight grounds, or should I brew the coffee in a coffee maker, boil it thick, and then add it to the crockpot?

Ack, I'm going to cover my kitchen with coffee. It shall be so silly. :roflhard:

Susan P.
04-25-2007, 04:50 AM
Coffee will rarely 'hold' and will tend to run or fade. You can use alum as a mordant or colour fixative. Alum can be bought at a chemist (or drugstore in your part of the world :-)

Vinegar is usually used at the end at a fixative and not at the beginning by the way and because some people don't like the smell of vingar alum is often a choice.

Leave the yarn in the coffee dye solution (until it's reaching the colour you want) and add 1 tablespoon of alum for about a cake tin size of container.

Be wary if the yarn has the look of 'bleeding' dye on it as once you use a mordant that will be 'set'. In terms of yarn that may not matter and you may like the look but be wary of setting fabrics with bleeding colour.

Try and make sure by the way that there are no coffee grounds in the dye. You can use cheesecloth or similar to strain the liquid from any grounds. If grounds get in massage them with your thumb to break them up.

Love to see a picture when you are done! Your yarn will take between 20 and 60min to colour the way you want it.

In terms of what to use you can make a dye with 2 cups of water and a coffee 'bag' (like for one cup) and put into a microwave. 'Cook' for perhaps a minute and a half and let it cool. You can use a drip percolator etc too.
The darker the coffee bean the darker the dye will be by the way. You can just let the coffee sit for a few hours and that will darken the dye but don't leave it in the light for more than a day as it will tend to grow mould.

I would test a section of yarn before committing a whole ball! :wink:

Susan P.
04-25-2007, 04:53 AM
Someone else asked about dying recently and I forgot all about alum when I responded. I apologise. It's been ages since I dyed something and I was packing a box yesterday and came across my notes and was reminded.

04-25-2007, 10:49 AM
You can pre-soak the yarn in vinegar to stop bleeding. That's how a lot of people here do it.

Good luck, I can't wait to see the coffee yarn! :cheering:

Susan P.
04-25-2007, 08:01 PM
cawthraven. Good to know that. I thought it may have prevented total uptake of the dye but..interesting to hear how others do things as often techniques are better or give different results :-)

04-25-2007, 10:15 PM
Advice to those who want to try this via the dip-dye method as shown on the current issue of Knitty: it's a HUGE mess!!! I'm still not done yet, 20 miutes left on the current line bit, and another three or four hours on the last soak, but I've gotten coffee EVERYWHERE in my kitchen currently.

Thankfully, it's just coffee (yay for using completely non toxic dye methods! :cheering: ), and will clean up very quickly. Linoleum doesn't stain, and I don't care if my crock pot, black plate, or cake tin are stained.

My roommates, none of whom drink coffee, find this all very amusing. The house smelling like coffee, however, does not amuse them in the slightest. :roflhard:

Also a tip: you have to watch the crock pot closely. Do not let the yarn touch the hot sides, and you have to refill it every five to ten minutes because of wicking and evaporation. But, if you take the liquid from the soak pot where the yarn is coming out of, it's actually a much stronger version of the coffee, very non dilute and full of coffee, and adds a LOT to the dye.

Hope my mess helps all of you who might want to try this in the future! :roflhard:

04-25-2007, 10:25 PM
I actually bought a big giant pot at a garage sale to dye yarn in. It was 50 cents! :happydance:

I'm gonna try some hand-painted yarn with kool-aid or Paas kits soon.

Susan P.
04-25-2007, 10:49 PM
Riverdaughter. If you didn't use a fixative I would very much urge you to take a piece of the yarn and rinse it when it is all dry just to see if the colour runs at all.

04-25-2007, 11:29 PM
Riverdaughter. If you didn't use a fixative I would very much urge you to take a piece of the yarn and rinse it when it is all dry just to see if the colour runs at all.

Vinegar is a fixitive.

Susan P.
04-26-2007, 01:00 AM
Fair enough, but you used that to prepare the yarn not after the dyeing. Perhaps it does work in that fashion but I'd be testing a piece rather than making a garment and finding it run. I'll trust your judgment :-)

04-26-2007, 01:14 AM
I used teaa and it made a nice earthy brown. I didn't use a fixitive or anything. Just dipped the yarn in some tea and hot water for 10-20 minutes. It hasn't run or anything either.

04-26-2007, 01:19 AM
I expect a little running when I rinse the yarn, but none after that. Vinegar and hot water, along with a substance that likes to stick in the first place, should make an excellent yarn coloring.

What kind of tea did you use, feministmama? I was thinking of trying to see what happened with a red tea on some swatches of the yarn I have (the LYS sells one yard swatches of dyeing yarn for just this reason) just to see.

Heh, maybe try to make some christmas yarn out of red and green tea. :roflhard:

04-26-2007, 01:23 AM
Susan P... Vinegar is a fixative yes, as is salt, but it depends on what you are using as to which fixative does the best job. Of all the dying research I've done, it always says to prepare the fabric/yarn first, with the fixative, it also removes any 'stuff' (for want of a better word), that is on the fabric/yarn which could prevent uptake of colour, so it is also a prepatory step. Having said that, heat is also a fixative... the longer your fabric/yarn spends on the boil/simmer/soak, whatever, the better your 'fix' of colour (you won't find you have to rinse for as long to get the water running clear) - overnight/all day (12 hoursish) is usually the best option, and probably what I would have done using something like coffee or tea.

That's just my take on dying, and what i've been doing so far, with good results.

Susan P.
04-26-2007, 02:48 AM
five_six. Oh, don't get me wrong, I think it great and important to prepare the yarn first but I've never seen a system where you don't apply a mordant afterwards if you want colour fastness. It's just interesting to see the different approaches. I haven't dyed for years but I always tested a strand or two after dyeing to see how the colour had held. For anyone just starting I would recommend that but as you all have had success with the single vinegar soak then all looks thumbs up :-)

I've heard tea can be quite..not sure of the word..but..harsh..on delicate yarns. I have no experience at all of tea.

04-26-2007, 03:32 AM
No, I've only done the tea on paper thing to age it back in primary school :teehee: , but it does sound intriguing I think.

I'm gonna use my berries that are developing nicely in the backyard for dying when they are ripe, so that'll be an experiment too!

Susan P.
04-26-2007, 03:40 AM
I've made recycled paper sheets a few times by pulping paper and then drying it on fine mire mesh. I think some of these dye ideas would look great on that too.