DIY · purposeful · Style · Thrifts

Tea Dyed Dress – Part One


While not my original intent, this improving by being “purposeful” is really helping me get through my “to-do” pile. Yesterday, when I went in search of the navy prom dress to be refashioned, I saw several other things that I added to the pile last year. I could have just stuffed them back into their box, but instead, I thought of being purposeful, of choosing my projects intentionally, not just starting something new just because I saw it on Pinterest. So finishing my “to-do” pile before diving into new things seems purposeful to me.


I don’t know what it is about this dress, but I really like it – the lace panels and the simple scalloped trim, the simplicity of it.


But I don’t like the color. I actually bought it with the intention to dye it. Not some crazy bright color, I just wanted to try my hand at dying with tea to take away some of the brightness of the white. This isn’t my first rodeo – I’ve dyed several garments before, but this was different, and very easy. (There was no organized method to this – it was all trial-and-error.)


I started by boiling some water in a large pot on the stove. I forgot to measure, so later I figured out it was about 10 cups of water.


Then I added 8 tea bags. I let it steep for about 10 minutes.


I soaked the dress in cold water before dying it to help the tea soak in more.


I planned to dye the dress in the pot on the stove, but I quickly realized it wouldn’t be large enough, so I got out my dye pot. That’s right, many years ago, I thrifted this speckled enamelware pot for the sole purpose of dying things. (I’ve always been afraid of using dye in my washing machine, although I know it’s totally safe. I’m just a chicken.) When I looked at the size of the big pot, I realized I needed more water, so I boiled more in two other pots (4 cups and 2 cups). Then I decided to steep 4 more tea bags in 4 cups of water. See? Trial-and-error.


I put the dye pot on the floor, removed the tea bags from the pot, and added the tea and the water to the pot. (For those keeping track at home, it was approximately 20 cups of water and 12 tea bags.) I added the wet dress to the tea.


I stirred and stirred the dress and the tea to ensure even dying.


I left in in the dye bath about 45 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Then, Baby Girl got up from her nap, and then it was time to pick up The Boy from preschool, and I just left the dress in the pot on the floor for an additional hour (with no stirring) and hoped for the best.


When I finally got home, got lunch made, and got everyone settled, I transferred the dress to the sink to rinse. If you’ve ever used commercial dyes on the stove, you know rinsing out the dye is one of the hardest parts (constant stirring being the other). This was simple with tea dying. It rinsed easily, and the water ran clear quickly.


I put the dress in a bowl to carry it upstairs to the dryer. I read that you should use the dryer’s heat to set the dye before washing it.


I just love how the tea dyed the different materials in different ways to create a variety of shades.


And here she is, fresh from the dryer.


I’m thrilled with the color! It’s very subtle, but definitely not still white. It’s cute.


But there’s just something about the neckline/shoulder-draped fabric I don’t like. It’s almost a little costume-y. You know I love a good costume, but I can tell I’m probably not going to wear it like this. I was hoping this would be more of an everyday dress.

So, while the dye job was a huge success, I’m just not quite finished with this project. I’ll be back tomorrow with Part Two. Stay tuned!



This post is part of a 31 Day series about improving my days by being more PURPOSEFUL.

You can read more about it here. You can find all the posts in this series here.


6 thoughts on “Tea Dyed Dress – Part One

  1. Very cute!!! I can’t believe the way it turned out! Do you sometimes think you should have been born 25 or 35 years earlier? I think you are a modern hippie at heart!

  2. great project! when i was in high school and college and for some time the pictures of my son when he was little attest to….i was into tie dyeing. i bought myself a cheap plastic garbage can to use because my mom said there was no way i was using her washing machine to dye anything! she did, however, donate an old wooden spoon. recently i came across the garbage can in my garage with the now colorful wooden spoon and hundreds of old rubber bands inside…i was into the rubber band technique. but it was my grandma who first taught me to use tea dyeing…whenever she had a set of sheets or pillow cases with a little stain that she could not bleach out then into a tea bath they went for a new lease on life. of course her sheets were all 100 percent cotton then which she would iron diligently…ironing time was pretty much everyday and happened to happily coincide with The Guiding Light. :) i miss my grandma and i loved those tea dyed sheets.:)

    1. Chelsae, I love your stories!! It makes me happy when I see your name pop up for comments. Ironing sheets – wow. Although, I’m started to see a sort of Zen to ironing – and having something to show for the work you put into it. It is strangely rewarding.


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