How to use tea to dye fabric

Prince George of Cambridge in the reproduction christening gown.

Prince George of Cambridge in the reproduction christening gown. Photo: The British Monarchy. All Rights Reserved.

Great Britain’s Prince George of Cambridge was recently christened in an ecru lace-trimmed and silk satin christening gown, a replica of the one made in 1841 for Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, by Janet Sutherland, Embroiderer to the Queen.  The antique gown had been worn by every newborn in the Royal Family at his or her christening until 2004, when it was determined that the garment was too fragile to be worn further.  Queen Elizabeth commissioned her personal dressmaker and designer, Angela Kelly, to make a reproduction of the gown, which was, itself, a nod to Queen Victoria’s wedding gown.  The replica was made, like Queen Victoria’s gown and the original royal christening gown, from ivory Spitalfields silk satin and Honiton lace, and was dyed a lovely sepia shade, to imitate the original, with tea.  The reproduction gown was first worn in 2008 by the Queen’s grandson, James, Viscount Severn, the son of Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex.  The guests later enjoyed a private afternoon tea, with champagne and Christening Cake – part of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding cake, which was a rich fruitcake — after the ceremony, at the Prince of Wales’ and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s home, Clarence House.

Official christening photo of Prince George of Cambridge.  Photo: The British Monarchy.  All Rights Reserved.

Official christening photo of Prince George of Cambridge. Photo: The British Monarchy. All Rights Reserved.

To achieve a similar ecru color on your own white cotton or linen garments, try the following:

  • Get about 20 black tea bags – the cheaper the tea, the better, because nobody is going to drink it.
  • Fill a large pot or pan – at least 4 quart size — with water, and bring it to the boil.
  • Add the teabags, turn off the heat, and allow the tea to steep in the water for at least an hour.
  • Wash the garment or fabric you intend to dye, to remove dirt, oils, and factory finishes that will impair the dyeing process.
  • When ready to dye, remove the teabags, and reheat your pot of strong brewed tea.
  • When the tea is hot but not boiling, put your fabric into the strong tea, turn off the heat, and let it soak at least 1 hour, or until the fabric has achieved the color you want it to have.  You can soak the fabric overnight, if you wish.  Make sure the fabric is a little darker than you want, before you remove it from the tea soak, because it will lighten as it is rinsed and dried.
  • Remove the fabric to the sink and wring out, then rinse in cold water.
  • Wring out again, and air-dry the garment, or put it in the electric dryer.
  • Iron your garment on medium heat, and you should be good to go, with a lovely ecru textile instead of a blindingly white one.  This can be a perfect way to make yourself something a little different, or to make a nice gift for someone special.

Copyright 2013, Elizabeth Urbach.

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For more information: “Prince George christened, 7 godparents named”
“Prince George christening, official photos released”
“Prince George’s Christening Robe – the History Behind His Royal Look”
“Prince George’s Christening Dessert: Fruitcake”
“William and Kate break tradition for Prince George’s christening”
“Royal Wedding Rewind: Prince William and Kate Middleton Ate the Top Tier of their Wedding Cake After Prince George’s Christening”
“Chinese black tea in San Jose”
“Tea 101: what do we mean when we talk about tea?”
“What you need to make a good pot of hot tea”
“What to do if it rains in San Jose on Halloween: have a tea party!”
“Tea and food pairings for black teas”
“5 gifts you can make with tea”
“Have an English tea and Royal Wedding-viewing party”
“Stay up with tea and watch the Royal Wedding”
“Katherine, Duchess of Cambridge, role model for tea drinkers and new mothers”


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